CADIZ - Justin Kropka is a coach who always lives in the moment, but never loses sight of the big picture.
The Harrison Central head coach realizes it's only Week 4 of the season, but his Huskies' latest victory is awful special.
So special, in fact, that he admitted afterward that he's going to savor it maybe for bit longer than he enjoys most victories.
MARTINS?FERRY’S Jack Fitch makes a catch in front of Harrison?Central’s Nate Maykowski (10) and Nate Olmstead (21) during the first half of Friday’s game in Cadiz. The Huskies posted a 34-12 victory against the Purple Riders. Additional images may be found at cu.timesleaderonline.com
The Huskies used a balanced offense and a stingy defense to run their record to 4-0 by virtue of a 34-12 victory against, Kropka's alma mater, Martins Ferry.
"This is just a big win for our program," Kropka said. "This was a long time coming for our kids, and I am glad they got to experience being on the other side of things (against Martins Ferry). Martins Ferry played hard and played disciplined like they always do, but it was our night tonight."
The Huskies find themselves in another 'Meetin' of Unbeatens' next week when St. Clairsville makes its way to Harrison County to play for the Coal Bucket.
"I am going to try to at least enjoy this one for an hour or two," Kropka smiled. "We'll exchange films (Saturday) and you don't have time in the Buckeye 8 to rest on your laurels because you've got to get ready for the next step."
Martins Ferry, meanwhile, drops to 3-1 on the season entering only its second home game of the season thus far when Union Local visits.
"I am very proud of how our team battled," Bruney said. "I also want to congratulate Harrison Central. They've got a great senior class, and as I said earlier in the week, they've got a lot of guys who've played a lot of football against us."
Bruney doesn't forsee a problem with getting his players' psyche's righted as they prepare for the Jets.
"I don't anticipate any problem with that at all," Bruney said. "If we were going to have a problem with that, we wouldn't have played as hard as we did in the fourth quarter."
With the game tied at six, it appeared as if Martins Ferry was going to head into the lockerroom riding a ton of momentum.
With just 1-minute showing on the clock, the Riders capped a 12-play march, which was fueled by a 23-yard pitch and catch from quarterback Eric Flowers to Jack Fitch, when speedy junior Brian Styles found the end zone from 4 yards out. However, the pass for two failed and the score was 12-6.
Harrison Central, however, was unfazed.
Huskies' senior quarterback Rashaen Mitchell capped a six-play drive with a beautifully executed screen pass to classmate Nick Pelegreen, who rumbled 28 yards for the touchdown. Geoff Pecar was perfect on the PAT, giving the Huskies a 13-12 lead at the intermission. Earlier in the drive, Mitchell converted a third-and-10 when he found senior Maurtice Hython for 31 yards.
"That was a good play," Bruney said of the screen. "That's a four-year letterman making a play, and we just couldn't get him on the ground. I thought that was big. This was just a great high school football game that was very, very physical on both sides."
Martins Ferry completed a pass just before the half to senior Cody Schau for 14 yards. A personal foul was called against the Riders and the Huskies elected to have Ferry kickoff the second half from its own 25.
"Good teams capitalize when they have the opportunity to do so, and we did that tonight," Kropka said. "What a great night it is!"
Thus, the Huskies began the third quarter with the ball on the Purple Riders' 45. Kropka began serving a steady dose of Hython. He carried carried six straight times down to the Riders' 7.
Mitchell then found senior Jeremy Spoonmore to cover the final 7 yards. Pecar's placement extended the Huskies' lead to 20-12. All told, Mitchell completed 11-of-23 passes for 189 yards.
"We told (Rashaen) all week that if we were going to win, we would need him to come up big," Kropka said. "And you can't ask for much more than what he did tonight. I think some people might have forgot about him since he was hurt a lot last year, but he's a good player."
The teams traded possessions for the remainder of the third quarter. Flowers was picked off by Spoonmore with just over a minute showing in the third quarter.
Five plays later, the Huskies were starting to sense victory. After riding the legs of Hython, who finished with 130 yards and a score on 26 carries, the combination of Mitchell to Pelegreen capped the march from 6 yards out.
After trading punts and with the clock working against them, the Riders had to go basically all passing game. Mitchell stepped in front of a Flowers' pass, picked it off and raced it back 70 yards for the game-sealing touchdown.
"We thought we had a shot, but the safety read our quarterback's eyes and got there," Bruney said.
It was one of three turnovers the Huskies' defense forced. It also bottled up the Riders' ground game to a tune of 67 yards on 31 carries.
"I thought we were probably as disciplined as we've been in my eight years," Kropka said. "That credit all goes to our coaching staff and what they do with these kids everyday, as well as the kids themselves."
Along with Spoonmore and Mitchell, Tyler Rose, Pelegreen, Rhett Kuryn, and Nate Maykowski all turned in splendid defensive efforts for the Huskies.
As well as the Huskies' defense played, it still seemingly had no answer for Schau and the rangy 6-6 tight end Robert Vargo. Schau caught eight balls for 100 yards and a touchdown, while Vargo hauled in 11 receptions for 110 yards.
Flowers, who got the start because of an injury to Tyler Strama, was solid. He completed 20-of-30 passes for 233 yards.
"I thought Eric played very well for his first start," Bruney said. "He threw a couple of picks, but we can get that cleaned up."