By Joe Sengewalt
Times West Virginian
Robert C. Byrd imposed its will in the second half here last night, breaking open a tight game with a brutally basic ground attack to defeat North Marion 21-3 in a Big 10 Conference matchup on a clear, chilly evening at Eagle Stadium.
With the victory, the 18th-rated Flying Eagles moved to 5-3 overall and to 5-2 in the league. The Huskies, on the other hand, fell to 1-7 overall and to 1-6 in the conference.
The one-two tandem of junior Elias Grant (17-138), and sophomore Juwan Jones-Wright (12-87) combined for 225 yards on the ground and all three RCB touchdowns, while senior Anthony Helms chipped in with 52 second-half yards en route to a nine-carry, 58-yard performance.
Leading just 7-3 after a 28-yard field goal by Husky place-kicker Dylan Leary midway through the third quarter, RCB scored on its next two possessions, and then proceeded to run out the final 6:16 of the ball game with a kneel-down at the Husky six-yard line.
“Their backs ran with authority in the second half,” said North coach Daran Hays. “They ran with power, and they wore us down a bit in the second half.”
Plagued by poor starts and facing early deficits for most of the 2013 season, North Marion actually put together one of its most impressive drives of the year on the opening possession of the game, only to come up empty. The Huskies drove 77 yards on 19 plays, converting three fourth downs along the way, before Colton Bennett picked off a Chase Banker pass on third-and-goal play from the Byrd 16.
Bennett returned the interception 63 yards to the Husky 31 to set up the first score of the game – a five-yard run by Jones-Wright.
“We pieced together the kind of drive we need to have,” said Hays. “A slow, methodical drive that ate up most of the first quarter.”
After a nine-yard hookup from Banker to junior wideout Andrew Harker on fourth-and-five from the RCB 19 gave the Huskies a first down at the Flying Eagles’ 10-yard line, North lost six yards on its next two plays before the Bennett interception.
“We made some negative plays in the red area that cost us,” said Hays. “We needed to get on the board on that drive.”
Despite not cashing in on its impressive opening drive, the Huskies trailed just 7-0 at halftime while holding a slight edge statistically (92-79) in total yards from scrimmage.
Another momentum shift occurred on RCB’s first possession of the second half. Lining up to punt at its own 48, an errant snap from center to punter Zack Messersmith resulted in a huge loss and a turnover on downs at the Byrd 16.
The Huskies, though, gained only five yards on three running plays before settling for the Leary field goal and their only score of the night.
“That series was a real turning point in the game,” said Hays. “We couldn’t capitalize on their mistake, and they really gained a boost from it.”
Junior tailback Austin Stanley led the Huskies on the ground with 55 yards on nine carries. Banker completed 7-of-9 passes for 35 yards, while freshman quarterback Kyle Elliott completed his only pass attempt for 17 yards.
North Marion returns home next Friday on “Senior Night” to take on 5-2 Lincoln, while RCB hosts Scott on the same evening.
“We know Lincoln will be a challenge,” said Hays. “They can really spread you out with their passing game. They’re having a good year.”