Martins Ferry, St. C. Headed in Different Directions

MARTINS FERRY — Two teams headed in different directions will collide Friday night in Buckeye 8 action at the Dave Bruney Football Complex when Martins Ferry plays host to rival St. Clairsville in a 7 p.m. kickoff.

Martins Ferry opened the season with a 47-0 victory over Buckeye Local, but turnovers — fumbles — have plagued Dave Bruney’s squad over the past two weeks in losses to Linsly (7-3) and Union Local (40-15).

“There were times when we had less than five in a season,” Bruney said of the 14 fumbles in two weeks. “This isn’t something that has been a problem for us, so we’re placing a lot of emphasis on ball security and hanging onto the ball. We’ve played pretty good defense, you just can’t have 13-14 possessions in the last seven quarters –less than that maybe — end with turnovers.”

When asked whether he thought it might be mental at this point, the veteran head coach quickly replied, “We don’t want it to become that. We just tell them to hang on to it.”

Some of the fumbles are coming while giving that extra effort.

“We had a kid make a great throw and a great catch with about two minutes to go in the (first) half when we were ahead 15-14, but they (UL) were able to pull the ball away before we got into the end zone,” he noted. “That would have put us up even further.

“Everybody gets their turn in the barrel and everybody goes through things like this. If not holding onto the football is the worst thing that happens to our kids through their lifetimes, then they will be pretty lucky.”

St. Clairsville coach Brett McLean said he wasn’t worried about Ferry’s fumblitis of late.

“I’m more concerned about us because we are more than capable of putting it on the turf,” he stressed. “We just need to go down there and play mistake-free football.”

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Red Devils, after dropping its opener at Carrollton, have piled up points in triumphs over Meigs County (47-6) and Meadowbrook (49-38) last week.

“They are playing well. They’re like us in the fact they have some younger guys playing, maybe not as much out of necessity like we do,” Bruney said. “I’ve been impressed with them. (Their coaching staff) always does a great job.”

In St. Clairsville’s win last week, junior running back Brady Kolb had a night to remember. The 5-foot-11, 225-pounder, who was an All-Ohio linebacker last fall, lugged the leather 32 times for 278 yards and three touchdowns.

“In my 16 years here, I’ve never had a kid carry the ball that many times,” McLean said. “That was a neat thing for him. He’s a great kid.”

With Kolb carrying the ball and junior Dustin Carrothers settling in at quarterback, St. Clairsville has started to hit its stride.

Martins Ferry is led on both sides of the ball by Hoover, who like Kolb was an All-Ohio linebacker a season ago. Hoover, who has verballed to Northern Illinois for wrestling, is the Purple Riders leading tackler — he charted 15 last week plus an INT — and rusher with 327 yards and five TDs.

Sophomore Jacob Probst has passed for 311 yards on 22 of 52. He has been picked four times. His favorite targets are seniors Cory Bennett (11-94) and Shaun Jeter (8-99) and sophomore Dasyn Hores (4-118).

Placekicker Cody Olson, another sophomore, has booted a pair of field goals. He won last year’s contest with a game-winner in the second overtime of a 17-14 nod at Red Devil Stadium.

St. Clairsville is led by Kolb on the ground with 351 yards and four TDs. Carrothers is 21 of 45 for 366 yards and five touchdowns, all of which have come in the last two games. Junior Craig Bober has a team-best 10 receptions for 129 yards and two scores. Classmate Justin Heatherington has landed seven passes for 183 stripes and a TD. Senior placekicker Matt Greenwood has nine PATS.

Martins Ferry holds a slim 9-8 advantage in the series dating back to 2000. However, St. Clairsville has captured five straight contests. The Purple Riders last victory came in 2011, 33-28.