Oparanozie’s Run Lifts Linsly, 14-7
NEW MARTINSVILLE – If there are any more Oparanozies in the pipeline, Mark Batton doesn’t want to know about them.
Chimechi Oparanozie, kid brother of the leading Small School rusher in the Valley last season (Chinelo), ripped off a 44-yard touchdown run with 8:41 remaining in the third quarter, and a strong defensive stand – plus a little luck – made it stand as Linsly opened the season with a 14-7 victory against Magnolia on Friday night at Alumni Field.
”I don’t know if there’s any more (Oparanozies) out there or not, but he’s a hard runner,” Batton said of Chimechi. ”That’s just a bookend of his brother. He’s one of those that you can’t bring him down with one guy. A few times I felt we had him but we just didn’t get enough guys to the ball to bring him down.”
Oparanozie, bottled up during a first half where rushing yards were hard to come by for both teams (Linsly had two at halftime), wound up with 104 yards on 17 carries, including that game-winning score where he bulled over, then out-ran, every Magnolia defender along the way.
”(That) boy ran his butt off,” Cadets coach B.J. Depew said. ”It’s nice to see him get a chance to play. He’s been waiting for two years and (he’s been) injured. He’s got a long ways to go, but I’m sure how hard he played (Friday night).”
Still, Oparanozie’s scamper put his team up by only a score with 20 minutes left in the game. You had to figure Magnolia had a drive in it.
That one came midway through the fourth quarter, following a 26-yard punt that was caught at the Blue Eagles 35. Needing 35 yards to tie, Magnolia got 33 of them before quarterback Jacob Brill, stretching for the end zone near the 2, lost the handle. It was recovered by Linsly’s Chukwudi Chuckwu at the 1 with exactly 3 minutes showing.
”I barely knew the ball popped out,” Depew said. ”I was just hoping we would make the tackle.”
Linsly took over, ran the game clock down to 9.8 seconds, then punted it back to the 32 with 1.2 seconds left.
Brill’s heave to Drew Lemasters fell just short.
”That’s one of those games where somebody has to lose but I don’t know if anybody deserved to lose,” Batton said.
Magnolia opened the scoring, when after four series of mostly fruitless rush attempts it had 24 yards on the ground at halftime Brill found a wide open Eric Smith for a 48-yard touchdown.
”It was (a blown assignment),” Depew said. ”Everybody’s tired on the field. When you get tired, it becomes harder to think quickly. We just had a missed assignment. We know that we can cover that route and hopefully next time we will.”
Linsly answered, putting the finishing touches on its only drive of substance in the first half, when quarterback Jameson Murray first hit Isaiah Harvin for 36 yards, then hit Zak Kriechbaum in the middle of the end zone while rolling to his right for 16 yards and a score with 27 seconds left in the first half.
”We have a lot of faith in our quarterback and our receivers,” Depew said. ”(Murray) made some makeshift plays. A little bit of playground football came into play here.”
Said Batton of the play: ”anytime he gets scrambling, we get lost a little bit. We lost our receiver there and their guy made a nice play.”
In the first half, the teams combined for 17 plays of zero or lost yardage.
”I think in the first quarter, there was a lot of jabs thrown and just feeling each other out,” Depew said. ”Both teams were making Game 1 mistakes.”
Murray completed 13 of 24 passes for 120 yards with Harvin grabbing five for 74 yards. Brill was 5 of 12 for 122 yards with Smith catching four of those for 126 yards.