NEW MARTINSVILLE - Defense wins championships and Magnolia is now one win away from playing for the Class A state title.
The No. 2 Blue Eagles won for the 11th time in a dozen tries when head coach Mark Batton's team held off No. 7 East Hardy, 19-14, here Saturday night at Alumni Field in the state quarterfinals.
Having not allowed a single team to score more than 21 points this year, Magnolia's defense was up to task as the powerful Cougars were held to 185 total yards and just nine first downs, which included only two in the opening half.
Magnolia signal-caller Tanner Hanna had a pair of 1-yard TD plunges as the hosts scored the game's first 13 points. His first came with 6:38 left in the first and kicker Clemens Raitmayr's extra point made it 7-0. The key play in the scoring drive was a 37-yard reception by Jacob Brill.
However, the Blue Eagles were fortunate to not be trailing when they scored on their second offensive series. Cougar senior Zach Godlove recovered a Drew Keller fumble on Magnolia's opening drive to give the visitors the ball just 35 yards from paydirt. Magnolia's defense was able to hold thanks to sacks from Keller and Kage Rohde.
After Kyle Ritz stopped East Hardy quarterback Shawn Skovron on third down with a tackle for loss on the Cougars' next series, Magnolia then proceeded to run 7:22 off the clock on a 17-play drive that netted nothing. Hanna had a pair of touchdown passes dropped during the drive.
Hanna's interception of Skovron, who missed 19 of 26 passes and threw for 166 yards, on East Hardy's next drive proved costly. The Blue Eagles only needed to go 31 yards to score and Hannah took care of it with his second six-pointer with 4:51 left in the half.
East Hardy finally dented the scoreboard with just 33.3 ticks left before intermission when Skovron threw a bomb to Josh Parker, who hauled it in and then spun away as two Magnolia defenders collided and raced 72 yards for the touchdown. The pass for two failed and East Hardy only trailed by seven.
Ritz got the first of his two sacks to open the third quarter and following a 37-yard EHHS punt that was returned 18 yards by Stephen Rogalski, the Blue Eagles needed just 3 plays to go 28 yards to take a 19-6 advantage. Rohde scored from 10 yards out on a delay draw at 9:08 of the third.
East Hardy, which trailed in total yards 213-13 nearing halftime before the bomb to Parker, actually played solid defense after intermission. Magnolia managed just three first downs and lost the battle of total yards, 100-46.
The Cougars were able to answer the Rohde six-pointer with the help of a Parker 47-yard completion. Skovron managed to cross the plane of the end zone on a fourth-and-goal play from the 1 and after he hit Levi Beck on the two-point conversion pass the final score was actually set at 19-14 with 5:53 still remaining in the third.
Early in the fourth, East Hardy had the ball first-and-10 at the Blue Eagle 34, but a sack by Zach Arrick moved them back toward midfield. Although the Cougars converted on fourth-and-4 at the 28, they turned it over on downs with 7:02 to play just outside of the red zone.
Magnolia's defense stopped East Hardy on its final two drives via a Rogalski diving interception as well as a Rogalski fumble recovery on the final play of the game when the Cougars were trying to lateral the ball and move it toward midfield.
Hannah hit 10 of 18 passes for 98 yards with Rogalski catching five balls for 35 yards. Rohde (12-69) and Keller (23-57) paced the Blue Eagle ground game. The visitors had 28 rushes for 19 stripes and Parker caught three balls for 126 yards.
East Hardy (10-2) advanced to the quarterfinals when it eliminated two-time defending state champion Wheeling Central, 60-24, and had averaged better than 44 points a game during the regular season.