Wildcat equals success for Magnolia Blue Eagles

NEW MARTINSVILLE -The resurrection of the wildcat at Magnolia High School has left opponents feeling jolted.

Last week in a 42-16 victory against previously-unbeaten Valley (Fayette), Blue Eagles running back Drew Keller rushed for 239 yards on 36 carries.

The Magnolia coaching staff toyed with the formation during an 11-9 loss to St. Marys, but have gone full throttle the past three games – all resulting in victories.

“We used this a long time ago,” Magnolia coach Mark Batton said. “One of my assistant coaches is Josh Sims and we designed this for him because he was a tailback playing quarterback. (Assistant coach) Dave Chapman has taken it to the next step and added more to it. And he has great imagination.

“With Drew, he fits that mold real well. All you are doing is snapping the ball to your tailback in shotgun formation. Now you have 10 blockers and one person running the ball. It adds a little dimension to the offense.”

Sixth-ranked Moorefield (10-1) is next in line to try and solve Magnolia’s scheme. The Yellowjackets play host to the 14th-rank Blue Eagles (7-4) at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday.

“To my knowledge, we’ve never played Moorefield,” Batton said. “We know they like to run the ball and will pass it as well. I know they are a physical team and will play hard.

“I also know the community of Moorefield has always surrounded that team.”

Keller, who finished 10 carries shy of the Class A record, scored three touchdowns against Valley (Fayette). The senior, however, wasn’t the only one who created havoc for the Greyhounds. The play-call for the end around allowed Eric Smith to gain 121 yards, including 68 yards on a touchdown run.

The Blue Eagles’ designated quarterback, Jacob Brill, rushed nine times for 79 yards and two touchdowns. Batton didn’t forget to recognize his offensive line and the way it controlled the line of scrimmage.

“We haven’t thrown much out of the wildcat the past three weeks,” Batton said. “We’re not afraid to throw. In fact we threw a bunch the first part of the season. Then we went to this wildcat a little and were able to control the offense.”

Magnolia’s average margin of victory is 30.3 points per game during its current win streak. A stark contrast to the games the Blue Eagles were accustomed to playing two-thirds into the regular season. During that span, they played four games decided by a touchdown or less – and on all four occasions they ended in defeat.

“These kids have handled the adversity of those close losses,” Batton said. “I think it actually brought them together. They are starting to rely on each other a lot more.

“They were able to weather the storm, get into the playoffs and get a playoff victory. It’s a mature group and a special group of young guys.”