W.Va. All-Stars Earn Decisive Victory Sunday
West Virginia Coach Ian Whittington didn’t hold back when he spoke about his squad all week.
The Oak Glen mentor was high on every aspect entering Sunday night’s 70th annual Rudy Mumley OVAC All-Star Football Game.
Nothing – including a 70-minute rain delay, a first-quarter melee, or Ohio – was about to stand in the Mountaineers’ way en route to a 35-7 victory.
“It comes down to the game, but this was about the experience of the OVAC All-Star Game and bonding as a team,” Whittington said. “Finishing with a win makes it even more special, too.”
The bonding is one thing, but having guys like Linsly’s Chimechi Oparanozie and Wheeling Park’s Theo Blackston in the backfield – along with impressive offensive and defensive fronts – didn’t hurt matters.
The game was tied at 7-7 until there was four seconds remaining in the third quarter. That’s when Oparanozie found daylight around the left end and went untouched for a 17-yard touchdown.
“We wanted to get them out of the box and then jam our big guys up the middle at them,” Whittington said.
Micah Boles added his second of five PAT kicks to put the Mountaineers up, 14-7, entering the fourth.
From there, the wheels fell off for Ohio.
Along with West Virginia finding offensive momentum, the Ohio offense was bitten by the turnover bug.
On the ensuing possession, Ohio quarterback Chaice Truex was stripped of the ball and Clay-Battelle’s Jacoby Steele scooped it and scored from 25 yards out.
Parkersburg South’s Trevor Boot got a free run at Truex on the next Buckeyes offensive play. He stripped the ball and then pounced on it, putting the Mountaineers in business again.
“Turnovers were costly and were a big turning point,” Ohio coach Jeremy McElroy said. “Obviously you can’t turn the ball over and expect to win.”
It took one play for Oparanozie to find the end zone again. This time it covered 18 yards. After the PAT, the scoreboard read 28-7 and many of the fans began to head for the exits.
“Once we scored 28, we kind of had a feeling it was over,” Oparanozie, who finished with 75 yards on 14 carries, said. “This was fantastic. I never would have expected to play like I did. This was a great week. This felt like more of a team, in just two days, than anyone else I’ve ever played with.”
Blackston, who scored the game’s first touchdown from 6 yards out, capped the scoring with 3:20 to go on an 8-yard run around the end.
“We didn’t respond to adversity and never got going after turning the ball over,” McElroy said. “We didn’t execute very well. We knew their (defensive) front was solid coming in and they made some plays.”
Ohio couldn’t get much going offensively. With West Virginia’s defensive line causing all sorts of problems, the Buckeyes were limited to 25 yards rushing and 163 total. They had eight first downs.
“At the beginning of the game we allowed Truex to get out of the pocket and he made some plays, but were getting to him and getting to him in the second half for some negative plays,” Whittington said.
The Buckeyes’ lone score came on a 13-yard run by Monroe Central’s Levi Brown in the middle stages of the third quarter. He was Ohio’s leading rusher with 25 yards on seven carries. Cambridge’s Mo Lathan caught two passes for 44 yards.
“It was a great week with great kids,” McElroy said. “These were great kids and it’s always nice, win or lose, to spend time with first-class kids.”
Locally, Zach Heasley, from Paden City, had another big game. Heasley came in at quarter back in the fourth quarter and handed off to Linsley’s Oparanosie for an 18 yard T.D. He also played throughout the game at Defensive End and made some big playes with a tackle and a forced fumble. Heasley will be competing this year at West Virginia Wesleyan, with the start of the season just a couple weeks away.
Peyton Palmer of Valley and Nick Anderson of Tyler Consolidated also got quality playing time and performed well for the victorious West Virginia squad.