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South football changing before John Marshall

Photo by Joe Albright Parkersburg South quarterback Sam Schuler hands off the ball to running back Brent Parkhurst in a early season matchup against Cabell Midland. The Patriots finish off their three game road trip with a stop at John Marshall at 7 p.m. Friday.

PARKERSBURG — Nathan Tanner hoped his Parkersburg South football team would take another leap toward becoming a good group on the road last Friday against Princeton. What he got instead was a bag of mixed results featuring some good and a lot of bad.

Positives aside, the Patriots went backwards in many areas they had improved on just one week ago in a 42-6 win against Woodrow Wilson. Their 34-14 loss to the Tigers saw the return of some old foes and the addition of some new ones. South had a punt blocked in the end zone for a safety, gave up a punt return for a touchdown, surrendered 70 yards on a fake punt, had blown converages resulting in big plays for Princeton, and only came away with points on two of its seven trips into the red zone. “We didn’t capitalize and we didn’t play well enough to win,” Tanner said.

John Marshall’s not bound to give them much room for error this week.

Coach Jason Willis’ Monarchs, coming off a loss to a solid Class AA Oak Glen team, have the offensive wheels fiercely turning through the first three weeks.

Quarterback Derrick Derrow and running back Dalton Flowers propel the offensive engine forward in the 46 points-per-game unit. And Tanner’s well aware of the efficiency of this week’s opponent. “I think they are a team riding high right now at 2-1. They are playing with a lot of confidence and run the ball effectively and are a tough physical team,” Tanner said.

Not only because of the loss to Princeton but the upcoming slate including John Marshall, Bridgeport, Capital, Morgantown and a rematch with Cabell Midland, Tanner assembled his coaches earlier in the week for a meeting so things don’t snowball on the Patriots. “This year’s team is a lot different than last year’s team and we learned more about ourselves and the kids and reflected on how we can change to help them succeed,” Tanner said.

“We hold the kids to a high standard and the community holds us to a high standard and keeps high expectations. We just have to find a way to make it work. We just have to find a way to help these kids have more success than they have had.”

Some of the positive things they drew on were the continued development of quarterback Sam Schuler, continuing to add depth to places on the field, and an offensive line starting to come into their own.

For Schuler, last week saw him once again be sharp in the passing game by completing 20 of 31 passes. His only touchdown pass went to Cyrus Traugh, who has now scored in every game this season.

But perhaps the most encouraging sign is the development of the trench unit. Five players who stand 6-foot-3 or above give the Patriots a weapon they will need starting on Friday.

Tanner believes the Patriots can use the Monarchs physicality against them. By pounding running back Devin Gaines and Ayden Cook, the offense can wear down defenders on the methodic drives they have used to score many of their points this season. All teams putting a premium on not giving up the big plays to the blue and white this season has forced them to turn to longer drives.

“Our big dudes can really get down hill and it enables us to run the ball. If you just look at football in general, just relying on the pass is extremely tough to win football games,” Tanner said.

“We have to maximize our possessions whenever we have the football and try to get some points on the board no matter what. Defensively, kids need to step up. John Marshall runs the I formation and has full back dives and they pick up three to five yards every time they touch it. Their quarterback is very elusive and a crafty kid … the whole backfield is tough,” he said when pressed on the keys to toppling the Monarchs.

“We will just have to see what happens,” Willis said. “The Patriots are really athletic and they like to spread you out and run the ball. They are big upfront and aggressive on defense and we will have our hands full. Our defense has played well the first couple of games and Oak Glen was full of athletes and I am pretty sure South’s offense can get up and down the field and we will see what happens Friday.”

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