MORGANTOWN - University coach John Kelley wasted little time getting right to the point when breaking down John Marshall.
The Hawks meet the Monarchs on Friday in Morgantown.
"I'm very concerned about that running back," the long-time University coach said. "He's capable of taking over a game. He moves the chains, helps them control the football. I love what they are doing on offense, and with him. It's a simple offense, but it is a smart offense. I had heard he was good, but until I watched him I had no idea he was that good. I love what this kid is doing."
Aaron Bishop and the Monarchs take on University.
Kelley was referring to John Marshall running back Trevor Hardesty.
However, Kelley might not see the senior.
Hardesty, who suffered an ankle injury against Musselman two weeks ago, tried to play last week against Parkersburg South but was shut down in the second half.
"He just couldn't go, he couldn't get any push," John Marshall coach Rick Goodrich said.
His status this week is wait-and-see.
"It will be a game-time decision," Goodrich said. "Obviously, he is a great player but more important, he is a leader in the huddle. The kids have confidence when he is in the huddle."
His stats bear his importance.
Despite missing nearly two-and-a-half games, Hardesty has rushed for 586 yards on 103 carries with eight touchdowns.
In his absence last week against Parkersburg South, a 42-32 loss, sophomore Chase Gump stepped up with 126 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries.
He was one of four non-starters that finished the game against the Patriots.
That is John Marshall (3-3) in a nutshell. Very young without Hardesty, the senior leader.
A demanding stretch run merely starts with University, followed by Morgantown and Wheeling Park (all Top 10 Class AAA teams).
No. 4 University (6-1) packs a punch and then some, with a senior-dominated squad. Its only loss was to No. 7 Wheeling Park, 17-7 at Wheeling Island Stadium.
"We're right on schedule," Kelley said. "We expected to be good. We had the one loss to a very good Park team, but our goal is to be 8-1 heading into the Mohawk Bowl (against city rival Morgantown)."
Injuries have hit the Hawks too. Kelley said the team lost three starting linemen in its most recent outing, a 49-20 victory against Logan.
John Marshall has been buoyed by the steady play of sophomore quarterback Noah Martin, who has completed 45 of 67 passes for 594 yards with five touchdowns and five interceptions.
"I was pretty impressed by him," Kelley said. "He doesn't do anything beyond his capabilities, he realizes his limitations."
Goodrich said there is room for improvement.
"He has been steady, but we think he can be really good when he commits himself fully to being a quarterback. The sky is really the limit. But yes, he has done a great job."
Kelley realizes his team is a huge favorite, which could play into the Monarchs favor.
"John Marshall is a vastly improved team," Kelley said. "They have nothing to lose by coming up here, pinning their ears back and wrapping us. They can be major spoilers down the stretch."
Goodrich knows what his team is facing.
"They are solid and I you can't really find a weak spot with their team,"he said. "They come off the ball, they have athletes and they are fundamentally sound and well-coached. We are going to start a lot of young kids. But there is no excuse for not hustling and not playing hard and we know our kids will do that."
The stretch, as difficult has it will be, will also pay future dividends.
"You have to be excited about playing big games," Goodrich said. "It's challenging. People around the state are going to be watching the University and Morgantown scores. Maybe that is a chance make a name for ourselves. Have people say, 'Look, these guys are pretty good.' "