Martins Ferry sneaks by Harrison

MARTINS FERRY — Both Martins Ferry and Harrison Central went up and down the field at will Friday night at the Dave Bruney Football Complex, scoring points and accumulating yards in absolute bunches.

All told, the teams combined for 81 points and 850 total yards. In the end, though, it was a defensive stand by the Purple Riders that proved to be the difference.

Down 42-39 (which was the final score), Harrison Central took possession after a botched punt at the Ferry 30 and moved a yard further, giving the Riders the ball back and the opportunity to run out the clock for their first win since beating Buckeye Local in the opening week.

“Both teams needed a win badly, and (Harrison) certainly played hard enough and well enough to win, but we just ended up with a few more points than them,” Ferry head coach Dave Bruney said. “Man, that was certainly a great game. I am really proud of our guys because we’ve been dealt some pretty harsh cards this year.”

The Huskies, who hadn’t forced a punt since the game’s opening drive when the Riders went three-and-out, took advantage of a penalty to hold the Riders on downs. Bruney admitted to giving serious thought to keeping his offense on the field. After opting for the punting unit, the Riders dropped the snap and went down for a loss of 19.

Harrison Central, which rushed for 327 yards and five touchdowns in the game, went for no gain on first down and then three consecutive incompletions by quarterback DeJuan Caldwell gave the Riders the ball back.

“We were really close to going for that (on fourth down),” Bruney said. “Against my better judgement, we punted. But, if you knew you’re going to have a little bit of a high snap, it becomes an easy decision.”

The Huskies found themselves down three because they finished the game without kicker Jobe Positano, who was knocked out of the game after he was roughed early in the second half.

“It’s a shame that a game like tonight comes down to a shot on the kicker,” Harrison Central head coach Justin Kropka said. “That injury kind of turns your stomach since a game like this ends because of that. It is what it is. Injuries, at the wrong time, have kind of been the story of our season.”

While the Riders’ defense came to play when it was needed the most, the Purple’s offense was impressive from the second drive on. Ferry scored on six consecutive possessions.

The bulk of the work was done by senior running back Dalton Hoover. The future Division I collegiate wrestler rushed 32 times for 215 yards. He scored on runs of 1, 6 and 4 yards. His 4-yarder, which came with 10:41 to play, proved to be the game-winner.

His work was complemented by Caleb Olson. He had his biggest game of the season, accumulating 148 yards and scoring twice on 9-yard jaunts on just 13 carries.

“We got contributions from a lot of people,” Bruney said. “Harrison Central was able to score easily with their speed and home run hitters three or four times, but we just kept playing. I was impressed with our maturity because we talked this week about focus and attitude. We also talked about Joe Frazier getting up seven times when George Foreman was trying to kill him.”

The Huskies scored five times from 22 yards or further away, including a 70 and 74-yard run by Caldwell. Talented junior Tyler West added a 49-yard scoring reception and took the lateral on a gadget play 27 yards for a touchdown.

However, each time one of those scores occurred, the Riders didn’t panic. They just went to work.

Normally it involved either Hoover or Olson running behind a big and solid offensive line.

“There were no losers this evening,” Kropka said. “There was a team that scored more points than the other, but there wasn’t a loser out on the field. Sometimes you just have to tip your cap and say, ‘great game.’ You hate being on the short end (of the score), but there were no losers.”

The Riders remain at home next week to celebrate Homecoming against struggling East Liverpool.

The road gets no easier for the Huskies. They are back on the road next week against 4-1 St. Clairsville for the coveted ‘Coal Bucket.’

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