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Huskies head to Cartwright Field

September 27, 2012
By FRED YOUNCE - Sports writer (fyounce@heraldstaronline.com) , The Herald-Star

RICHMOND - A pair of teams with opposite records meet up Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Cartwright Memorial Field when 4-1 Harrison Central travels to face 1-4 Edison.

The Huskies are coming off their first loss of the year, a 42-6 loss to undefeated St. Clairsville, and look to bounce back against the wounded Wildcats.

"I am glad to get that one out of the way," Harrison Central coach Justin Kropka said. "They are a really, really good football team. They are as good as advertised."

The Wildcats struggles in the first half of the season are compounded by the fact that they were a play or two away from winning three of the four losses. Edison head coach Mike McKenzie feels his team is handling that disappointment well, and they are ready to come out and compete in the second half of the year.

"I liked the approach they had when they came out today at practice," he said. "We've talked about the fact there are only so many chances to play football and you don't want to waste them. The seniors want to come out and play the last five games as hard as they can."

The Edison defense has the daunting task of facing the balanced attack of a potent Huskies offense that is averaging 390.5 yards per game and 32.75 points a contest. The offense is led by running back Maurtice Hython and quarterback Rashaen Mitchell.

"We are going to do what we do best and that's run the ball," Kropka said matter-of-factly. "There is no secret to what we like to do. We have done good jobs this year executing our game plans."

Hython leads the Herald-Star/Weirton Daily Times coverage area with 741 yards on 97 carries and has scored six touchdowns. McKenzie sees Hython as a back that provides a unique challenge to his defense.

"He has a good wiggle, meaning he is good in small spaces," he said. "They run a lot of power and counter with him inside, but he is not a typical inside runner. He doesn't necessarily run you over, he makes you miss in a small area.

"He has good feet. He is able to shake tacklers and then break to the outside. Our outside people can't break contain thinking they have him bottled up.

"They must be ready because he will bounce outside and break a big run."

As for Mitchell, he's completed 35-of-62 pass attempts for 705 yards and connected for nine scores while throwing just three interceptions.

"We have to play disciplined football against him," said McKenzie. "We have to get to our drops and read our keys. He's a heck of a player that can run and pass.

"I think he's probably the best passer they've had since (Robbie) Davia, but he's probably a better runner than Davia."

McKenzie believes the challenge lies beyond just Mitchell and Hython as the balance Harrison has goes well beyond its two main offensive stars.

"They run and pass equally well," he said. "They can come out and run pro/con two back sets and then come out in an empty backfield. I really like (Nick) Pelegreen at tight end. He can line up there or they move him out to wing. This gives them the option to run several different sets with the same personnel."

The Edison defense surrendered 344.4 yards and 31 points per game over the first half of the season.

"I don't care what Edison's record is, they are going to give us everything they have and then some more," said Kropka.

The Harrison Central defense has been stout this season, giving up 268.6 yards and 15 points per game. In the Huskies gave up just 8.25 points a game in their four wins.

"They have a good defensive line that gets off the ball," said McKenzie. "The (Tyler) Rose kid is very impressive. They have good linebackers who get to the ball and read their keys. Pelegreen is very good. He makes plays on the inside, but also has the ability to run down plays on the outside.

"Their defensive backs cover well. They have a versatile defense that plays the run and pass equally well."

The Edison offense, led by tailback Chris Graziani and quarterback Nolan Marcus, is averaging 328.2 yards and 21.4 points per game.

Graziani has toted the ball 71 times for 514 stripes and has crossed the goal line seven times on the ground. In all he has scored eight times and added a two point conversion to give him a coverage area high 50 points on the season.

"I really like Graziani running the ball," said Kropka. "He does a fine job. He can go inside and break it to the outside. He has had some impressive runs so far. We have to make sure we know what our assignments are and execute."

Marcus provides a dual threat to the Wildcats' attack with 572 passing yards with three scores and 317 rushing yards and five more touchdowns.