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Fort Frye on cusp of perfect regular season

Photo by Neal Smith Fort Frye’s Collin Welsh prepares to collide with Williamstown’s Maxwell Molessa during a regular-season game. Welsh and the Cadets seek an undefeated regular season aganst Wheeling Central Friday in Wheeling.

WHEELING — The 2020 high school football season has been anything but normal.

The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in the regular season being shortened to just six games in Ohio, and every team which hasn’t opted out will get a chance to compete in the playoffs. Those are two of this season’s biggest changes.

One thing that hasn’t changed is Fort Frye’s level of play. The Cadets have dominated their way to a perfect 5-0 record. They’re the second-ranked Division VI team in the state of Ohio, and they get a chance to go for their third consecutive perfect regular season at 7 p.m. Friday when they visit Wheeling Central.

The Maroon Knights lost their first two games of the season, but the three-time defending W.Va. Class A state champions have won their last two contests and are looking to avenge a 42-0 loss to the Cadets last season in Beverly.

Fort Frye head coach Eric Huck is looking forward to the challenge with the playoffs looming.

“They’re very good, and they’re very well coached,” said Huck, who is 104-34 as the Cadets’ boss. “They have some skill players that are very good. Both of their wingbacks and their fullback are really good. They have a good quarterback who can throw the ball around. It’s going to be a really tough opponent.”

Central’s quarterback is Michael Toepfer, and Jordan Waterhouse and Payton Marling are two dynamic options out of the backfield. Waterhouse and Marling combined for all five of Central’s touchdowns two weeks ago in the team’s 35-17 victory over Shadyside.

“We’ve got to slow down their run game,” Huck said of Friday’s matchup with Mike Young’s squad. “They run a version of the wing-T and it’s pretty effective. They run very well and we have to slow them down. On both sides of the ball, we need to control the line of scrimmage.”

The Cadets are coming off a 28-6 win over Wellston. Outisde of an early miscue that led to a long Wellston TD, the Fort defense was nearly flawless.

“I thought our defense played really well,” Huck said. “They set up our offense to score off turnovers. Our defense did an excellent job and put us in really good field position. They played really well all night.”

All-Ohio defensive end Braden Medley leads the Mid-Ohio Valley with seven sacks. In fact, the Fort Frye pass rush has produced 25 sacks (five per game) this season. Dylan Hart has four sacks, Casey Brookover has three, while Thomas Lenhart, Owen Brown, Damian Huck, Brady Kutscherenko and Hunter Kesselring all have two.

The Cadets have been equally stingey in the defensive backfield, having intercepted opposing QBs 10 times. Jaymison Baker leads the way with four, Nic Hart has three and Eli Johnson has a pair.

“It’s been a pretty good team effort,” Huck said. “Everybody is doing their part, and that’s why our defense is so successful. Owen Brown and Dylan Hart have done well at inside linebacker. Our defensive line has been really good. That group has been outstanding. They’ve played really well.”

Offensively, Fort Frye is scoring 30.4 points per game.

Quarterback Ian Ellis has completed 67% of his passes for 525 yards, six touchdowns and three interceptions. His top target has been Baker, who has 11 catches for 146 yards and a TD.

The ground game has been Fort Frye’s strength though, with Brown leading the way with 379 yards and six touchdowns on 50 carries. Brian Adkins has 263 yards and two scores on 50 attempts, while Collin Welsh has rushed 45 times for 182 yards and two TDs. The Cadets are averging 5.3 yards per carry. Maeson Long (27-267-2), Ethan Dusky and Jonathon Garvin all are capable of carrying the ball as well.

“It all starts with our offensive line,” Huck said. “They’re creating big holes. I do feel like we have a lot of skill players who can make plays.”

Going into this final game, Huck feels good about how his team is performing going into the playoffs. However, they aren’t looking past the Maroon Knights.

“We’re 5-0 right now, so I can’t ask much more out of them,” Huck said. “There’s some little things we can still get better at.

“They’re excited for the playoffs, but we don’t want to look too far ahead.”

Jordan Holland can be reached at jholland@mariettatimes.com.

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