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Martins Ferry rolls past Union Local

MARTINS FERRY — In football, often the best thing a team can do is take advantage of the opportunities afforded to them.

While the Martins Ferry Purple Riders showed solid offensive prowess Friday evening, they also were opportunistic in taking advantage of four Union Local turnovers and a late-game punt that was pinned to the one-yard line by Colton Redinger to defeat a much-improved Jets squadron by a 30-18 score.

When asked about how the turnovers played into the result, Jets coach Bernie Thompson said “credit to Martins Ferry, we knew who they were, they are tough and physical, no doubt about that, but it’s frustrating because that’s what it is. The name of tonight’s game was missed opportunities, and we missed many opportunities in the first half. A few missed plays on defense gave them 22 and we were down 22 at half, and we had a few plays at the one-yard line before the half. We have to take advantage of our opportunities.”

Thompson continued, saying “Overall, I am pleased with our effort. We didn’t quit, we never quit. This team is not the same team as last year, and I think we showed. Last year this same team beat us 50-7 and we are better. We are night and day better. Now we have to find out how to win and learn how to win with a bunch of young guys, so overall I’m pleased with the effort, but I’m also frustrated because opportunities were there that we didn’t take advantage of.”

Concerning how important the turnovers were in the game, Martins Ferry coach Chas Yoder surmised, “it was huge. It was a sloppy game on both sides of the ball, but you’ll have that sometimes. I don’t think it bothers our kids. There are some ups and downs in football and one thing is that our kids keep playing.” Yoder added “We’ve got to clean some stuff up, but overall the effort is there. We have just got to clean up some simple, silly mistakes.”

Martins Ferry (2-1) opened the game by forcing the Jets (1-2) into a three-and-out and mounted a 10-play march that chewed up 54 yards, all on the ground. The drive was capped by senior Evan Carpenter rolling into the end zone from six yards out for the opening score at the 6:33 mark. Carpenter scampered in on the conversion attempt to stake the hosts to an 8-0 lead.

The Jets opened their next drive with a negative rush and penalty, however, sophomore quarterback Carter Blake completed a pair of passes next to Carter Loase and Caleb McWhorter, respectively. Unfortunately for the visitors, their momentum ground to a halt on the next play as the Riders’ Cole Stzary picked off Blake’s next attempt.

UL’s defense held on the ensuing drive to give the visitors the ball back and Blake followed with a pair of completions including a 34-yard strike to Dakota Hess. Opportunity, however, knocked for the Purple defense again, as Logan Smith snagged Blake’s next attempt from what looked like a surefire touchdown and returned the pilfered pass from the goal line to the hosts’ 43.

Ferry made good on this turnover, bridging its drive from the end of the first quarter into the second, covering 57-yards on seven plays, capped by Carpenter finding a hole and running 20-yards to pay dirt. Chase Goff made good on the two-pointer to give Martins Ferry a 16-0 lead.

Momentum continued to roll in the favor of the hosts, as the next Jets’ possession only lasted three plays before a lost fumble was recovered by Coltin Larkins at the visitors’ 32. Riders’ senior signal-caller Jack Weir lofted a beautiful first-down pass to classmate Alex Bennett to post his team on the one, and Trevor Hanson dove over the pile on the next play for a touchdown. The conversion attempt failed, giving the Purple a 22-0 lead.

UL was picked off on their next drive, however, their defense held strong to give the offense one more chance before the break. Blake found Tre Rex for a pair of completions on the drive and also hit McWhorter for a 34-yard strike, and a Jackson Price 24-yard run helped put the Jets on the goal line, however, they were unable to score before the clock hit zeroes.

The teams traded three-and-outs to open the second half, and as Martins Ferry prepared to punt a second time in the third quarter, the snap went awry, giving the visitors prime field position. UL capitalized this time, with Price capping a three-play drive by scoring from four yards out. The conversion run was unsuccessful, leaving the score 22-6.

After a pooch kick was recovered by the Riders, they were able to compile a seven-play drive that encompassed the end of the third quarter and ended at 10:05 in the fourth with Hanson scoring his second touchdown of the evening, again from a yard out. A failed two-pointer put the score at a 28-6 count.

The Jets seemed to find their rhythm. The Red and White answered back with a seven-play drive that culminated with Blake finding McWhorter on a picturesque fade from 15 yards out for the score. UL’s two-point pass all short, making the score 28-12.

Martins Ferry was bogged down by the now-rolling Jets defense on their next drive, when Logan Smith’s punt went rolling towards the end zone, this was when Redinger made a heads up play to stop the ball just outside the goal line, pinning the Jets deep in their own territory. A bad snap on the next play was covered by Blake, giving the hosts a 30-12 lead and slowing the Jets’ momentum.

Union Local was able to score on its next drive after stopping Martins Ferry again as Blake broke loose on a 58-yard run and hit the afterburners, however with 1:20 left in the game, Martins Ferry was able to take a pair of knees to finish things off.

Goff led the Martins Ferry rushing attack with 158 yards on 20 carries, while Weir was an effective 7-11 for 91 yards. Blake finished the evening 14-23 for 183 yards and a score while Price ran for 67-yards and a touchdown.

Martins Ferry travels to St. Clairsville next week, while Union Local hosts Harrison Central.

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