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Martins Ferry Hosts Strong Central Team

Photo by Scott McCloskey Wheeling Central running back Braxton Anderson carries the ball against Weir.

MARTINS FERRY – For coach Chas Yoder and his Martins Ferry football team, the 2021 campaign has quickly turned into a nightmare in which the Purple Riders have lost five of their initial six games, all to teams with at least four victories on the season already.

Friday night the task at hand will not get any easier as Ferry plays host to a 4-2 record Wheeling Central team that seems to be hitting its stride over the last two weeks, especially with starting quarterback Michael Toepfer back under center.

The Maroon Knights began the season with a pair of wins before dropping back-to-back decisions to Belmont County unbeatens Bellaire and Shadyside. However, since that time coach Mike Young’s squad has put together another two-game winning streak, including last Friday’s 54-27 thumping of Weir High.

Wheeling Central, which has won the last three West Virginia Class A state championships actually contested on the field, has outscored its last two victims by a 103-48 margin. The Maroon Knights did not suffer a defeat in last year’s state playoffs but fell victims to COVID while champions eventually had to be named in all three W.Va. classes.

“The key for us is that we are still ranked and in the playoff chase and we are still getting better,” Young mentioned. “We have lost to two pretty good teams, and quality programs, in Bellaire and Shadyside and we were in both games. This group continues to work on technique and execution every day at practice and we will be ready for anything ahead of us.

“We are the same old Central. These kids are going to continue to play hard-nosed football and we will be ready to make some noise when the post-season comes around.”

After winning its first game of the season three weeks ago, Martins Ferry has since dropped two in a row, including last week’s 26-14 loss at Indian Creek. The Purple Riders have given up 27 or fewer points in four of its five losses but have only put 34 markers on the board in those games.

“We just gave up too much in the first half last week and we just didn’t have enough to come back,” Yoder admitted. “The biggest thing for us is that we are trying to get healthy and get some guys back. We still have three big games left against good teams, but we are taking things one game at a time.”

While Toepfer is doing a good job directing the offense since his return, hitting 10 of 16 passes for 113 yards and four touchdowns, all in the second quarter, last week, the Maroon Knights’ rushing attack continues to be its bread and butter.

Seniors Cody Martos and Braxton Anderson along with juniors Lorenzo Ferrera and Riley Watkins lead the way for Central. Martos and Watkins both rushed for more than 70 yards last week, with Martos finding the end zone, while Ferrera added a 44-yard touchdown scamper and Anderson hauled in a pair of touchdown passes from 23 and 20 yards, respectively.

Javon Miller and Caleb Ratcliffe also caught touchdown passes to highlight Toepfer’s big second quarter barrage. Senior Cole O’Neil also had a touchdown run for the Knights.

“Wheeling Central is obviously a good football team,” Yoder added. “They are pretty balanced with good speed at the skill positions and a very good offensive line.”

Ferry’s main weapon on offense is junior George Hulsey, who has rushed for over 500 yards and seven touchdowns. Freshman Ayden Ludolph and sophomore Baron Lucey have both seen time under center for the Purple Riders with senior Peyton Hores a main target in the passing attack. Yoder’s crew was limited to just 24 yards on 23 carries last week against the Redskins.

“That is probably the best 1-5 football team in the Valley,” Young said of Martins Ferry. “They play hard, they are very physical and while they have five losses, they have been right there in some football games, including against a very good Linsly team. Give Coach Yoder and his staff a lot of credit, we know they will come ready to play.

“We still have huge challenges in front of us, but we will take them one at a time and Martins Ferry is the first one. But while we have some tough games ahead of us that is the schedule we want to play. I want to play good football teams I don’t want to play lesser teams that our kids don’t feel like they need to work as hard to get ready.

“It has been an up-and-down season so far, but everyone needs to remember the season is a not a sprint, it’s a marathon.”

Martins Ferry has won two of the previous three meetings in the series, including a 27-13 victory in their last contest in 2019.

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