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Football Lookahead: Coming off a Bye, Things Don’t Get any Easier for Magnolia

October 31, 2013
By TRACY WATSON , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

It has been a season of what-ifs for Coach Mark Batton and his Magnolia football team.

It's a season in which the Blue Eagles have lost four games by a total of 17 points and were within one play of turning the tables in the fourth quarter in each of those contests.

With a postseason berth possibly hanging in the balance, Magnolia hits the road Saturday night for another big contest, this one against Ohio-ranked Steubenville Catholic, a team that got an unwanted taste of what the Blue Eagles have been going through all season last week at Madonna.

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Victory proved just out of reach for Ryan Fletcher (22) and the Crusaders for the first time last week.

Coach Steve Daley's team had a 17-8 fourth-quarter lead, and was still up by a 17-15 margin late in the game before Blue Dons quarterback Ross Comis worked a little bit of magic.

"We looked at the film on Monday, went over it and figured out what we need to correct and that game is behind us now," Daley said. "All of our attention is on Magnolia.

"Mentally, it was a tough loss, but we know there will still be a Week 11 for us and we know it will probably be a home game, which is two things that we still have going for us.

"It is a little bit of a different situation from last year when we needed to beat Magnolia for some good things to happen, and we didn't. With that all taken care of this time around we don't have to think about, or concentrate on anything but Magnolia now."

The Crusaders are No. 3 in the Ohio Division VII, Region 25 playoff race. With a victory against Magnolia, Catholic Central could clinch a first-round home playoff game as well.

Batton's crew, meanwhile, is coming off a bye week after dropping another heartbreaker two weeks ago, a late 11-9 setback to then West Virginia Class-A No. 1 St. Marys on the road. The Eagles are sitting just out of the top 16 in the small-school playoff hunt, but could earn the right to maybe make a little noise if they can pull off an upset Saturday night at Harding Stadium.

"I think the bye week really gave us a chance to heal up mentally," Batton said. "Those kids left it all on the field at St. Marys and it was hard with the end result they got. I really felt for them, but we got back to practice, laughed and joked a little and started doing what we need to do to get ready for Steubenville Central.

"We play a very demanding schedule with some awful good teams and Steubenville Central is right in there with the rest of them. The week off also helps because I think you need two weeks to get ready for them."

There is no question that the Crusaders' leader is senior quarterback Brenton Colabella, who threw for 202 yards and a touchdown against the Dons last week. Two weeks ago Colabella became just one of a handful of Ohio Valley quarterbacks to surpass the 7,000-yard passing barrier in his career.

Senior Khalil Jones is the main weapon on the ground and in the return game for the Crusaders, while Colabella has a bevy of receivers to throw the ball to including Johnny Dicarlantonio, Ryan Fletcher and Aleks Porreca.

Magnolia, meanwhile has more than enough ability to throw the ball with senior quarterback Jacob Brill, but the Blue Eagles do most of their damage on the ground with Brill and classmates Kage Rohde and Drew Keller, who is once again closing in on the 1,000-yard mark.

"We were able to see them against St. Marys and there is no question that they like to just line the ball up and get physical with you," Daley said. "The biggest concern is the two running backs, they put a hurting on us last year and we are going to have to be ready for them."

For Magnolia, it is another must-win game and Batton says his team is prepared for that.

"We have been faced with these types of games since we got our third loss," he said. "But everybody understands that and no matter what the situation is, these kids go out and play Magnolia football and give it their all. They have done that all season long.

"Yeah, I know some things haven't gone our way at times, but these kids have never quit fighting. And this week they are up to the task of facing another major challenge."

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