Barnesville ‘Rocks’ Magnolia, 35-18
For the second consecutive week Barnesville found itself in a first half shootout, this time against home-standing Magnolia. But for the second straight week the Shamrocks defense pitched a shutout during the final two quarters to help secure a victory.
Powerful senior running back Caide Bunfill rushed for 174 yards and two scores while quarterback Matthew Burkhart ran for 112 and a touchdown and threw for 96 more and another score, as Barnesville escaped Alumni Field with a 35-18 victory against the struggling defending West Virginia Class A state champion Blue Eagles on Friday night.
“We have kind of a bend-but-don’t-break defense,” Shamrocks coach Matt Johnson said. “But we asked the kids at the half to not let their receivers run past them. Our defense played very well in the second half again, but sometimes our offense is our best defense.
“Magnolia is still a good team, and we are happy to survive this one. They still have some pretty good skill-position players back from a state championship team.”
After a slower-than-expected first quarter in which the only score was a 30-yard Bunfill burst, things really picked up in the second as the teams combined to put up 38 total points.
Bunfill’s second score, at 11:36 of the second was a thing of beauty. The powerful runner took a late pitch to the left side from Burkhart, saw the sideline was clogged up, and cut all the way back across the field for a 32-yard touchdown. The PAT failed and it was 13-0.
The teams traded scores for the remainder of the quarter with Magnolia senior quarterback Nick Priem twice finding junior wideout Brooks Parsons on long scoring strikes. The first was a deep toss down the sideline that Parsons caught in stride and scored from 54 yards away.
Burkhart did things himself on Barnesville’s (3-0) next possession, running for 21 yards, with a 15-yard personal foul penalty tacked on. He finished the two-play drive with a 44-yard jaunt to the end zone and added the 2-point conversion and it was 21-6.
Priem added a 12-yard touchdown pass to Dylan Conner a short time later with Butch Holskey going in from 15 yards away for the Rocks to make it 27-12.
But 10 seconds after that Priem and Parsons struck again, this time on a deep toss down the field with Parsons beating a pair of defenders for a 67-yard scoring strike.
Barnesville’s big three (Bunfill (112), Burkhart (101) and Holskey (82) combined for 295 rushing yards in the first half while Parsons caught six passes for 162 yards and Priem threw for 186. Parsons did not catch a pass in the second half.
Magnolia (0-3) missed a golden opportunity to start the third, driving to the Barnesville 10 on an 11-play drive that took nearly seven minutes off the clock before an interception in the end zone ended the threat.
“Our schemes were good, but you have to make the plays and we didn’t,?” Coach Dave Chapman said of his Magnolia squad. “We manage to get all the way down to the 10 with a chance to cut the score down to a couple points, then a penalty sets us back and again we just don’t execute.
“It’s frustrating to watch this happen, but that stop really took the wind out of our sails.”
Barnesville got the score that all but iced things at 8:35 of the fourth when Burkhart found junior Zane Huntsman on a fourth-down play from 5 yards away. Burkhart’s 2-point run capped the scoring.
“We are going to live and die with our running game, but Matthew (Burkhart) has the ability to throw the football,” Johnson added. “Kaelan Hannahs had some big catches, Matthew gave us an added dimension running the football and Caide always runs so hard.”
While Chapman believes his team has gotten better and will continue to do so, the frustrations could continue as Magnolia travels to unbeaten River next week before playing undefeated Wheeling Central the following week.
“We have to continue to get better with this schedule,” Chapman said. “And one of the biggest things is that we need to get our running game going. It’s three games in now and we still haven’t really been able to get Chase (Street) going to help us sustain drives.
“This game hasn’t changed, it’s still about blocking and tackling, and we didn’t do either one of those things very well. We knew about their big three coming in (Bunfill, Burkhart and Holskey), but we didn’t do a good job of tackling any of them and we will address that at practice.”
Priem was 16-26 for 207-yards and three touchdowns, while Street rushed for 35 yards on 13 carries to lead the Blue Eagles offense. Parsons hauled in eight passes for 144 yards and a pair of touchdowns, while Conner grabbed one pass for 12 yards and a score. Leo Herrick added 27 yards on three catches, while Street added 12 yards on three grabs, and Drew Lemasters hauled in one pass for two yards.
Defensively, Street paced the much improved Blue Eagle defense with 13 tackles, while Hunter Partridge hauled down a dozen with eight being solo tackles. Conner added 11 stops, while Patrick Mirandy and Lemasters each drilled four Shamrock ball carriers.
The Blue Eagles will look to get their first victory of the season against the undefeated River Pilots Friday night at Flannery Field at 7:30 p.m.