West Virginia blanked in BACF game
Injuries and turnovers are never a positive thing for a football team and many one the West Virginia squad in the BACF game found that out on Friday.
Throw in the element of placing kids in positions they don’t normally play in an all-star game and penalties and the odds stacked against your team are really high.
As a result, Ohio defeated West Virginia 24-0 to break a four-game losing streak in the annual Mid-Ohio Valley all-star game that benefits people with cystic fibrosis.
“We had five turnovers and I don’t know how many penalties, but you just can’t win any football game at any level when you have that many turnovers and penalties like we did tonight,” said Paden City High School’s Brent Croasmun who served as head coach for the West Virginia squad.
Fans of defensive football received a decent fix of gridiron action as both teams pitched shutouts for the first half. The players from Tyler Consolidated and Paden City had a lot to do with that as Cullen Grover and Keith Kline were forces on the line while Aaron Matthews and Nate Zills looked to be in regular-season form as linebackers.
Ohio looked to take advantage early after intercepting Ripley’s Seth Parsons, but Zills returned the favor picking off Shenandoah’s Cody Johnson. It set up West Virginia in favorable field position but they could not take advantage in Ohio territory.
West Virginia had another opportunity slip away late in the half as Matthews would pick up an Ohio fumble with nothing but green and a couple teammates beside him, but he was ruled down on the play setting up the blue and gold near midfield. Again, they could not take advantage on the offensive end as both teams went into the locker rooms deadlocked at 0-0.
The problems for West Virginia started to pile up in the second half. First, Grover came up with an injury to his hand which took him out of the game as he had to go to the hospital for x-rays. Ohio, noticing the weak spot, immediately went to a T-formation and pounded it inside play after play.
Eventually it led to the game’s first points as Marietta’s Zane Eschbaugh’s 37-yard field goal with 3:56 put the Buckeyes up 3-0.
More problems came on the next series as West Virginia went three-and-out. Miscommunication on the punt led to a tipped kick and leaving Ohio with a short field. Again they pounded it inside over and over again, eventually leading to a 17-yard run by Monroe Central fullback Mike Habig with 9:59 left in the fourth. It capped off a nine-play, 45-yard drive and made the score 10-0.
On the touchdown, West Virginia sustained another injury, this time to Parkersburg Catholic cornerback Brad Wilson. Again noticing West Virginia with players out of position, Ohio went to the air on the next series with a scene all too familiar Croasmun as Beallsville’s Luke Lucas was on the receiving end of a 41-yard pass good for a touchdown.
“It was a great first half. In the second half, that was a big, big, key injury to Cullen Grover because he was our contain man there on the edge and then they started to pound the ball off tackle,” Croasmun said. “You take an athlete like him out of the game and that’s a big piece of your defense. Then we lost the Wilson kid from Parkersburg Catholic in the secondary and they scored on that long pass.”
Ohio finished their scoring on a punt return by Caldwell’s Nathan Abbott from 39 markers out setting up the 24-0 final.
“You have to give Ohio a lot of credit. They had a lot of great athletes. They had a great quarterback, good receivers, and they just finally got to us,” said Croasmun. “But when we lost Grover we couldn’t get much pressure on the quarterback and we were expecting him to keep the heat on the quarterback which he did in the first half.”
Zills was named the MVP for the West Virginia squad after carrying the ball 11 times for 51 yards. It was the second year in a row that a Tyler Consolidated alumni was awarded the honor. Last year, Jacob Lohri was named MVP after rushing for 81 yards and a couple of big kickoff returns. West Virginia won that game 17-14 in after inclement weather forced officials to call the game late in the third quarter with West Virginia driving.
“I think the kids that represented Tyler Consolidated and Paden City played very well in a game of this caliber,” complimented Croasmun. “Nate Zills ran the ball hard. We were going to try and use him more in the second half, but the opportunities just didn’t come up because we fell behind there. We talked at halftime about trying to pound the ball at them because we thought we could put our big backs in there and run at them. We just didn’t get that opportunity.”
Despite spraining his ankle in the first practice the previous Friday, Wes Cosper had two rushes for 8 yards. After Parsons’ third interception, Cosper went in behind center and completed two passes to spark the West Virginia offense, but re-aggravated his ankle after a hit by one of Ohio’s defensive linemen.
Ronnie Blatt had one reception in the game, thrown to him by Parsons, good for 12 yards and team-high honors. He was a late addition to the roster as some players did not participate because of prior engagements. It was a welcome addition to the team as Blatt helped others with the plays as he was already
familiar with the offense.
“You know we chose 38 kids to play in this ballgame and 26 of them showed up, and the ones that didn’t show up were mostly receivers and defensive backs,” said Croasmun. “So we had to take some of our running backs and make them play the receiver position and also defensive back. A lot of these kids played positions they didn’t play this year in high school. They were willing to step in and try to learn in and they played hard.
“Matthews did a real nice job at linebacker for us on defense. Of course Cullen did a great job too before he got injured. Keith Kline played both ways and played solid tonight. Ronnie Blatt caught a pass and did what we wanted him to do offensively. Wes Cosper, I felt so sorry for Wes. He really wanted to play tonight and he gutted out a very severe ankle sprain. I have to give him credit too because he went out on the field because he tried to do as much as he could.”
Magnolia and Williamstown, two of the teams that made state championship appearances, did not have anyone send back their forms to participate in the game.
Parkersburg High School also didn’t have a representative in the game despite hosting the event.
Ohio’s win was their first since 2004 when they defeated West Virginia at Yellowjacket Field in Williamstown. West Virginia leads the overall series 10-6. It was the third shutout in the series with the last being a 36-0 West Virginia win in 2002. Ohio won by the same score in 2000.
“I really enjoyed this week. When we took the kids out to eat last night, they were all had good manners and represented their schools very well,” added Croasmun. “This was a great time this week. I know they took the loss pretty hard because they really wanted to win. They’re disappointed. When you can look into their eyes and see that look on their face, you know you’ve got good kids and you’ve got good athletes.”
The Battle Against Cystic Fibrosis pits senior athletes from area schools against one another to raise money to search for a cure for the debilitating disease.
As is the case with most all-star games, most players find it interesting to play with people from different schools as opposed to playing against them or noticing them in the media.
This game was no different.
At one point or another, they players from Tyler Consolidated and Paden City played against a majority teams involved in the game with the exception being the Class AAA schools Parkersburg, Parkersburg South, and Ripley.
Of course, the Silver Knights and Wildcats don’t play each other in football, so the players and coaches being a part of the same team is always an interesting sight for the fans and a memorable experience for the players.
“I went to school early with all those guys, so I’ve been friends with them since a very young age,” said Nate Zills. “Being able to be coached by Brent Croasmun, he’s a heck of a coach. This week was probably one of the most fun weeks of football since fifth grade. Definitely the most fun time I’ve had playing football.”
Former Tyler Consolidated teammate Aaron Matthews and Paden City’s Keith Kline had similar thoughts.
“It was a good experience. I played against teams like Ritchie County my whole life,” said Matthews. “They were the enemy and we came together and it was just awesome to play with people from different teams.
“Coach Croasmun was a great coach. We came together and he did what he could do to get an offense going. We only get six days together and it was up to us to run the plays, run the right way. But overall it was a great atmosphere. I loved it and was glad I got invited. It was a good experience for a good cause. It’s a battle against cystic fibrosis. It’s all for them, not us. It’s one last game for us but it’s mostly for them.”
“I thought it was a real honor because everybody here, it’s a great group of kids and we all love football,” added Kline. “It was a bunch of fun playing with everybody and I had a great time.”
While other all-star game sites are hosted at the same site such as Wheeling Island Stadium with the OVAC all-star game and Laidley Field with the North-South game, the BACF game alternates sites in the Marietta-Parkersburg area.
So far Parkersburg, Parkersburg South, Williamstown, Belpre, Marietta and Warren have hosted the event.
This year it was hosted at the legendary Stadium Field at Parkersburg High School, perhaps the face of West Virginia high school football if there was one. Not only is Parkersburg the winningest high school program in the state, but the field has also hosted state championship games during its illustrious lifetime.
While Croasmun has coached on the field at different times with Paden City visiting Parkersburg Catholic, it’s a different feeling being able to walk the home sidelines.
“This facility is unbelievable for a high school,” said Croasmun. “The locker rooms, the weight rooms, the playing field, if you can’t get excited playing football here, you can’t get excited any place because there is a lot of tradition here. A lot of great players have played here. This is just a great place to play a football game. Why they don’t play it here every year, I don’t know. I’m sure there are reasons why. But that was another part of the game I really enjoyed, just being at a facility like this.”
It was a first for the coach and one he said would always remember.
“I may never be in another position like this as long as I coach,” he added. “I’ve been coaching 27 years and I’ve never been in a situation like this. I guess you could say it’s like being in football heaven. Just to walk out on the field and walk the sidelines and represent the state of West Virginia in a charity football game, that was really important and fun as well. It was an awesome experience and something I’ll never forget.”
Most of the time the all-star games give players one last chance to shine in front of the crowd as most don’t play college sports.
This year there is an exception as Tyler Consolidated’s Nate Zills will be going on to the next level.
Zills has been offered a spot on the football team for the Marietta Pioneers. He’ll be majoring in petroleum engineering, something he said that heavily influenced his decision.
“That was the deciding factor,” said Zills. “Marietta was the only other chance I had to play football with my major. My major was pretty important to me.”
As for which side of the ball he’ll play on, Zills said that he’s likely to stay with the running back position.
“I’m pretty excited. I’ve been training the last three weeks and I’m going to continue training all summer.” added Zills after the BACF game. “Coaches have told me all summer if I train hard and push myself to my limits, I could start as a freshman down there and that excites me. Just playing at the next level is exciting knowing I get to play for four more years.”
Zills went on to add that playing in the all-star game was a good tune-up in preparing. Rushing for nearly five yards a carry against an Ohio squad that pitched a shut out certainly didn’t hurt.