River seeking first win at rival Magnolia

NEW MARTINSVILLE – River will look to pocket its first victory of the season Friday night when it makes the short trek across the Ohio River to face perennial foe Magnolia at Alumni Field.

The home of the Blue Eagles served as the Pilots’ home away from home last fall while construction continued at River High School.

Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.

”It’s a rivalry game and they’re our biggest rival and they will come prepared and play hard,” said Magnolia head coach Mark Batton.

River and Magnolia are both going through a bit of a transition with new players in many key positions. That’s translated into some some struggles coming out of the gates for both squads.

River enters Friday’s contest 0-3, having lost its last two games to Bishop Donahue and Monroe Central by a combined score of 106-21. The Pilots fell to Fort Frye, 23-17, in Week 1.

”They are hungry for that first win,” Batton said. ”They will come in here and leave everything on the field.

”(Head coach) Mike (Flannery) and his staff will have them well prepared.”

Despite the loss to the Cadets, things looked promising for River as it ventured to Monarch Stadium to face the highly-touted Bishops. But Donahue jumped out to a big halftime lead en route to the victory and it’s been a nightmare for the Pilots since.

Still, Batton sees plenty of positives for River.

”Jordan Sapp is a nice player and Joey Flannery does a nice job of running their offense,” he said.

River’s offensive line is young in spots and it’s been a point of emphasis for opposing defensive coordinators. Last week in a 47-0 loss to Monroe Central, Sapp was held to minus 8 yards on 17 carries. Flannery was 6 of 16 passing for 44 yards, while Bryce Cross was held to 29 yards on the ground.

The Blue Eagles recorded their first victory last Friday by traveling down the road to Tyler County and besting Tyler Consolidated and first-year head coach Ryan Walton, 40-7.

It was the culmination of three weeks of hard work, according to Batton. Magnolia dropped a hard-fought 14-7 home-opener to Linsly in Week 1, before falling just short, 15-14, on the road at Williamstown in Week 2.

”It was a tough couple of weeks for us,” Batton said.

Magnolia has plenty of veterans back in the fold, but any in new positions.

Heading up the offense is new starting quarterback Jacob Brill. He replaces two-year starter Tanner Hanna.

Brill has plenty of experience in his backfield with the return of vets Drew Keller and Kage Rhode. Then, at receiver, Grant Cain is being counted on to replace Stephen Rogalski, captain of last season’s Class A all-state squad.

So far, Batton said, everyone is settling into their roles well.

”Cole Seckman is anchoring our (offensive line),” he said. ”He’s a three-year starter. They’ve worked really hard and we’ve been able to run the ball well so far.”

The Blue Eagles visit Wheeling Island Stadium next Saturday to face Wheeling Central, but Batton said he isn’t looking past River at all.

Thorp can be reached at