West Virginia foils Ohio in OVAC All-Star Game
WHEELING – It seems like each year the Rudy Mumley OVAC All-Star Game boils down to the same thing.
The ultimate ‘X’ factor in the game always seems to be line play. Both states can find plenty of guys to throw, run or catch it.
However, the team that puts together the better line and wins the battle in the trenches normally comes out on top.
The 68th annual version of the game was absolutely no different.
West Virginia won the battle up front and therefore prevailed on the scoreboard, posting a 28-19 victory against its Ohio counterparts before a large crowd at Wheeling Island Stadium.
“There’s a battle in every in game, and that transcends into the war,” said Ohio head coach Mark Holenka, who was coaching in the game for the first time. “We lost the battle in the trenches and in the second half, I thought we lost the battle defensively. You can’t afford to lose two battles in a war.”
The victory, which is the third in four years for the Mountain State, gave West Virginia the inaugural Consol Energy Cup. Aside from trophies, the entire week was something that Mountaineer head coach Mike Young won’t soon forget.
“These were absolutely great kids,” Young said. “They bought into what our coaches told them all week, they believed in team and believed in unity. All of those things allowed us to come out on top tonight.”
West Virginia wasted little time in asserting itself and showing just how strong its line was.
The Mountaineers took the opening kickoff and marched 80 yards, chewing up nearly half of the first quarter before quarterback Tyler Bolen of Parkersburg South plunged in from a yard out.
While Bolen crossed the goal line, much of the drive was fueled by the hard and quick running of Chinello Oparanozie of Linsly, who West Virginia offensive coordinator Jason Rine raved about during the week. He ran for 39 of his game-high 94 yards on the first drive.
“The first drive was huge for us,” said West Virginia head coach Mike Young. “That was really big for our confidence. We kept telling our kids all week we were capable of doing that offensively and I guess if you tell anyone something long enough, they start to believe it.”
As Ohio struggled mightily to get anything going on offense, West Virginia’s opportunistic defense took advantage.
The Mountain State utilized the pass rushing of Wheeling Park’s Markeith O’Neal and University’s Jon Lewis to a tee as they made life on all three Ohio quarterbacks extremely difficult.
That pass rush actually sparked West Virginia to its second touchdown. St. Clairsville’s Matt Kinnick, trying to avoid the rush, had a pass picked off by Parkersburg South’s Braxton Johnson, who weaved his way through several Ohio players en route to a 42-yard pick six.
“The interception definitely hurt us because after the first drive, I really thought we settled down and played better,” Holenka said. “Poor Kinnick didn’t have much time back there at all and that hurts. I can’t be disappointed with him. I am disappointed with what we did up front.”
Ohio started to swing the momentum back in its favor late in the middle of the second quarter when Harrison Central’s Nick Pelegreen forced and recovered a fumble, putting the Buckeye State in business on the Mountaineer 35.
A 22-yard run by Steubenville’s Dashon Redman moved the ball to the 5-yard line and three plays later, Kinnick found Pelegreen all alone in the back of the end zone. Bellaire’s Dalton Conroy was true on the PAT, making it a 14-7 game.
Ohio continued its momentum after forcing a punt, but came up short on a 48-yard field goal attempt as the half expired. They continued to plug away on the first drive of the second half, marching into the West Virginia territory.
Utilizing Redman and Edison’s Chris Grazianni on the ground, Ohio got to the 31 yard line, but West Virginia’s defense came up with a stop on fourth down.
“That drive really took some of the wind out of our sails,” Holenka said. “When you’re trying to make a comeback, you can’t afford many mistakes.”
West Virginia made Ohio pay. It marched 70 yards in eight plays before Oparanozie got into the end zone from 3 yards out. Morgantown’s Blaine Stewart caught the 2-point conversion pass, making it a 22-7 reading.
“It felt really good to score, but getting the victory means the most to me,” Oparanozie said. “I knew that if we all (played well), we’d be OK.”
A big play on the drive occurred when Ohio was called for a pass interference.
“We needed an answer there because we felt like we let some chances get away in the first half to the point where we could have been up by a couple of scores,” Young said. “Our defense made plays and our offense capitalized. It was just a total team effort.”
Ohio got on the board with 3:20 to go in the third. After Martins Ferry’s Trent Neavin pounced on a fumble deep in West Virginia territory, Ohio needed two plays before Redman waltzed into the end zone from 7 yards out. The kick was wide and the game remained 22-13.
West Virginia didn’t hit any panic buttons. It just went back to what got it going early in the game. The Mountaineers rode their mammoth offensive line and reeled off 19 plays, covering 83 yards before Magnolia’s Tanner Hanna got the touchdown from 2 yards out.
During the course of the march, West Virginia converted three first downs and scored on a fourth down play.
Stewart caught another 2-point pass and it was 29-12.
“I am most disappointed in our inability to get off the field on third down,” Holenka said. “We had chances to make stops, but each time, to West Virginia’s credit, they made a play and picked up a first down.”
Ohio added a late touchdown when Shadyside’s Chase Kinemond found Steubenville’s Matt Petrella for a 17-yard touchdown. The PAT was again wide and Ohio’s attempt at an on-side kick failed.
All told, West Virginia outgained Ohio 247-167. The Buckeye State, which was sacked five times, ran for only 49 yards.
Magnolia’s Stephen Rogalski had a fine all-around game. He caught four balls for 47 yards and ran for 14 on his lone rush. Steubenville Central’s Zach Herrington was the leading receiver in the game with 5 catches for 55 yards.
Staskey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org