Keller main workhorse in huge victory

STEUBENVILLE – Magnolia head coach Mark Batten estimated that his running back would get a bulk of the touches in Saturday’s game at Central Catholic. That’s how the Blue Eagles would be successful.

“We felt that Drew Keller needed the ball in his hands close to 30 times,” Batten said after his team’s 24-0 win at Harding Stadium.

Actually, Keller got close to 40 carries with a 190-yard performance on 38 rushes in the Magnolia win.

“What a job he did,” Batten said. “He’ll be the first to tell you it was the guys up front that made all that possible.”

Nine Eagles linemen weigh over 200 pounds and three tip the scale above 300. Kyle Ritz, a blocking tight end who is also used at fullback, is one of three sophomores starting up front.

“There were a lot of holes,” Keller said. “I just had to follow the big guys. It’s easy to run when I’m following behind Kyle and the rest of them.”

Last week, Magnolia fell on the road against St. Marys, 11-9. Keller rushed for 101 yards on 21 carries and scored a touchdown with 1:01 left to put the Eagles up 9-8. However, St. Marys drove to the 17-yard line before Garrett Furr kicked a field goal in the final seconds to lift the Blue Devils and secure their No. 1 ranking in Class A.

The defense didn’t slip at all against Central as the unit created two turnovers and limited the Crusaders to 67 yards.

The offense helped in that effort.

“Basically, the whole thing was to limit their offensive possessions,” Keller said. “We wanted to have the ball as much as we could and run the clock down.”

On Magnolia’s nine possessions, it was forced three-and-out just once as the unit collected 15 first downs. The longest scoring drive was a first quarter, 10-play possesion which lasted five minutes, five seconds. Keller scored his first of three touchdowns on a 1-yard run to put the Eagles up 6-0 at the 3:57 mark.

“I knew I was getting the ball a lot and I was ready for it,” Keller said.

He also scored on a 42-yard run in the third quarter and a 2-yard pound in the fourth.

Quarterback Jacob Brill had just one pass completion, a three yard toss to Keller in the first. Often, Keller was lined up in the quarterback spot taking snaps before rattling off an average of five yards per carry.

“We have seen the Wildcat formation on film but not as much as they showed tonight,” said Central coach Steve Daly. “We had to do a better job of realizing he was back there in that formation to have the ball in his hands.

“He is a physical runner, a downhill runner. He did what he needed to, picking up chunks of yardage for them.”

Keller was never tackled for a loss and had just two rushes for no gain. Brill added 31 yards on seven carries.

“We gameplan to point out their weak spots and keep them guessing,” Keller said. “If we can catch them off guard and get a step on their defenders we can really run with it.”

Magnolia began the year 0-2 with the defeats coming to Linsly and Williamstown by a combined eight points. The Eagles now sit at 5-4 and close out the regular season next week at Oak Glen.

“It was a rough start but we’re definitely picking it up as of late,” Batten said. “That was just a tremendous effort out of our coaching staff and especially those players.”