Williamstown, Magnolia meet in key Class A contest

Photo courtesy of Neal Smith Williamstown’s Carter Haynes (3) carries the ball as teammate Ty Moore (2) looks to block during a high school football game against Magnolia last Friday.

NEW MARTINSVILLE, W.Va. — Two of the most storied high school football programs in the state renew acquaintances in a playoff-type atmosphere at 7 p.m. Friday on Alumni Field inside Bill Stewart Memorial Stadium in New Martinsville.

Magnolia welcomes Williamstown for an early season showdown between teams with consistently high expectations.

To that point, Doc Chapman’s Blue Eagles started on a strong note with a 24-0 rout of 2017 playoff participant Sherman last week.

“Anytime you win your home opener you are happy,”said Chapman. “That was a quality Sherman team. I saw some preseason ratings and they were as high as No. 3. It definitely means something, someone thought they were a pretty good football team. Watching them on film there was no question in my mind they were a solid football team. We played well Friday and got out of there with a W.”

The opposite was true for Terry Smith’s squad. Points weren’t something the Yellowjackets managed in a 33-0 loss to reigning Class A state champion Wheeling Central.

Penalties were a different story. Williamstown players drew nine flags for 85 yards, with several promising drives snuffed out by the zebra’s yellow laundry. Smith understandably wants these mistakes lessened.

“The guys worked hard but what bugs me is handing them (Central) yards,” said Smith. “Five times we had motion penalties. You can’t give really good teams five or 25 yards on offense. Most of them were on first down and you are looking at first and 15 and instead of third and five it is third and ten. Good teams will take advantage of that for sure.”

His teams’ assignment against the Blue Eagles doesn’t end at cutting down infractions.

“What I would like to see is us tackle better,” said Smith. “We missed quite a few tackles. Guys from Wheeling Central were good guys … top of the line elite running backs and quarterbacks. If we tackle just a little bit better we might have a chance.”

Maroon Knights’ quarterback Curtis McGhee III and running back Bray Price did most of the damage. Each had a 62-yard touchdown scamper, with McGhee adding a 32-yard romp to paydirt in the third quarter.

“If you are tired of hearing about it then tackle better,” said Smith, in a message to his team. “Nothing they haven’t learned from peewee up until now is how to tackle. We just didn’t get it. There were times we came in for the tackle and just bumped a guy. Didn’t wrap our arms or grab cloth … That was disappointing.”

Magnolia isn’t lacking weapons ready to make life miserable for the Yellowjackets if the tackling doesn’t improve Friday night.

Blue Eagles’ quarterback Pat Mirandy provides a duel-threat weapon for Chapman. Solid stops behind the line are crucial as Mirandy makes plays with his arms and legs.

The senior tossed three scoring passes against the Tide last week on yardages of 58. 13, and 32. Mirandy also had a 55-yard scoring scamper against the Jackets a season ago.

“He is very good,” said Smith. “We watched the tape against Sherman and he just makes plays. He throws good on the run. I think he is just tremendous.”

Receivers Sebastian Stickler (twice) and Dakota Litton caught the tosses from Mirandy. Jason Beisel and Gage Adams provide solid running options out of the backfield.

For Williamstown, Carter Haynes and Donathan Taylor stood out on offense. Nick Bondi made his presence felt on the defensive side with several big stops and a sack of McGhee.

Though Chapman didn’t get a completely accurate picture of the Yellowjackets personnel, hard to gauge certain aspects of the game when a team faces the best team on its schedule in the opening game, he knows what to expect come gametime.

“They are very sound, a typical Williamstown team,” said Magnolia’s third-year head man. “We have developed a pretty good rivalry over the years and I know how Magnolia Williamstown games usually end. They come down to the last few minutes.

“Looking at them as not being a quality team is furthest from the truth. They are sound and well coached. Every year is a battle with Coach Smith and his team from down the river.”