When Sean Blumette took the job at Brooke, the one thing he figured he'd be able to count on was having a veteran duo at quarterback and running back in seniors Alec Buchmelter and Raleigh Mason.
It lasted three plays before Mason was injured in the opener against Parkersburg.
Mason, described as a workout freak like few others by his coach, returned last week against Weir and rushed 11 times for 101 yards and a score.
But Buchmelter wasn't with him. The QB had re-injured a hamstring and was ruled out against the Red Riders, with Aaron Walker filling in and completing 6 of 7 passes for 59 yards and a touchdown.
''We are really looking forward to having our offense back at full strength for the first time all year,'' Blumette said.
John Marshall coach Rick Goodrich is not.
''They're better than their record indicates,'' Goodrich said of the Bruins. ''Their schedule is pretty formidable. They're not your typical 2-6 football team. And Mason's back. He's just solid. Who knows what their record would be if he was at full strength?''
That's the big news as Brooke prepares to play host to a John Marshall team that similarly has two victories, something almost unheard of in this rivalry this late in a season.
''We're playing for pride and a little bit of respect,'' Blumette said. ''We've got to be ready to take their best shot.''
On paper, Brooke and John Marshall are similar. They both have first-year coaches implementing their systems and things haven't gone as planned at either place.
Still, neither team has players that are the type to give up.
''Our kids fight,'' Goodrich said. ''They're fighters. Sometimes we're outmanned. There's nothing you can do about it. They'd like to have a better record - who wouldn't? But they see a lot of the small accomplishments we're making that maybe outsiders can't see.''
Looking at the short term, Goodrich looks at the new-look, or the original-look, Bruins backfield and sees some issues in defending it.
''It makes you prepare for the run and the pass,'' Goodrich said. ''You have to be balanced on defense. They provide a lot of threats you need to prepare for. In Morgantown and teams like University, you knew you had to stop the run. These guys, you're not sure what they're going to do. They do both efficiently.''
Buchmelter is 76 of 159 for 971 yards, nine touchdowns and nine interceptions on the season. In Mason's stead, freshman Justin Loughrie remains the team's leading rusher at 88 carries for 413 yards and five scores.
Hunter Wallace is Brooke's leading receiver with 25 catches for 289 yards and three scores. Heath Hildreth has 16 catches for 207 yards and two touchdowns, followed by Thomas Cole (15 catches 167 yards, three TDs).
John Marshall quarterback Jeremiah Fromhart has completed 63 of 133 passes for 745 yards and four touchdowns.
R.J. Kibert is John Marshall's top rusher with 71 carries for 361 yards and two touchdowns. Jacob Woods, who had six carries for 47 yards and scored the Monarchs' lone touchdown against Morgantown last week, has 316 yards on 86 carries with five scores.
''They are hard-nosed, fundamentally sound kids,'' Blumette said of the Monarchs. ''They're going to be physical, they're going to be big, and they're going to want to run the ball. (Goodrich) makes no secret about it. With a team that runs as much as they do, play-action can be deadly for them.''
Evan Magers is the team's leading receiver with 20 catches for 315 yards and two touchdowns. Jeremy Betras has 12 catches for 141 yards.
Fromhart and Woods each lead the Monarchs with 30 points scored, followed by Kibert with 24.