By Mike DeFabo
Times West Virginian
Fairmont Senior faced a difficult decision last Friday night.
It was the Polar Bears’ first drive and they had driven deep into Lincoln territory only to face a critical fourth down. Already in field goal range, coach J.L. Abbott elected to go for it.
Quarterback Austin Norman tossed the ball to Luke Hrapchak, who made a sliding reception to pick up the first down.
It was the kind of play you circle, one that makes or breaks it for you in close games.
“High risk, high reward,” Hrapchak said of the decision. “If we don’t make that, who knows where the ball game goes? We picked up a lot of momentum there.”
Shortly after the pass, Malik Boddy rushed into the end zone on his first of two scores.
The Polar Bears didn’t need any more fourth down conversions as they scored almost at will on the Lincoln defense. By the time Norman hit Ryder Skarzinski on a 37-yard Hail Mary to end the half, the Polar Bears were up 46-0.
“When all else fails, I just threw it up to one of my best receivers and he came down with it,” said Norman, who was 11-for-20 for 247 yards and two touchdowns.
The fast start by the Polar Bears was repeated around Marion County, as North Marion and East Fairmont also jumped out to early leads in blowout victories.
Just down the road at East-West Stadium, East Fairmont quarterback Jake Delaney was a perfect five-for-five in the first half with two touchdown passes, one to Myler Johnson and a second to Scotty Shroyer in the Bees’ 49-25 victory over Philip Barbour.
And at Husky Field, North Marion scored on its opening four possessions on the way to its highest scoring performance of the season, a 44-20 win over Grafton.
Running away with it
As the games reached the midpoint, all three of the teams began to run away with the victories, quite literally.
The Huskies used their powerful rushing attack to eat up yards and clock. The one-two punch of Ryan Elliott and Austin Stanley combined to rack up 332 yards and four touchdowns.
“We did an awesome job,” said Elliott, who finished with a career-high 223 yards. “The linemen opened up big holes and made everything happen. And us running backs found the holes and just kept running.”
The same can be said for the Bees and Polar Bears.
East Fairmont’s trio of Scotty Shroyer, Ronnie Mills and Matt Hopwood combined for 262 yards on the ground. Hopwood led the pack with 98 yards and two touchdowns, followed by Shroyer (91 yards) and Mills (70 yards).
And for the Polar Bears, Hrapchak and Boddy rushed for 113 yards and 81 yards, respectively, to go along with their combined four touchdown runs.
“I thought everybody who ran the ball did a nice job for us,” said Abbott. “I thought Malik, Hrap, Skar, everybody did a nice job.”
The three Marion County teams wrapped up the games in decisive fashion. The same can be said for the way they’ve closed out their season.
After combining for seven losses in weeks 6-8, all three teams have now won their last two.
For North Marion, it was a good way to finish the season after a disappointing start.
“Not the way I envisioned finishing, but proud of my guys for overcoming adversity and finishing strong even when playing for nothing but pride,” North Marion coach Daran Hays tweeted after the game.
East and Fairmont Senior will wrap up their seasons Friday against each other in the rivalry game. Abbott said he likes the way his team is coming together at this point in the season.
“I think we’re getting to where we’re starting to click, and that’s good this time of year,” he said.
Email Mike DeFabo at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @MikeDeFaboTWV.