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Football Lookahead: No. 1 St. Marys up Next for Surging Blue Eagles

October 17, 2013
By TRACY WATSON , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

Sitting at 4-3 with a pair of unbeaten opponents up next on the schedule, Magnolia is a team that could find itself scratching and clawing to secure a spot in the West Virginia Class A playoff field. The Blue Eagles are also a team that no one will want to face if they get there.

Coach Mark Batton's squad has dropped three games to high quality opponents, all of which the Blue Eagles had a chance to win, or at least tie, in the late stages of the contest.

Up next for Magnolia will be a trip to unbeaten St. Marys, which is sitting atop the state's small-school poll and coming off a 53-12 dismantling of Calhoun County a week ago to move to 6-0. The Eagles also picked up a big victory last Friday night, shaking off Weir early to cruise to a 39-6 triumph at Alumni Field.

"Last week was a nice confidence builder for us and we are definitely hoping to build off of that," Batton said. "But we know what we are in for this week also. St. Marys is a team at the top of its game right now and it is going to be an electric atmosphere down there.

"We will prepare hard this week, as we always do, get ready and we will see what happens Friday night."

Thus far Magnolia has lost to Williamstown, which has one loss (to St. Marys), Wheeling Central, which has lost to Ohio small-school powers Shadyside and Madonna and Linsly.

For the Blue Eagles, two key factors the remainder of the way will be getting, and staying healthy. Senior running back Drew Keller appears to be getting back to form after an 18-carry, 160-yard performance a week ago, while quarterback Jacob Brill managed to complete 12 of 16 passes for 141 yards and four touchdowns while also gaining 115 on the ground on eight carries.

Eric Smith caught seven of Brill's passes for 114 yards and three of those four touchdowns.

Keller has rushed for nearly 750 yards and five scores on the campaign.

"Magnolia is easily the best team we will have faced all season long," coach, and former Blue Devils player, Jodi Mote said. "There is no doubt about that in my mind. I respect their team, coaches and players tremendously. I played against them when I was in school, but have never coached against them.

"Coach Batton says this is the first time we have met since 2000. Everyone knows how deceiving their record is, and I honestly believe this is going to be a tremendous battle and challenge for us."

The Blue Devils wasted little time jumping on Calhoun last week, scoring 33 points in the opening 12 minutes to take care of business early. St. Marys finished with 417 yards of offense, while allowing 218.

David Gray is the main rushing threat for the Pleasants County squad and scored four touchdowns a week ago, including one on a 55-yard interception return. Quarterback Michael Stout hit all four of his passes for 120 yards and a score, while Colby Brode caught three of those for all but 19 yards.

"They are the No. 1 team in the state for a reason," Batton said. "They have some very good running backs and a quarterback who does an outstanding job running things. But the thing I am most impressed with is the guys up front.

"Their line is just so impressive on both sides of the football. Big, strong, mobile, just exceptional and it will be a huge challenge for us."

As far as atmosphere goes, Mote feels his team has been there once, with a huge game earlier this season against then-unbeaten Williamstown.

"That Williamstown game, there was television here, the crowd was huge and it was just absolutely electric," Mote said. "This will be similar, but what it all comes down to is execution and elimination of mistakes. The team that can do those two things will be tough to beat.

"Overall, I am not as pleased with everything as I want to be with our team, but we have played well and are sitting in a good spot. But people all season long have talked about all the weapons we have, you better take a look at Magnolia because they have all the weapons we have and then some. And you throw in that relentless defense and you see what you are up against."

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