Harrison Central's veteran coach, Justin Kropka said he was concerned about opening the season with two straight road games, but it turned out he didn't need to worry as his Huskies won for the second time this season, dispatching Weir High 36-7 Friday night at the new Jimmy Carey Stadium.
The Huskies capitalized on some Weir High special team mistakes, the rushing of senior running back Maurtice Hython and the passing of quarterback Rashaen Mitchell to take a 29-7 halftime lead and then cruised through the second half.
"Coming here to Weirton is always tough to do," Kropka said. "I have a lot of respect for the Weirton program and coach (Tony) Filberto is going to get them back on track there's no doubt about it. Their kids played hard. They could have folded numerous times tonight, but tonight they didn't. So credit those guys."
HARRISON CENTRAL’S Nate Maykowski runs for a touchdown during Friday’s game at Weir.?The Huskies cruised to a 36-7 victory to improve to 2-0 on the season.
Filberto seemed pleased with the effort his Red Riders put forth while losing its second game in as many starts.
"We fought all the way and until we had a couple of injuries and made some mistakes giving them good field position, we were in it," Filberto explained. "All I can ask of my team is to give me the kind of effort they gave tonight. We're battling and improving every day."
The Red Riders, which lost to Indian Creek 52-12 last week, opened the game with an impressive 11-play drive from its 33 to the Harrison Central 34 where it stalled.
On the next Weir High possession, the Riders were pinned deep on fourth down at their 28. Sophomore quarterback William Larch went into punt formation, but the snap sailed over his head into the end zone giving Harrison Central two points with a safety.
That play not only gave the Huskies two points, but it set up their first touchdown. The Huskies put the ensuing Weir High free kick into play at the Red Rider 41. Six plays later, sophomore Nate Maykowski plowed over left tackle from eight yards out to arm the Huskies with an early 8-0 lead.
Harrison Central defensive back Rashaen Mitchell, who had a big game passing the football as the Huskies quarterback, pounced on a Larch fumble at his own 49-yard line.
On the first play, Mitchell found Nate Olmstead wide open at the 25-yard line and the junior pranced into the end zone as the first quarter clock expired.
"Mitchell can be streaky passing, but when he's on, baby, he just goes and gets it," said Kropka. "He threw some very nice passes tonight. And people forget that he only played three games for us last year because of injuries. So now this is only his second consecutive start and I think now he'll get in a groove and get better week-to-week."
Weir High was forced to turn the ball over in the second quarter after Larch, who gained 150 yards on the ground, had an eight-yard gainer, but fell two yards short of a first down at the Harrison Central 26-yard line.
With the help of a couple of costly Weir High penalties along with the running of Hython and Maykowski, and two more Mitchell completions, the Huskies found themselves at the Weir High 8-yard line. Hython got the call on first down and blasted through the center of the line for the touchdown. Geoff Pecar split the uprights with the extra point giving Harrison Central a 22-0 lead.
On its next possession, the Red Riders marched from their 32 to the Harrison Central 1 where Larch scored on a keeper over right guard. Daren Baldwin's kick was good and the Red Riders seemed to be back in the game.
But disaster struck when Baldwin's kickoff squibbed just nine yards off the tee and was recovered by Harrison Central at the Weir High 49-yard line.
"That probably was the biggest drive of the game for us," said Kropka. "We were able to put the ball in play at midfield and go into our two-minute offense about as well as we can run it and scored. I think that took all the wind out of their sails. That's tough to recover from when you haven't had a lot of recent success."
The Harrison Central score came just 50 seconds after the Weir High touchdown as junior Niko Williams went seven yards to the end zone on a trap play up the middle and Pecar added the boot giving the Huskies a commanding 29-7 halftime margin.
The Huskies got the second half kickoff and needed just two plays to score as Mitchell found Olmstead open again with a 58-yard scoring strike.
Hython led the Huskies with 97 rushing yards on 12 carries. Mitchell finished with seven completions in 10 throws for 185 yards and two touchdowns.
The Huskies play their first home game next week hosting Caldwell while the Red Riders play their first game on the road visiting Edison.