Urbana pulls away from Wheeling in MEC action

WHEELING — Wheeling coach Zac Bruney knows that his team is right on the brink of securing the school’s first victory. The Cardinals, put together another hard-fought battle against a talented Urbana team Thursday night at Bishop Schmitt Field. The Blue Knights, though, were able to control the game in the first half and had three players rush for over 100 yards as they defeated the Cardinals, 41-26.

“I’m proud of our guys. We played hard. We ran into a little bit of buzzsaw last week at Fairmont, but our guys bounced back and handled it like winners do and should. We had a good week of practice and that’s a really good team. They have good players. (Urbana coach) Tyler (Haines)’s four or five years into it now and he’s built the program the way it should be built. He’s recruited hard and have some good transfers. They’re doing a nice job. That’s a good team. That’s a good football team that we couple of more plays and we’re right there. Just have to break through.”

And Urbana (3-0) showed right from the start as it ran the ball nine straight times on it’s opening possession en route to a W.R. Saunders Jr.

Sanders paced the Blue Knights with 207 yards and two scores while Isaiah Young had 132 and Maurice Warren gained 102 and one touchdown.

“They’re big and physical up front,” Bruney said. “They got good players. They have three really capable backs like I said in the pregame interviews this week. We just have to keep working. We’re right there and I told our guys to trust in what we are doing. And they do. They’re battling. They’re working hard in practice. They’re seeing right there and it’s frustrating that they can’t break through yet. But we’re coming.”

While Urbana was able to control the game the majority of the first half, Wheeling (0-3) got a big play of its own on special team. Eli Young ran a blocked punt 25 yards for a score to put the score at 7-7 with 4:10 left in the first.

The Cardinals also scored their first offensive touchdown in the final seconds of the first half. After allowing two passing touchdowns (both from Eddie Stockett), the Cardinals got it back to a one-possession game as Tucker Strachan connected with Jaquaun Davidson from 11 yards out for a touchdown to make it 21-13 at halftime.

Although Wheeling was only down eight, Urbana won the time of possession battle immensely, 21:14-8:46.

“They controlled the game in the first half and we made the special teams play and that’s the equalizer,” Bruney said. “If you can make plays on special teams, we block the punt and run it back for a touchdown, that’s the equalizer. We ended the half with the momentum because we had a really good drive at the end of the first half to make it a one-score game and it was a one-score game all the way up to one minute left in the game. At home, you can’t really ask for a better situation against a really good football team to be in it right until the end. We just didn’t finish. That’s all.”

After an Urbana field goal, Wheeling got within striking distance again as Strachan and Davidson connected once more –this time from 7-yards out — as the score read 24-20 with 3:42 left in the third.

The Blue Knights, though, put 10 straight points on the board to give themselves some breathing room, 34-20.

However, the Cardinals put forth one final effort. On a 4th-and-6, Strachan stayed calm as Urbana brought a full-out blitz and found Jake Keenan in stride. Keenan did the rest and took it 47 yards to the house to put the score at 34-26 with 3:08 left.

Unfortunately for the Cardinals, the Blue Knights put together a drive much like the first half as they ran the ball six straight times to put the game out of reach.

“I have to do a better job of sustaining and maintaining our guys to be confident enough to know they can win, just not hoping they can win. We got to know we can win, believe we can win. I believe it, our coaches believe it and get our guys to believe it.Which they do to a point, but when you’re dealing with 18 and 19-year old men, a few 20-year olds, losses can fray confidence a little bit. But, I’m proud of them. I’m proud to be their coach. I’m proud of the way they battled and fought for three weeks. We’re right there. We’re right there. We just have to keep getting better.”

Strachan finished with 243 passing yards and three touchdowns and two interceptions going 25 of 39 in the process. Davidson led the receiving corps with seven receptions for 81 yards and two scores.

Rich White paced the defense with 12 tackles and an interception.