Martins Ferry Defense Holds Strong Late


For The Intelligencer

WINTERSVILLE – In a 48-minute game, things sometimes come down to one play. Friday night a Kettlewell Stadium that play happened after more than 47 minutes had expired.

With the score tied at 21-21, Martins Ferry forced an Indian Creek turnover on downs and the Purple Riders took over at their 30 with 1:27 left. On second-and-5 at the 35, quarterback James Edwards lofted a pass to teammate Jack Fitch, who pulled the ball in one handed, broke a tackle, and tightroped the sideline for a 65-yard touchdown reception with 26 seconds remaining.

“Couldn’t happen to a better young man,” Martins Ferry coach Dave Bruney said of Fitch. “He works so hard. His dad’s our

superintendent. I coached his dad.

“It’s really tough being a coach’s son because no matter what you do there’s going to be someone saying ‘the only reason he’s in there is because his dad’s a coach,’ but it couldn’t happen to a better kid.”

Arjay Burress kicked the extra point, and Robert Vargo recovered a fumble on Indian Creek’s next play to secure a victory.

“All you can ask your kids to do is play hard for 48 minutes,” Indian Creek coach Andrew Connor said. “That’s what they did. You go back and forth in a game like this, with two good football teams, and the one football team just made one more good play than we did.

“That doesn’t take away from how hard the kids played or how badly I know they wanted to win.”

The game up to the Fitch grab was almost as exciting as the play that provided the winning margin.

The Redskins (5-3) led 13-7 at halftime, and the score remained that way until late in the third quarter when Burress provided some excitement for the Purple Riders (7-1) faithful. Two plays after the Redskins turned the ball over on downs at the Ferry 17, Burress busted loose for an 80-yard scoring run, and kicked the point after for a 14-13 Riders lead with 1:33 left in the third quarter.

“I just told them when I look at Indian Creek on film and I look at our kids they’re such a mirror image of each other,” Bruney said of his halftime talk. “They fight, scratch, and claw for everything they get. I just asked them, ‘what more could you ask for? This is a great high school football game, and if we fight hard it’s going to come down to the fourth quarter and it’ll be a nail-biter.’ ”

Indian Creek answered back on the ensuing drive, marching 58 yards in 11 plays, capped by Zach Connor powering in from 1 yard out. The big play came on third-and-13 when Jonathan Woodbury avoided a sack and hit Johnny Haught for a 20-yard pass. Woodbury punched in the 2-point conversion to give the Redskins a 21-14 advantage with 10:15 left in the game.

The Purple Riders were poised to provide an answer of their own, driving to the Indian Creek 10, but on third-and-9 from the 11 Burress was stripped of the ball and it was recovered by Blake Roar.

Martins Ferry provided more fireworks after forcing the Redskins to punt from their 11 on the ensuing possession. Jake Barritt took the punt. made the first man miss and raced 41 yards for paydirt. Burress’ extra point tied the game at 21-21 with 5:17 left.

Creek fumbled the kickoff and Ferry recovered at the Redskins 17, but Creek forced a turnover on downs and took over at its own 21 with 3:41 left.

Roar busted loose on the next play for a 50-yard gain to the Riders 29, but Ferry forced its own turnover on downs leading to the Edwards to Fitch heroics.