JM Routs Brooke
MOUNDSVILLE — In his first year at John Marshall, coach Justin Kropka was curious to see how his team would play in a game with a lot riding on the outcome.
He was thrilled with the result.
The Monarchs entered Thursday night’s showdown ranked 15th in W.Va. Class AAA, while Brooke was ranked 11th.
John Marshall never trailed as it pulled away for a 41-6 triumph over Brooke inside Monarch Stadium.
“Most of our kids have never played in a game of this magnitude,” Kropka said. “I was as interested as everybody else as to how we would respond to that. We had a big game Week 1 and we didn’t play well. We kind of gave one away at Parkersburg South but when we left that game I thought ‘we’re getting better.’ We have a lot of young kids playing. I was hoping we had improved as much as I thought we had and, obviously, (Thursday) showed that.”
The Bruins showed its youth as it suffered a pair of turnovers and several other miscues.
“I don’t want to let them off the hook but we’ve played like a mature team all year long,” Brooke coach Mac McLean said. “(Thursday) we played like a young team. We played against a team that was more physical than us in the trenches and this is the first time that I feel like we backed down a little bit. We play Wheeling Park next week and it’s not going to be any easier than this because they are a really good football team.”
The first Brooke turnover came on the game’s opening drive as Ben McCardle picked off a pass from Bruins’ QB Braelyn Sperringer.
The first play from scrimmage following the interception resulted in a 46-yard TD pass from Jacob Coffield to Jared Kerekes, who raced down the field for six.
The Monarchs padded their lead early in the second quarter when Klypsan Wallace plunged in for a 3-yard TD and Connor Fitzpatrick drilled one of his five extra points for a 14-0 edge.
Brooke refused to go away easily as it strung together a 75-yard march that Sperringer capped with a 17-yard strike to Camden Taylor to cut the deficit to 14-6 with 6:41 left in the half.
However, the Monarchs knew just how to steal back the momentum.
On the ensuing kickoff, JM’s Koda Moore took a short kickoff and scampered 62 yards for an electrifying touchdown to create a 21-6 cushion.
“It’s funny it happened to go to (Moore),” Kropka said. “We practiced that kick, we saw it on film, and Koda fair-caught it. I said ‘Koda, don’t you want to get your name in the paper?’ I said ‘catch the ball and run with it if it’s like that.’ And I’ll be darned if it didn’t happen exactly that way. I was happy for that kid. He’s a senior and I’m thrilled for him.”
Moore’s thrill ride down the sideline also proved to be a back-breaker for the Bruins.
“Like I told the team, ‘we are a trainwreck on special teams right now,'” McLean said. “If we don’t clean up that phase of the game we don’t belong in the playoffs. That’s all we are going to practice (Friday).”
Kropka and his brilliant coaching staff put another charge into their offense late in the first half as they drew up a reverse halfback pass from Brennan Sobutka to Wesley Hughes for a 32-yard gain, which set up a 3-yard TD from Wallace to send the Monarchs into halftime with a 28-6 upperhand.
Coffield added a pair of 1-yard QB sneaks for scores in the second half to complete the win.
“Our mindset all year has just been getting better,” Kropka said. “Frankly, I was hoping maybe we’d win three or four games this year because I knew we were young and inexperienced. My expectation was to just get better every week and we have. I think focusing on that has helped us.”
Coffield was a perfect 4-for-4 for 80 yards and a TD, while Wallace ran for 75 yards and two scores on 16 carries.
“I thought our passing game,” Kropka said about the team’s biggest improvement. “I thought we were a little off against Buckhannon but we were able to focus on that during the bye week. This was my first bye week and we focused on those kinds of things and I think it really showed (Thursday). We had two really good weeks of practice.”
Dylan Dunbar recovered a fumble for Brooke, which was led by Sperringer’s 71 yards passing.