NEW MARTINSVILLE Williamstown received a rude awakening when the Class A state playoffs kicked off Friday night at Magnolia High School's Alumni Field.
A mere 15 seconds into the game after Magnolia senior Stephen Rogalski returned the opening kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown and the Yellowjackets were fighting an uphill battle the rest of the game. They never recovered as the second-ranked Blue Eagles added three more touchdowns before intermission and coasted in the second half to a 34-7 victory.
"I think that kickoff return was a great welcome to single-A football," Rogalski said. "Actually I was surprised they kicked to me. I was expecting a squib kick and one of the up men would pick it up. Once I saw that kick up in the air, I knew I had a chance to take it back because I saw the opening.
Photo by Jeff Baughan
Magnolia's Kage Rohde, Drew Keller and Ryan Walton stop Williamstown's Trace Hart Friday. Magnolia won, 34-7.
"I think someone grabbed me in the back a little bit when I first hit the hole. I put a move on the kicker and I went the rest of the way."
Magnolia improves to 10-1 and awaits the winner of today's first-round game between Wheeling Central and East Hardy scheduled for a 1:30 p.m. start in Baker, W.Va.
"Did these kids come out ready to play or what?" Magnolia coach Mark Batton asked afterwards. "They came out and played so fast and so hard. That's a big-time win."
No. 15 Williamstown, which crossed midfield just once in its first five possessions while being limited to one first down and 49 yards of total offense in the first half, ends the season at 6-5 after being handed its earliest exit from the postseason since Terry Smith took over as head coach nine years ago.
"A month ago, we were thinking we might not make the playoffs," Smith said. "So I feel good for the seniors. They led and did everything we asked from them.
"We just couldn't get it done tonight."
The two schools also met in Week 2 of the regular season with Magnolia producing a 24-7 victory at home.
"Magnolia was too fast and too big," Smith said. "We couldn't slow them down."
Rogalski finished with a pair of touchdowns, with the second one putting Magnolia in front 13-0 at the 9:49 mark of the second quarter. The score occurred on first-and-10 from the Williamstown 16.
Quarterback Tanner Hanna, who completed all nine of his passes for the game in succession following an incompletion on his first attempt, dropped back in the pocket and never saw much of a pass rush as he found Rogalski open in the end zone for the TD reception.
Williamstown dug itself a bigger hole moments later when Gage Deem picked off Yellowjacket quarterback Jake Tracewell on the next play from scrimmage.
Two plays later on third-and-8 from the Yellowjacket 21, Deem hauled in a screen pass from Hanna, cut across the grain and crossed the goal line as the Blue Eagles increased their advantage to 20-0 with 8:25 still remaining before halftime.
Following a three-and-out from Williamstown on the next series, Magnolia went to work once again. Junior running back Drew Keller punished the Yellowjacket defense for 46 yards on six carries during a drive which was capped by Hanna connecting with Todd Lemasters for a 6-yard touchdown completion with 1:41 showing on the clock.
Keller, who finished with 201 yards on 26 attempts, put the final exclamation mark on the victory after scoring from a yard out as Magnolia extended the lead to 34-0 at the 11:55 mark of the fourth quarter.
"I'm come out every game trying to get as much as I can," Keller said. "Sometimes, I shoot myself in the foot trying to get too much extra yardage and I fumble because I get careless with the ball."
Keller's fumbled the ball away once, but that took place midway in the fourth quarter and the game pretty much in hand with Magnolia in front 34-7. Accounting for Williamstown's lone touchdown was Dakota Watson catching a 5-yard pass from Tracewell with 8:57 left in regulation.
Watson led the Yellowjackets' ground game with 108 yards on just nine carries.