Eagles: One Win From Return Trip To Island
The Magnolia Blue Eagles are one game from returning to Wheeling Island for the opportunity to play for the West Virginia Class AA state title after knocking off the Keyser Tornadoes 9-0 Nov. 14 at Alumni Field for Magnolia’s fifth shutout of the season.
The Blue Eagle defense has allowed an average of less than five points per game this season and showed that they can shut the door on any Class AA school in the state.
The defense, led by Zach “Rudy” Neff, Traeh Keller, and Cole Mullett each provided 11 tackles and kept the Tornado offense in check. Also, Jared Blatt had double digit tackles with 10, while Matt Riggs and Davey “Hit Man” Howell each dropped nine Keyser ball carriers in the Main Event.
The Tornadoes won the toss, but deferred to the second half and kicked off to Magnolia. Tanner Fluharty returned the kick 25 yards to the Magnolia 47, where Justin Fox & Co. took over.
The Keyser defense held the Big Blue in check and forced a three-and-out. The Eagles’ Sam Shepherd made the first tackle for a two-yard loss and Howell, Mullett, and Seth Pay followed with another two-yard setback for Keyser. The Eagles forced a three-and-out and took over on the punt at the Keyser 47 yard line.
With the field cut in half, Magnolia moved the ball to the eight yard line where the Tornado defense took a stand and forced the Eagles to try for a field goal. Justin Fox obliged and split the uprights from 28 yards out for the game’s opening score, with 3:15 left in period one.
Keyser made one first down before the Magnolia defense forced a punt. The Blue Eagle drive started at the 47 yard line and made a quick strike at the Keyser five yard line on a hookup from Fox to Stephen Rogalski.
Magnolia pushed its way down to the one yard line before a motion penalty backed them up five yards and forced a fourth and goal.
Magnolia went for it and, on a toss to Stingray Bates, put up another six points for the game’s final score, 9-0, after a the point-after kick missed the hole. The scoring drives ran five minutes off the clock and moved the chains countless times in what would be defining factors in the game.
On the ensuing kickoff, Keller and Tanner Martin tackled the Keyser ball carrier at the 21 yard line. The Magnolia defense then forced another three-and-out and took over at the 37 yard line with 8:03 left in the first half.
The Eagles got two first downs, one on a Dillon Jackson run and another one on a Keyser face mask penalty. However, shortly thereafter, Magnolia lost possession when Fox was intercepted at the 10 yard line.
The Tornadoes secured a first down, but Howell and Matt Riggs drilled the Keyser ball carrier in the backfield multiple times to force a punt.
Fox connected with Cameron Benson for a seven-yard gain and Jackson moved the chains with a nice gainer. Bates scampered for positive yardage and Derek Fruner moved the chains on a nice pitch and catch. Bates found daylight on a 42-yard touchdown run that was called back on a holding call.Fox hit Blatt for an apparent first down, but the ball slipped out of his hands for an incomplete pass. Fox then tossed his second interception with 1:51 to go in the half.
Riggs put pressure on the Tornado quarterback and forced an incomplete pass. But, a nice draw play caught the Eagle defense off guard and Keyser gained enough yards for a new set of downs. Two straight incomplete passes with a flock of Eagles giving chase forced a third and long for the visitors. Blatt made a tackle for loss of yardage and forced another punt.
Fox returned the punt 10 yards with 41 ticks on the clock remaining in the half. Blatt caught three straight passes, the third one for a first down. Magnolia tried to catch Keyser sleeping, but they stopped Magnolia in the backfield on a draw play. Magnolia called a timeout and then went for it on fourth down. Keyser held firm and took over at the 36 yard line, but the half ended on a Neff sack of the Tornado signal caller.
The duo of Jackson and Bates accounted for 40 yards in the first half and Fox threw for 113 yards. Meanwhile the Eagle defense held Keyser to 52 total yards of offense. Magnolia had seven first downs, while the visitors moved the sticks three times.
Keller made a nice tackle on the second half kick and the Magnolia defense picked up where it left off with a three-and-out and forcing another Keyser punt. Bates retuned the punt 10 yards and the Blue Eagles took over at their own 30 yard line.
Magnolia ran over five minutes off the clock on their first drive of the second half. Jackson, Bates, and Fruner each moved the markers before Fox punted.
Keyser picked up a first down on a scramble by the quarterback. Jayson Keller took the ball away and ran for a touchdown, but the play was called dead. The Golden Tornado offense picked up another first down before the Magnolia front line stopped the drive on some nice team defense. The Eagles held and took over on downs at the 46 yard line.
Bates moves the chains on a nice run and Jackson got the Big Blue offense another set of downs on a nice run of his own. Bates gained good real estate on a pitch by Fox and Jackson gained tough yardage to the 21 yard line. But, on a fourth down call, Fox was buried for a big loss and Keyser took over. However, the Magnolia drive took precious minutes off the clock.
Keyser gained nine yards on a double reverse, but the Eagles stopped the second attempt short of a first down. After a motion penalty backed the visitors up, they connected on a nice catch for a first down. A double reverse moved the chains once more and a Magnolia unsportsmanlike penalty had the Keyser offense knocking on the door inside the 10 yard.
Neff stopped a Tornado ball carrier in the backfield and Fox intercepted a pass in the end zone. However, the pick was disallowed as Fox was guilty of pass interference.
With a new set of downs, Blatt made a nice tackle in the Keyser backfield for negative yardage. The Tornado was called for an illegal touch and Fox leaped in the air for an interception with 4:57 left in regulation.
The Eagles ran off all but 1:49 left off the clock, while moving the ball 50 yards before Keyser took over.
After three straight first down passes, Neff made his second quarterback sack of the game and Tanner Fluharty made the final tackle to end the game and win a faceoff against Bluefield in Friday’s semi finals beginning at 7:30 p.m. at Alumni Field.
Bates led the ground game with 63 yards on 20 totes and scored the only touchdown of the game, while Jackson netted 46 yards on 11 carries. Fox had 130 yards for the game and hit Blatt four times for 56 yards. Fruner caught three passes for 26 yards and Rogalski caught one for 41 yards, while Benson hauled in one for seven yards.
There were 12 penalties in the game, with Magnolia guilty of 10 of them for 70 lost yards.
Showdown In The Ville
BY R.J. GOODE
It will be the match up that everyone has waited for all year this Friday when the Class AA number two seeded Magnolia Blue Eagles play host to the sixth seed Bluefield Beavers for a trip to the state title game.
The Beavers started the season 3-0 but then lost two straight games. However, they have been rolling since then, winning seven consecutive contests, including a 25-18 victory over the number three seed Sherman Tide.
After surviving a scare last week from the seventh-ranked Keyser Tornadoes, the 12-0 Blue Eagles are poised to become the first ever Magnolia football team to finish the entire season undefeated.
Offensively, Bluefield will come onto the field averaging 38 points per game, while Magnolia has averaged 35.83 points per game. Both teams have scored in double figures in 11 out of 12 games.
The Beaver defense comes into the game giving up an average of 13.25 points per game, while the Eagle defense is, arguably, the best in Class AA, having allowed only 4.92 points per game with five shutouts. Bluefield has shut out three opponents.
Neither team is a stranger to the championship game. Magnolia has been there four times, winning only one, in 1964. Meanwhile, the Beavers have made the trip five times, winning three.
The victor in Friday’s game will likely be the odds-on favorite to win it all against the winner of the game between top-ranked Wayne and the number four Franklin Falcons.
It is the first time Magnolia and Bluefield have met in a long time. With two of the state’s best offenses going head on, it should be a fine contest to see who gets to go to the Island on Friday, Dec. 4, for the Big One.
Advance tickets for the third round football playoffs against Bluefield will be available at Magnolia High School today from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. The advance ticket prices are $7 adults and $5 for students. Also, tickets will be available today from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. at Lisa Shepherd’s State Farm Insurance Agency, 1105 Third St., New Martinsville.
All tickets at the gate are $7. The gates will open at 5:30 p.m. with the game getting underway at 7:30 p.m.
There will be a Community Pep Rally Thursday at the high school from 7-8:30 p.m.
The following are reminders for WVSSAC events: only WVSSAC passes are accepted; no reserve seats allowed; no umbrellas in the stands; no pass-outs or re-entry for any reason.
If the Magnolia Blue Eagles prevail in the West Virginia State Class AA Semifinal against Bluefield, the Wetzel Chronicle will publish a special “good luck” page next week. Parents and businesses can purchase ads by calling 304-455-3300 by noon on Monday, Nov. 30.