WEST LIBERTY, W.Va. — If Gunner Latimore was an inch taller, maybe Morgantown High football coach Matt Lacy could have seen the pieces come together for what could have been a remarkable comeback attempt.
Instead, it was Linsly quarterback Hunter Kelley grabbing the spotlight in what was a runaway 44-17 victory by the Cadets, at West Family Stadium on Friday.
A barrage of big plays, including a 33-yard scoring run by Kelley on a 4th-and-3 play, a 42-yard touchdown pass from Kelley to Joe Zaccirey and a safety on a snapped ball that went over the head of Morgantown’s punter and out of the end zone, led to Linsly’s early 23-0 lead.
“We were able to pick up the momentum early,” said Kelley, who finished with 105 rushing yards, 55 passing yards and three touchdowns. “Our offensive line should get the credit there. They really paved the way on those plays.”
By the end of the second quarter, Morgantown (1-4) cut the lead, 23-10, with Latimore scoring on a 1-yard run with three seconds remaining in the half.
“By the end of the first half, it didn’t feel like we had the momentum at all,” Linsly coach B.J. Depew said. “That touchdown at the end of the half was a killer for us.”
Morgantown’s first drive of the second half went as far as the Linsly 12, before a fumble ended the possession. Still trailing, 23-10, MHS faced 4th-and-4 at the Linsly 39 when Latimore dropped back to pass, found no one open and tried to scramble for it.
He was just between the 36- and 35-yard line when he was crunched by two Linsly defenders. A measurement showed the Mohigans were inches short of the first down.
“To me, that was the game-changer right there,” Lacy said. “We get a first down there and go in and score, we’re suddenly back to a one-score game. We still had about 30 yards to go, so who knows, but it would have been interesting.”
From there, it was Kelley’s show and there was no slowing down the Cadets (5-0), a Class A school by enrollment only. The military academy openly recruits players from around the world and the Cadets’ roster includes two players from Germany and an offensive line that would make many small colleges proud. Linsly is not governed by the WVSSAC and is not eligible for the state playoffs.
Kelley, who is from nearby Bridgeport, Ohio, scored on a 64-yard quarterback draw play on Linsly’s next possession and then intercepted Latimore from his free safety position on Morgantown’s following possession to seal the game.
“The interception, I think kind of broke their backs,” Kelley said. “I was really impressed at how they came back early. They didn’t quit. Morgantown beat us last year, but I think we just hit them with one too many big plays tonight.”
And if you think the only thing Kelley didn’t do on this night was catch a pass, well, he did that too. When one of his second-half passes was batted straight up into the air, Kelley ran underneath of it, caught it, and turned it into a four-yard gain.
“I’ve never had that happen before,” he said. “The only thing I was thinking was just get to the ball before Morgantown did and it worked out OK, I guess.”
“He’s good,” Lacy added. “Not really spectacular feet, but he got outside on us a couple of times and he got horizontal on us. He throws a nice ball. He’s a pretty good athlete.”
Carl Nyh led Linsly with 143 rushing yards on 14 carries. He scored on a 40-yard touchdown run in the first quarter.
Latimore did complete his first 11 passes and threw for 182 yards, but the Mohigans were held to just 86 yards rushing with the first-teamers in.
“They literally just kicked our butts from start to finish,” Lacy said. “They were the better football team.”