MOUNDSVILLE — Coming off a victory over Brooke just eight days earlier, John Marshall head coach Justin Kropka spent the week wondering just how well his youthful Monarchs were going to be able to handle a second consecutive big game with Morgantown coming to town Friday night.
Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for Kropka to get his answer as John Marshall dug itself a deep hole with three first half turnovers, including one on the opening kickoff, and the hosts were never able to recover.
MHS senior quarterback Jarrett Lawrence rushed for a pair of first half touchdowns while sophomore Caleb Nutter finished with 134 yards on the ground and a score, and the Mohigans used a productive rushing attack to get the job done in rolling to a deceiving 33-7 victory over the Monarchs on a night when John Marshall celebrated its 1996 state champion football team at Monarch Stadium.
The victory, the second in a row for coach Sean Biser’s team, evens Morgantown’s record at 4-4 on the campaign while John Marshall will take a 5-3 record.
“I’m proud of my team’s effort and how they kept fighting,” Kropka said. “I was worried all week about how we were going to respond to back-to-back big games, especially with the kids so high coming off the Brooke win. Then we fumble the opening kickoff and just got out of sorts from there.
“Then, after another turnover, we start moving the ball and look like we are going to get back in the game and a tipped ball interception kills us.”
A squib kick mishandled by the Monarchs to begin the game got the scoring going early as the Mohigans quickly jumped on the loose ball at the 18. Just five plays later, Lawrence busted into the end zone from two yards away with Jack Grushecky’s point-after making it 7-0 just 1:59 into the contest.
John Marshall’s second possession ended with Morgantown once again in good position with the hosts fumbling at their own 49. This time the visitors needed 10 plays, but the end result was the same with Lawrence rolling to the right on a fourth and seven call and finding the end zone from eight yards out at 11:20 of the second for a 14-0 reading.
With John Marshall moving midway through the frame, quarterback Jacob Coffield’s pass from the Mohigans’ 27 was picked off by sophomore Bobby Powell and returned 75 yards to paydirt to give Morgantown a 21-0 advantage with 6:22 remaining in the opening half.
The Monarchs managed to finish its next drive, moving 67 yards on nine plays, the biggest being a 12-yard screen pass from Coffield to Ben McCardle on a third and 12 call. Coffield finished the march with a one-yard burst at the 2:14 mark with Connor Fitzpatrick’s PAT cutting the margin to 21-7 at the break.
While the three turnovers managed to put John Marshall in a big hole, the Monarchs actually held a 146-98 advantage in offense through two quarters with the visitors misfiring on their only pass attempt of the half.
John Marshall had the first scoring opportunity of the second half, however, Fitzpatrick’s 31-yard field goal attempt at 5:17 of the third sailed wide.
Morgantown all but put things out of reach a short time later, capping an 80-yard march with Nutter busting through the line for a 51-yard touchdown run at 1:50. The point-after failed and it was 27-7. The visitors added a touchdown in the final seconds to cap things off.
“Physically, I thought we played very well,” Kropka added. “But these are still just young pups that we are sending out there and they aren’t going to win all the time. We did things that you can’t do again anyone, let alone a good team like Morgantown.”
Morgantown, which did not complete a pass in the contest, finished with 265 yards on the night, 10 more than their hosts while both teams ended with 14 first downs. The most glaring difference in the statistics was the 3-0 turnover margin that led to the big first half hole for the Monarchs.
“I was very pleased with the contributions that we got in all phases of the game,” Biser said. “Special teams came up huge early, the defense made a big play in the second quarter, and we started moving the ball better in the second half. Our defense bent but did not break all night.
“We made a little adjustment in the second half that really allowed us to take over the game. This was a nice win and gives us some momentum and a little confidence moving forward.”
By TRACY WATSON, For The Intelligencer
Morgantown 7 14 6 6 – 33
John Marshall 0 7 0 0 – 7
M-Lawrence 1 run (Grueshecky kick), 10:01
M-Lawrence 8 run (Grueshecky kick), 11:20
M-Powell 75 interception return (Grueshecky kick), 6:22
J-Coffield 1 run (Fitzpatrick kick), 2:14
M-Nutter 51 run (kick failed), 1:50
M-Eldridge 10 run (kick failed), :19
Rushing: Morgantown 51-265-4 (Mallett 2-13; Powell 15-55; Nutter 17-134-td; Lawrence 12-28-2; Brooks 2-19; Eldridge 3-16-td). John Marshall 31-65-td (White 1-3; Coffield 17-29-td; Wallace 12-34; Lyons 1-(-1)).
Passing: Morgantown 0-3-0-0-0 (all by Lawrence). John Marshall 16-25-189-0-x (all by Coffield).
Receiving: Morgantown 0-0-0 (None). John Marshall 16-189-0 (White 7-57; Sobutka 1-9; Moore 2-24; McCardle 3-30; Hughes 3-69).