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University uses strong defense to defeat depleted Preston 56-8

KINGWOOD — If a team isn’t careful, it can get lost on winding W.Va. 7 heading to Preston High.

University’s football team knows that all too well. In fact, in its last trip to Kingwood, the Hawks dropped a 21-19 contest in 2019.

However, the 2021 trip offered a bit of revenge for kids who were sophomores and freshman back then and are juniors are seniors now. On Friday, they not only served that dish cold but with a side of stifling defense and explosive offense on their way to 56-8 victory.

“For the kids, University probably doesn’t take it the same way Preston does,” Preston head coach Mark Deep said. “It’s a rivalry game for our kids. They want to get up for it.”

The problem for the Knights (0-6) is they might have been too “up” for it as they had back-to-back false starts to start the game, and that played right into the hands of a UHS defense that has been solid all year long.

“Our defense has carried us all year,” UHS head coach John Kelley said. “They are going to have a hell of a time next week because Morgantown runs for 300 to 400 yards every game. Everybody looks at the big scores (UHS puts up) and we aren’t giving up anything, either. I will say I thought the defense was really sharp tonight. We shut them down. They couldn’t throw, they couldn’t run — it was a good night for the defense, but I was really disappointed offensively.”

Despite drawing the ire of Kelley, the Hawks did manage to roll up 414 yards of total offense and quarterback Chase Edwards led the way with 270 yards threw the air with four scoring tosses.

Edwards connected on touchdown passes of 57, 52, 4 and 36 yards. Elija Jackson grabbed two of those touchdowns while Jaeden Hammack received one and Donald Brandel hauled in the other.

Even with the number of yards the Hawks (8-0) tallied, Kelley was sour on his team’s offensive output.

“People say you won 56-8 and you should be real happy,” Kelley said. “I’m not real happy. We weren’t sharp, we made a lot of mistakes and a lot of penalties. In the first half, we had holding penalties and things you can’t do when you start getting into a playoff situation.”

Kelley even acknowledged the playoffs begin for them next week when the host rival Morgantown at 7:30 p.m. Friday.

“I just wasn’t happy with our performance,” Kelley said. “I didn’t think we were crisp throwing the ball. We just out-athleted them — that’s what we did.”

Colin McBee also had an efficient day for the Hawks as he carried the ball just five times for 43 yards, but he did manage to score three touchdowns and even tacked on a PAT kick for good measure.

Preston’s lone touchdown came when freshman quarterback Kaden Hayes ran in from three yards out.

Both teams were dealing with major injuries in the contest. University lost junior tight end/defensive end Noah Braham earlier in the week while the Knights lost starting quarterback Trevor Thomas during the game.

“Noah has a fractured leg, so we will be done for the season, so that’s unfortunate,” Kelley said. “That may have played into it tonight. When that happened on Wednesday, we were deflated, and Thursday was just like a morgue in practice. We lost the heart and soul of our team; he plays just about every position and he’s a leader out there.”

Deep said the extent of Thomas’ injury is unknown at this time. He hopes to get more information from the training staff this weekend.

While UHS looks for its first win in the Mohawk Bowl since 2017 on Friday, the Knights travel to Buckhannon-Upshur for a 7 p.m. contest.

UHS 21 14 21 0 56
Preston 0 0 0 8 8
First Quarter
UHS – Colin McBee 2 run (pass fail)
UHS – Jaeden Hammack 57 pass from Chase Edwards (John Coleman kick)
UHS – Elija Jackson 52 pass from Edwards (Sage Clawges pass from Edwards)
Second Quarter
UHS – Donald Brandel 4 pass from Edwards (kick block)
UHS – Safety
UHS – McBee 14 run (run fail)
Third Quarter
UHS – Jackson 36 pass from Edwards (Coleman kick)
UHS – McBee 14 run (Coleman kick)
UHS – Avery Dalton 1 run (McBee kick)
Fourth Quarter
PHS – Kaden Hayes 3 run (Shelden Miller run)
RUSHING – UHS: McBee 5-43 3TDs, Daminn Cunningham 1-11, Corban Cross 1-3, Dalton 4-19 TD. PHS – Ethan Harper 9-12, Trevor Thomas 2-(-6), Miller 14-91, Ethan Likens 3-5, Hayes 3-(-15) TD.

PASSING – UHS: Edwards 14-22-2 4TDs, Luke Hudson 5-7 82. PHS – Thomas 1-9-1 11, Hayes 4-9 40.

RECEIVING – Cunningham 3-85, Hammack 4-97 TD, Jackson 3-94 2TDs, Jackson Smith 1-5, Brandel 1-4 TD, Sage Clawges 1-7, Coleman 3-67, Alejandro Sanchez-Solis 2-15. PHS – Todd Fraley 1-11, Miller 1-10, Likens 1-(-4), Jacob Burns 1-7.