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October 16, 2013

County teams’ rushing deficiencies prove costly in defeats

FAIRMONT — For the first time this season, each of the Marion County teams lost in the same week.

When these three teams have won this season, they’ve gotten the running game going. This past week, though, their opponents took that away.

North Marion, who racked up over 200 yards on the ground against East Fairmont, was limited to just 153 yards against Lewis County.

Their leading rusher on the season, Ryan Elliott, ran the ball nine times for 21 yards.

“(Lewis County) did a good job of slanting their guys and their linebackers are very disciplined,” Elliott said. “We tried to do some zone blocking to counter it, and that’s kind of new for us.”

North Marion is a team that has always been known as a running team, and this year is no different. Coach Daryn Hays has often said that if his team doesn’t get the ground game going, then it’ll be in trouble.

“If we don’t get the ground game going, we don’t get the play-action established or anything,” said Elliott.

That’s where the Huskies found themselves Friday night. Overall, the Huskies only had 156 total yards.

East Fairmont was in a similar situation as North Marion in its last game.

The Bees generally have success running the ball, but injuries and other issues have slowed their running game down.

Ronnie Mills has been implemented into the backfield to take over for injured Matt Hopwood, who has been out two weeks with a high ankle sprain.

“It wasn’t hard (filling in),” Mills said. “I played quarterback last year, so I know all of the positions and what they do.”

Before Robert C. Byrd put its younger guys into the game in the fourth quarter, Mills had a goose egg in the rushing department.

After carrying the ball nine times for 59 yards and a touchdown against North Marion a week before, Mills had just two carries, albeit for 50 yards, against the Eagles.

“It’s just how the game ended up,” Mills said of his diminished role in the backfield this past Friday. “I’m just the utility man. I play wherever they need me.”

The Bees usually try to set the tempo of the game by running the ball, but the Bees only managed 33 rushing yards in the first half against RCB. Quarterback Jake Delaney had 47 himself, with 28 of those coming on just one carry. But a couple of negative plays set the Bees back.

Fairmont Senior, which for most of the season boasted the Big 10 Conference rushing leader in Noah Harmon, has seen production go way down in the past few weeks.

The Polar Bears gained just 61 yards last week against undefeated Frankfort.

“I don’t think we were mentally prepared for the elements of the field,” Harmon said of the slow night. “Frankfort had a good defense, and they just had us stopped wherever we went.”

While most teams have two or three running backs to carry the load, Harmon is the primary rusher for Fairmont Senior. Harmon, though, hasn’t had to carry the ball too many times as he’s known to break big runs and set the Polar Bears up with easy touchdowns.

That wasn’t the case last week.

“I broke out on one big play, but it got called back,” Harmon said. “It was just straight up-the-field running. A lot happened, and it was just confusion all around.”

While it was just the first time that all three county teams have lost in the same week, they’ll surely be looking to get back on track offensively in the upcoming weeks.

Email Matt Welch at mwelch@timeswv.com or follow on Twitter @MattWelch_TWV.

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