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St. Marys wants to seize opportunity

Blue Devils are two wins from Wheeling

St. Marys’ linebacker Cyle West tackles Williamstown’s Trevor Oates in a regular-season game. West and the rest of the Blue Devils welcome Midland Trail for a playoff matchup on Sunday. AP Photo

ST. MARYS — Three-time defending Class A state champion Wheeling Central’s elimination from the Class A playoff field, due to the COVID-19 numbers in Ohio County, has created an opportunity for the rest of the classification. Some teams have a chance to claim their first state title, others have a chance to add to their count.

“It certainly is an equal opportunity for the remaining eight teams,” Midland Trail head coach Frank Isaacs said in a Monday phone interview with a chuckle.

What’s on the line for his group and Mote’s group is quite clear.

With a win, Issacs and company move a step closer to the school’s first appearance in a state title game. Meanwhile, Jodi Mote’s St. Marys squad can add state championship No. 2 to the trophy case with three more victories.

Only one group earns the opportunity to work further toward its goal when they square off in a quarterfinal playoff matchup at 3 p.m. Sunday inside Bill Hanlin Stadium. But only if Fayette County drops out of the orange designation on the West Virginia Department of Education’s COVID-19 map. If they do not, St. Marys automatically moves on to the semifinals.

Mote and company aren’t waiting for the map to do their job for them, though.

They are preparing to take out the Patriots the old fashioned way – on the field. Mote’s spent time in practice talking to his boys about seizing the opportunity before them and making a potential run to The Island.

He has had plenty of time to instill the magnitude of this chance, too.

When the Blue Devils finally take the field, it will have been 17 days since the group last played a football game.

In that game, they looked good.

His group took down Ohio’s Frontier High, 55-20, back on Oct. 30. They built up a 28-0 first-half lead and forced four turnovers in the second quarter. Tre Moss ran for 121 yards on 18 carries, while Brennan Boron scampered for 95 yards on 11 carries. He also completed 5 of 7 passes for 95 yards and three touchdowns.

Regardless of the layoff, Mote says his team is ready to pick up where they left off.

“I feel like the guys have had three great weeks of practice. And I am looking forward to seeing them all play to be honest with you. It has been forever since we have been out there. They have been working hard and they are chompin’ at the bit to get back on the field.”

The same can be said for their opponents.

Though it hasn’t been quite as long a wait, Isaacs’ group, like St. Marys, automatically moved on to the second round after Buffalo couldn’t play in the opening round. They’ve also been on the practice field preparing themselves.

Isaacs says they know they need to be up to the task against a veteran St. Marys group. He said Boron and Moss along with the other weapons on St. Marys’ offense creates a lot of problems for his group. The unit is one of the main concerns for him heading into the game, especially because his defense hasn’t had a chance to find a rhythm.

Despite Trail’s disadvantage, the Blue Devils have a lot of respect for their opponents.

St. Marys defensive coordinator Jay Powell expects a tough game.

“They appear to be very quick,” he said when asked about his first impression of Trail. “(Running back) Robert Ruffner is a like a little scatback for them and he appears to be very versatile with quick feet and hard nosed. He also looks to be difficult to bring down on film.

“Their senior quarterback (Christopher Vines) has good arm strength, good accuracy and some poise in the pocket. Those two impress me.”

Interupting Vines in the pocket is going to be important.

“We certainly always aim to try and make a quarterback that is feeling in the pocket uncomfortable. Their line up front seems to do a good job of protecting him. It is going to be a challenge,” he said.

“Obviously the lull isn’t great because right now you would like to be peaking and structured, but with 2020 you don’t get any of those. As a result you are just thankful to be playing. And thankfully for us, the boys recognize each practice and each playoff game they get is a blessing.”

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