MORGANTOWN — It was a real ground-and-pound game between Fairmont Senior and Morgantown last week.
The Mohigans rushing attack found a way to get points on the ground and the defense came in pounding, earning a shutout of the defending Class AA state champion Polar Bears, 14-0.
“Anytime you can shut somebody out it’s a great day,” said MHS head coach Sean Biser. “I thought our guys played hard with great effort. They executed our gameplan well and got a hard-fought win.”
Defensive players like Hank Marlin got into the Fairmont backfield, disrupting many plays and creating havoc for a normally well-polished offense.
“I will give some credit to the Fairmont offensive line,” Marlin said. “They were a tough team up front. I really had to focus on working around the blocks to make a play.”
Both Biser and Marlin said they were aware of the playmakers in the Polar Bears backfield, especially quarterback Brody Whitehair and running back Germaine Lewis. The Polar Bears ended up with only 77 rushing yards and Lewis was limited to just 46.
This was the second shutout this season for MHS. It was only the third time Fairmont has been shut out in the past seven years.
“They created a lot of difficult situations for us,” Biser said. “We just knew we had to play assignment-sound defense and do what we were supposed to do.”
That’s what the Morgantown defense prides itself on, Marlin said. After suffering back-to-back losses, the Fairmont Senior game created a crossroads in the 2022 season.
The win got things back on track for the Mohigans (4-2) and fired up a defensive unit that played up to its potential.
“We started off the season strong defensively but the last couple weeks before Fairmont had been a struggle,” Marlin said. “The adversity has made our unit stronger as a whole. We really worked on finishing plays and it proved to be useful during the (Fairmont) game. Our defense lives off effort and finishing plays.”
Another challenge looms large this week as Morgantown hits the road to take on Parkersburg South (5-1). MHS will have another boost coming for its defense with the return of lineman Koma Neal, who has been banged up for the past couple weeks.
The senior leader was still a visible presence around the team trying to get his unit focused on finishing plays.
“When I’m not playing in a game my role is always to be a leader and help out on what I can,” Neal said. “I always support the team, show them what they are doing wrong and keep everyone’s minds in the right place.
“I’ve been taking these few weeks very seriously just trying to get back on the field, myself.”
Neal said he has been working on regaining his strength and flexibility in an effort to get back to 100%.
It’ll take a 100% effort from the whole team and coaching staff to pull off a big road win against the Patriots.
Parkersburg South is led by a potent offensive attack with quarterback Robert Shockey as the dual-threat centerpiece. In their last game against Bridgeport, a 28-20 loss, Shockey ran nine times for 122 yards and threw for 244 yards, completing 17 of 23 passes.
Prior to that in a dominant win at John Marshall, Shockey threw for 274 yards and five touchdown passes. He is already approaching 2,000 all-purpose yards for the season.
His top targets are Cyrus Taugh and Turner Garretson, as well as speedy running back Gage Wright who can catch it and run it with a determined vision.
This season, Parkersburg South has set a school record for points (78) against University on Sept. 2, and total yards (567) on Sept. 16 against Parkersburg.
“We want to win,” Biser said. “If we can play well on defense again, that’s going to help our offense out. Coach (Adam) King and the rest of the defensive staff do a great job of getting those guys ready.”
King is in his first year as defensive coordinator for Morgantown, after serving as an assistant with Bridgeport for more than a decade.
Neal agrees that the coaching staff helps put the players in a position to do their best, and he saw that when tending to his injury for the past few weeks, crediting the coaches and trainers for physical and mental assistance.
He also knows that it’s on him and his teammates to go out and execute.
He’s ready for the challenge again.
“Our team goals for the rest of the season are to just focus day by day and get one percent better each day,” Neal said. “Always push ourselves and once we get to that Friday game, to always put everything on the line from what we’ve been doing that week.”
Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. The Mohigans beat Parkersburg South last year, 21-14, and have won seven of the last 10 matchups in the series.
— Story by Matthew Peaslee