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Bruins looking for a playoff berth in Week 12

November 3, 2011
By TRACY WATSON - Special to the Football Extra , The Intelligencer

WELLSBURG - A pair of teams on late-season rolls will collide Friday night at Brooke Memorial Stadium with Morgantown looking to improve its playoff positioning and coach Tom Bruney's Bruins just looking to survive and make the 16-team field.

Coach John Bowers, a Brooke High graduate, brings his Mohigans in with a 7-2 record and as winners of five games in a row, all by at least 21 points. Morgantown's only two losses have been by a combined 64-9 to Steubenville and Martinsburg.

Those two teams are the No. 1-ranked Ohio Division III and West Virginia Class AAA No. 1-ranked schools in their respective states.

''We kind of liken the first half of our season to a batter on deck in baseball that is swinging a weighted bat,'' Bowers joked. ''But we have come out swinging and gotten some pretty good swings the rest of the season.

''I think playing schools like Steubenville and Martinsburg definitely makes you better in the long run.''

Meanwhile, Brooke enters with a 5-4 mark and as winners of four straight. The Bruins last two victories have come by a whopping 103-7 margin, including 40-0 against John Marshall last Friday night in Moundsville.

''We started saying the week we played Wheeling Park that it was playoff time for us,'' Bruney said. ''But as it turns out it is that game that could come back and haunt us if we don't get in.

''The first half against Park was bad, but we have only given up 23 points since then and just about everything has been positive.

''Unfortunately we may have dug too deep a hole early, but it has still been one great effort by these kids to get us where we are today.''

Brooke downed Morgantown by a 27-20 count in Bruney's first season at the helm in 2009 while the Mohigans returned the favor, 44-20 last year.

It is also a contest in which a victory could very well catapult Bowers' squad to its first Ohio Valley Athletic Conference Class 5A football title. Morgantown enters the game second, less than a point behind Indian Creek.

For Brooke, the second half of the season has been a resurgence, led by senior running back Tim Faulkner and junior quarterback Alec Buchmelter. Faulkner has rushed for 1,217 yards and 12 touchdowns, averaging more than 8 yards an attempt, while Buchmelter went past the 1,000-yard passing plateau last week against the Monarchs and has 12 scoring tosses and seven interceptions.

''They have some pretty good skill position players,'' Bowers added. ''And they have been scoring an awful lot of points.

''Buchmelter is a two-year starter at quarterback and the Faulkner kid is a mudder who is a very good runner who doesn't get slowed down by the slop. They have good, hard runners and a lot of skill players to get the ball to in the passing game also.

''Coach Bruney has done a real nice job there and he puts them in position to make positive plays.''

While the Mohigans have already qualified for the playoffs, a victory could still mean big things for them.

''We know we are in, but a win here can help us secure home field and give us a pretty good seed,'' Bowers said. ''And that can put us in a good position to make a good run at a state championship and that is the ultimate goal.''

Spreading the wealth has been the key for Morgantown this season, especially in the running game where it has had six different players top the 100-yard mark in games.

Sophomore Chazzy Thomas leads the way with 599 yards and five scores - more than 10 yards a carry - with juniors Conner Leone (450-3) and Jalen Thomas (337-3) and senior Tim Prince (358-3) also helping out.

Junior Mark Johnson is the quarterback, having completed 38 of 72 attempts for 531 yards, 12 scores and six picks. His leading receivers are senior Kevin Minehart (16-262-4), junior Blaine Stewart (13-164-3) and sophomore Christian Allen (4-117-3).

Seniors Adam Kovac and Evan Hamilton have combined for 22 sacks on the campaign.

''Obviously Morgantown is a good, quality football team,'' Bruney said.

''All you have to do is look at the two games they lost and who they were to. They really are very good.

''I am so proud of these kids, especially these seniors. They took an awful lot of heat and abuse early in the year, but fortunately we have a bunch of kids that don't listen to all that stuff.

''We mended some fences and turned the ship around and have become a pretty darn good football team the last six weeks, especially on the defensive side of the ball.''