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FOOTBALL LOOKAHEAD: Rivals Magnolia, River Set to Meet

Both teams 2-1 entering game

September 12, 2012
By RICK THORP - Staff Writer , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

NEW MARTINSVILLE - Despite being longtime rivals, Magnolia and River have always enjoyed a cordial relationship.

The only thing separating the school districts is the Ohio River. But this fall, what's Magnolia's has been River's.

With school construction surrounding Flannery Field and the River High School campus limiting parking, officials thought it would be best if the Pilots football team found a temporary home for 2012.

Article Photos

River's Cody Caldwell

After exploring some locations within its own district, the folks at Magnolia were contacted about playing home games at Alumni Field, the home of the Eagles.

Both sides agreed on a plan and the Pilots opened the season against Fort Frye at their home away from home.

''We're grateful for it,'' River coach Mike Flannery said. ''The one thing a lot of people misinterpret about rivals is that they hate each other.

''But both of our coaching staffs have a great relationship and that's the way rivalries should be.''

Another chapter in the storied series will be written Friday night when the two teams meet at, you guessed it, Alumni Field. Magnolia will be the home team for the contest which kicks off at 7:30 p.m.

''They'll be in a different locker room this week,'' Magnolia coach Mark Batton joked. ''All of us coaches go back a long way. We have a great mutual respect for each other.''

Both teams enter the game at 2-1.

Magnolia started its season with a 21-20 loss to Linsly at Wheeling Island Stadium. Since then, the Blue Eagles have defeated Williamstown and Tyler Consolidated, both at home.

''We've struggled a bit,'' Batton said. ''We haven't executed well once we've gotten inside the red zone. That's something we've worked on.

''We need to eliminate mistakes offensively. We didn't get an offensive tempo going last week and we were disappointed with that.''

Still, Magnolia's offense put up good numbers. Drew Keller rushed for 104 yards, Tanner Hanna completed 50 percent of his passes for 116 yards and Stephen Rogalski caught five balls for 62 yards.

''I don't think they've been up and down,'' Flannery said. ''They've played three pretty good opponents. They had some unfortunate things happen against Linsly, but I think they've worked on those wrinkles and are now taking care of business.

''They are a typical Magnolia team - aggressive and sound.''

While Magnolia's offense is still trying to find its rythym, the defense is continuing to gel. Kage Rohde led the unit last week with 12 tackles, including three for losses.

Flannery said he's always had great respect for Magnolia's defensive coordinator, Bob Ripley.

''It's very aggressive,'' he said of Magnolia's 'D'. ''We'll just have to match up our Jimmys against their Joes and hope things click.''

After rolling to a pair of victories, the Pilots ran into a hungry Monroe Central team last week that dropped 50 points on them.

It was the first time a team scored 50 against River since it gave up 54 to those same Seminoles on Sept. 11, 2009. In fact, prior to last week, the Pilots had allowed 48 points in their last six regular-season games combined.

''We have to bounce back and see what we have left,'' Flannery said. ''The one thing about our kids was they never quit. We came back and tied it 14-14 and then they went ahead 29-14 and we came back to within 29-20. We just kept fighting.''

Batton is confident they will.

''They just have a real nice team and a tremendous defense,'' he said.

Batton has also been impressed with River's stable of veteran offensive standouts like Nick Asturi, Cody Caldwell, Jordan Brown, Kamron Brown and Dallas Necessary.

''We feel like we have a lot of people,'' Flannery said.

''We have a lot of kids who don't get enough credit, like the guys down in the trenches blocking.''

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