ELKINS – A week after dropping their first game of the season to the defending Class AA state champions from Fairmont Senior, the North Marion Huskies bounced back in the biggest way possible, dominating in all three phases of the game and rolling to a 41-0 win against Elkins.
It was homecoming night at Elkins, and the Huskies were happy to play spoiler, holding the Tigers (0-4) to 3.0 yards per play, all while forcing three turnovers and not surrendering anything easy.
To start things off, North Marion was slowed by what has, unfortunately for the Huskies (3-1), become a nasty habit of coming out of the gates slow.
“I wasn’t happy with our start,” North Marion coach Daran Hays said. “I thought we came out pretty flat. We have to do a better job in big games of having more energy, especially on the road. We seem to carry more of it on the road. We have to do a better job of that. We have to find the right pace to get ready to play.”
It didn’t take long for that slow start to fade and for energy to get injected into the Huskies, as with 6:40 left in the first quarter, quarterback Gunner Murphy found playmaker Tariq Miller down the right sideline with a 58-yard TD pass to put North Marion up 7-0.
After accounting for his team’s only score a week ago at East-West Stadium against the Polar Bears, Miller’s score was exactly the jolt the Huskies needed.
“We just knew that we had to come back for a bounce-back week,” Miller said. “I just did what I had to do to help the team and tried to run my routes and do my job.”
After taking that 7-0 lead into the second quarter, a muffed punt by Elkins was pounced on by Garrett Conaway – who also blocked a punt in the game — setting up a short field for the Huskies. Soon after, Murphy did the job himself, taking a zone read play up the left side for a 22-yard TD run, putting North Marion up 14-0 after Malachi Funkhouser banged through his second of five PAT kicks on the night.
Later on in the second quarter, after an Elkins drive stalled and the Huskies took over on downs, Murphy launched a 46-yard bomb down the right side to Miller as time expired in the half.
The speedy sophomore ran under the ball and raced the few remaining yards into the end zone for the TD and gave the Huskies a 21-0 lead headed into the halftime locker room.
“We had just worked on that in practice, so we knew how to run it,” Miller, who caught three passes for 121 yards and two scores, said of the play. “I just saw him put the ball in the air, and I just had to go get it.
“Me and Gunner played basketball together, and we even played Pop Warner together. I’ve known Gunner for a long time, so (our chemistry) is pretty good.”
That 21-0 lead was extended to 28-0 in the third quarter after Murphy scored on a 2-yard run for his second rushing touchdown of the game.
In all, Murphy accounted for four touchdowns, running for two as part of an eight-carry 51 yard performance to go along with an 8-for-15 night passing for 163 yards and two scores.
From there, it was the defense that took over, scoring defensive touchdowns on consecutive drives to blow the game open.
The first came when Tyler Thorne scooped up an Elkins fumble and raced 22 yards to pay dirt, which was soon followed by a Tyler Curry 47-yard pick-six.
“The two defensive scores were huge,” Hays said. “On (Thorne’s) we capitalized on their mistake, but those are things we practice. We practice how to scoop a ball, and he did it perfect.”
While Thorne’s TD was indicative of the senior’s practice and experience, the same can’t exactly be said for Curry, just a 14-year-old who is blossoming into someone Hays considers to be a special player so young in his career.
“He’s just so patient from the linebacker spot. He stays under control and fits the alley well,” Hays said of his freshman. “To have the discipline to take that pass drop and, he’s a wrestler, but he got off the ground about 6 or 8 inches to pick that. Then he had the savvy to pick up his blockers and run up the numbers like we practice and not panic in that situation.”
A running clock in a scoreless fourth quarter soon ticked away, leaving the Huskies with a 41-0 victory, improving the team to 3-1.
“I thought we played pretty well,” Hays said. “We played with good enthusiasm and rallied to the ball.”
That enthusiasm and ability to rally to the ball helped North Marion shut down an Elkins running attack that can easily take advantage of opponents with its misdirection and wealth of playmakers who can carry the ball.
TJ Guire, the top man in the Elkins backfield, came into the game with 200 yards on 41 carries on the season, was limited to 61 yards on the ground, and kept out of the end zone.
Rodney Vendevender ran the ball for 10 yards for the Tigers, and completed 3-of-13 passes for 12 yards.
Offensively, it was a balanced attack for North Marion, with Ricky Newbrough pitching in 58 yards on nine carries, Ethan Raines catching two balls for 24 yards and Jahkari Mesidor accounting for 29 all-purpose yards.
Overall, the Huskies came together to bounce back from a tough loss a week ago, and played nearly a mistake-free game – with the exception of 10 penalties for 95 yards. That effort was a result of a focused week of practice, with the results coming through on the scoreboard.
“We focused on getting our plays sharp and just make sure we did everything right and try to make as little mistakes as we can and just keep focused,” Miller added.
Now North Marion will prepare to take on Lincoln (2-2) on Friday, with Elkins set for a roadtrip to Philip Barbour.
Follow Sean McNamara on Twitter @SMcNamaraWV.
North Marion 41, Elkins 0
NM (3-1) ELK (0-4)
NM 7 14 20 0 - 41
ELK 0 0 0 0 - 0
NM – Tariq Miller 58-yard pass from Gunner Murphy (Malachi Funkhouser kick)
NM – Murphy 22-yard run (Funkhouser kick)
NM – Miller 46-yard pass from Murphy (Funkhouser kick)
NM – Murphy 2-yard run (Funkhouser kick)
NM – Tyler Thorne 22-yard fumble return (Funkhouser kick)
NM – Tyler Curry 47-yard interception return (PAT failed)
First Downs 13 7
(P/R/Pen) (7/5/1) (5/0/2)
Rush Plays 34 32
Rush Yards 165 127
Yards per rush 4.9 4.0
Pass Plays (C/A/INT) 10/17/0 4/14/1
Pass yards 171 10
Total Plays 51 46
Total Yards 336 137
Yards per play 6.9 3.0
Penalties/Yards 10/95 6/32
PASSING: NM – Gunner Murphy 8-15-0 163 yards 2 TD, Isaiah Sigley 1-2-0 8 yards. ELK – Rodney Vandevender 3-13-1 12 yards, Zach Judy 1-1-0 (-2) yards. RUSHING: NM – Ricky Newbrough 9-58, Gunner Murphy 8-51 2 TD, Conner Hawkins 2-23, Jahkari Mesidor 2-10, Tariq Miller 2-2, Ethan Raines 1-(-1), Adam Hoffman 1-4, Gavan Lemley 2-9, Hunter Kuhn 4-12, TEAM 3-(-3). ELK – TJ Guire 9-61, Dennard Wyche 4-36, Rodney Vandevender 3-10, Trevor Smith 3-9, Ben Boggs 3-5, Sam Emery 1-2, Jordan Doux 1-(-3), Blake Harris 3-2, Trevor Chenoweth 1-2, TEAM 3-3. RECEVING: NM – Tariq Miller 3-121 2 TD, Ethan Raines 2-17, Jahkari Mesidor 2-19, Ethan Mays 1-(-1), Cole Malnick 1-8. ELK – Dennard Wyche 2-11, TJ Guire 1-1, Trevor Chenoweth 1-(-2).