NEW MARTINSVILLE - When you are trying to come up with a defense to stop a 2,000-yard passer, as a coach you almost have to assume trying to contain that player may be the best way to go because stopping him may not be an option.
Magnolia cCoach Mark Batton and defensive coordination Bob Ripley had no such thoughts when they went to work on putting a game plan together to try and stop Steubenville Catholic junior quarterback Brenton Colabella. All that they could hope for was that the defense go out and do its job.
Needless to say, the Big Blue wrecking crew did everything it set out to do against the gun-slinging Colabella, and then some.
Magnolia's defense limited the Crusaders to just 39 total yards of offense, including 61 through the air for Colabella, while the Blue Eagles rolled up 426 on offense in cruising to a 35-0 victory against Catholic Central on Senior Night at Alumni Field.
The victory sends Batton's squad into the regular-season finale next week at Oak Glen with an 8-1 record and also all but wraps up at least a first-round home playoff game in Wetzel County. Meanwhile, Coach Steve Daley's Crusaders fall to 6-4 and seem headed for the No. 8 seed in Ohio Division VI, Region 21, which could bring a date with top-ranked Mogadore next week.
''Wow, did Coach Ripley come up with a great game plan and the kids executed it to perfection,'' a smiling Batton said. ''We had kids coming at them from every direction and when they got there they were able to make tackles.
''This is a big win for us with a lot of points as far as the playoffs go. And Steubenville Central and Coach Daley have an excellent program and we wish them nothing but the best.''
Early on it looked like the Blue Eagles were really going to start racking up the points, driving all the way to the Steubenville Catholic 1 to open the contest before fumbling and then taking over following a 13-yard punt at the enemy 15 a short time later.
However, that short drive ended on a missed 33-yard field goal attempt by Clemens Raitmayr.
But when Magnolia really got the offense going it started putting up points while the Crusaders was having major difficulty just getting a first down.
The hosts finally found the end zone with three minutes showing in the opening quarter. It came after the first of four first-half sacks of olabella, with Eagles setting up shop at the 17. Three plays later Keller took a delay up the middle, bolted to the outside and found paydirt from 11 yards out for a 7-0 lead.
Another short punt led to Magnolia's second score, this time coming at 9:48 in the half with quarterback Tanner Hanna darting through the line from 1 yard away to make it 14-0.
Daley's crew managed to drive the ball into Blue Eagles territory midway through the second, picking up its first and only first down of the half along the way, however, on fourth-and-4 from the 30, Colabella was again sacked and the ball changed hands on downs.
This time Hanna got the job done through the air, without the help of senior do-it-all Stephen Rogalski, as Keller took a screen pass, broke through a pair of tackles near midfield and completed a 66-yard effort for the score at 5:02. It provided a 21-0 score that stood to the half.
Magnolia's dominance showed both on the field and in the stat book, holding a 258-23 advantage in yardage while picking up nine first downs to one for the visitors.
After recovering a fumble on the second-half kickoff, the Blue Eagles all but put things away with a nearly five-minute drive that culminated with a 15-yard quick-hitter from Hanna to freshman tight end Kyle Ritz to push the margin to 28-0.
Kage Rohde, who played an outstanding game on both sides of the ball, made it a 35-0 margin when he ran in from 10 yards away early in the final period.
With senior standout Doug Maslowski missing in the backfield because of an injury, Colabella was chased all night long, sacked a total of six times and had very little time to get anything going.
''Doug is a big part of our offense and we missed him,'' Daley said. ''Hopefully he will be cleared by the doctors to play next week. It is tough to try and piece things together when you are missing a player like that, especially against a very good team.
''We knew we were going to have to rely on the passing game, but our line didn't do a very good job in protection and Magnolia put a ton of pressure on us.''
The Eagles had a balanced attack rushing for 199 yards and getting 227 through the air and two scores from Hanna. Keller finished with 78 yards on the ground, had six catches for 130 more and scored twice while Rohde ground out 90 yards and found the end zone.
''This was just a great team effort,'' Batton added. ''The kids were focused from the beginning and it was important for our seniors to get this kind of performance on this night. We had some penalties that I didn't care for and we know we have to be smarter than that, but we also put some nice drives together. This is just a great group and I am so proud of them.''