Martins Ferry preps for Sandy Valley in Division V, Region 17
MARTINS FERRY — It will be a contrast in styles when Martins Ferry hosts Sandy Valley Saturday night on the artificial surface inside the Dave Bruney Football Complex in Division V, Region 17 playoff action.
The eighth-seeded Purple Riders (4-3) like to use their physical toughness in running the ball while the Cardinals (5-2) rely on the strong right arm of their highly touted quarterback, Cameron Blair.
Neither team has had any time to rest as both won first-round games last weekend. Martins Ferry ousted Jefferson Area by a 36-21 count and Sandy Valley roughed up winless Massillon Tuslaw, 58-7.
“We are getting better with each week and we’re healthy for the first time in a couple of weeks,” Martins Ferry head coach Chas Yoder said. “There are a couple of areas that we can improve on, but we are in a better place than where we started.”
One area that Yoder has been pleased with is the the lack of penalties over the past few weeks.
“We did improve in that area,” he said, “but we can still improve there.”
The Purple Riders have rode a rollercoaster of a season, having alternated wins and losses. They opened with a 22-16 win over Shadyside but then dropped a 31-16 decision to Linsly. A 30-18 victory over Union Local preceded a 27-6 setback to undefeated St. Clairsville. In week 5, they rallied past Harrison Central, 36-34, but then lost 47-46 overtime shootout at winless Weir before opening playoff action last weekend.
Martins Ferry has a stable of running backs that it evenly distributes the ball to. They are seniors Chase Goff, Evan Carpenter and Trevor Hanson. Goff has 605 yards and four six-pointers, while Carpenter has 603 yards on 79 totes. He has reached the end zone 11 times. Hanson scored a pair of TDs and a two-point run against Jefferson Area.
Quarterback Logan Smith has missed a few games with an injury sustained in the season-opener. However, he is getting back into the rhythm. He has passed for just over 500 yards and a TD.
“Logan started the season off really good and then he got hurt,” Yoder said. “He may be playing a little better but he still needs to get reps in practice and game situations. He is getting better with each week.”
When the Purple Riders take to the air, they usually look for Alex Bennett, Cole Sztary or a back out of the backfield. Sztary is the leading receiver as far as receptions go, while Bennett caught a 43-yard last week.
The Cardinals have only beat one team with a winning record, that being 4-3 Indian Valley (52-28). Their two losses have come to teams with a combined record of 11-1 in undefeated Ridgewood (42-7) and 5-1 Garaway (33-13). They have also defeated Strasburg (51-13), Claymont (55-13) and Tuscarawas Valley (55-13). They have scored 51 or more points in all of their triumphs.
“They are a good football team. They spread it out and force everyone on the defense to play their spots,” Yoder noted. “They remind me a little of Harrison Central.”
The Cardinals offense revolves around Blair, who has been offered scholarships by Ashland, Morehead State and Wheeling University.
Blair has passed for more than 8,500 yards and 74 touchdowns in two-and-a-half seasons. Both are all-time Stark County records.
“He’s the real deal,” Yoder stressed. “They’ve got a couple of good athletes around him.”