By Joe Sengewalt
For the Times West Virginian
Dense fog at Husky Field made visibility difficult for fans in attendance at Friday’s Big 10 matchup between North Marion and Buckhannon-Upshur.
For North Marion fans, that was probably a blessing.
The visiting Buccaneers (2-2, 2-1) unleashed a barrage of big plays in both the running and passing games and cruised to a 40-12 victory over the Huskies.
The win was the second in a row for B-U, while North Marion fell to 0-4 overall and to 0-3 in the league.
Despite the debut of junior quarterback Andrew Harker, who had been sidelined in the first three games due to illness, the Huskies suffered through an anemic first half offensively, registering only one first down and 20 yards of total offense. As a result, North fell behind the quick-strike Buccaneers, 20-0, by the time the first 24 minutes had ended.
“We couldn’t get anything going offensively,” said a disconsolate Husky coach Daran Hays. “We tried to establish our off-tackle game, but we were hurt by their back-side penetration.”
It wasn’t much better for the Huskies on the defensive end as Buckhannon ripped through the North Marion defense for big chunks of yardage on scissor plays, toss sweeps and screens.
“They killed us with the inside scissors play and the screens,” said Hays. “They opened the floodgates on us.”
Field position was a big factor in the first half as Buckhannon started five of its seven possessions in Husky territory. B-U’s worst starting position was on its opening drive when the Buccaneers proceeded to march 70 yards in nine plays capped off by 17-yard touchdown run by senior wingback Brandon Mallet on a fourth-and-four play.
North Marion, conversely, started just two of its first-half drives from inside its own 10-yard line, with an average starting position of the Husky 18. North Marion was 0-for-4 on third-down conversions and ran only 15 plays from scrimmage in the opening half, registering zero passing yards on one completion.
In the second half things didn’t get much better for the Huskies. On its opening play of the final half B-U struck quickly. After a Chase Banker punt pinned the Buccaneers at their own two, Seth Cutright hauled in a 98-yard TD pass from quarterback Dillon Gaudet to stretch the lead to 27-0 and effectively end North Marion hopes for a comeback.
The Huskies eventually got on the board late in the third quarter on a one-yard run from Chase Banker. Banker, operating out of the wildcat formation, ran the ball 11 times on the drive en route to an a 14-carry, 65-yard night on the ground. Banker, who has been one of North’s most consistent performers on offense this season, however, left the game in the fourth quarter with a serious shoulder injury he sustained on defense. He is expected to be sidelined for several weeks.
The Huskies scored their final touchdown on a three-yard plunge by junior fullback Noah Redmond, finishing off a 60-yard drive, all of which came on the ground.
Senior tailback Ryan Elliott chipped in with 32 yards on the scoring drive on four carries and finished the night with 49 yards on seven attempts Sophomore Justin Wheeler added 30 yards on four carries – all of which came in the second half.
As noted, North’s passing game was ineffective all evening. Harker was just 1-of-11 on the game for 0 yards and one interception. Banker was 1-of-2 for just seven yards.
Seth Cutright led a balanced Buckhannon rushing attack with 66 yards on five carries and a touchdown. Cutright also finished with two of the Buckhannon’s three receptions for 109 yards. The Buccaneers outgained North 349-137 in total offense in the game.
As the Huskies turn their attention to next week’s matchup at 1-3 Preston, Hays has one goal in mind.
“I would like to see us compete and put together a complete game,” he said. “I put tonight’s game on everyone all the way from myself to the freshman on the roster. We need to be better from top to bottom. I need to be a better leader and we need to improve in all phases. We will lick our wounds and get back to work.”
Buckhannon will seek its third consecutive victory next Friday when it hosts 3-0 Oak Hill.