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Wildcats look to pull a shocker at Purple Riders

October 11, 2012
By FRED YOUNCE - Sports writer (fyounce@heraldstaronline.com) , The Herald-Star

MARTINS FERRY - The scoreboard showed an Edison loss following the Wildcats' Week 7 game with undefeated St. Clairsville, but with eight starters out for various reasons those close to the team knew their effort was a winning one.

"I'm proud of our effort last week," said Edison head coach Mike McKenzie. "We fought throughout the entire game and never quit. We played maybe our best game of the year.

"They just had a little more speed on the field at times and were able to hit big plays because of it. They represented themselves well with their effort and showed a lot of heart.

"We told the kids Friday night they were winners due to their effort in the face of adversities."

This week the Wildcats (1-6) face a 5-2 Martins Ferry team coming off a 27-14 loss to Indian Creek.

The Purple Riders offense is much like they have consistently run through the years, only this season they run it slightly different according to McKenzie.

"Offensively they're similar to Harrison Central," he said. "This year they run a little more shotgun. It reminds me of '08 when (Jeremy) Murray was a senior. They still run their normal counter tre, power, iso offense, but it comes out of different sets.

"We have to stop the run, and have to be aware of their passing game. The (Cody) Schau kid is an excellent receiver.They are a typical Martins Ferry team in that they'll try to power the ball, but they do it from different looks."

On defense Martins Ferry doesn't do anything fancy. The stick pretty much to their base set and are solid in the basics.

"Defensively they run a base 4-4 and are extremely good at the fundamentals," said McKenzie. "They are well-conditioned and physical."

Signs of growth in the Wildcats' offense were seen last week against the Red Devils as the passing seem to take another step forward. Junior signal caller Nolan Marcus completed 14 of 25 passes for 184 yards and three scores with one pick. His top receiver, Rich Springer, caught five balls for 127 yards and reached the end zone twice.

For the season Marcus has thrown for 902 yards and seven scores, showing improvement throughout the year. Springer is his top target with 13 catches for 291 stripes and five touchdowns.

"I thought he (Marcus) looked more comfortable," said McKenzie. "He's more confident in his reads, and the stuff we were just missing on we started hitting.

"It's been a product of our receivers improving as well. They made some catches on balls they weren't getting to earlier in the year. I thought the passing game as a whole was the best we've seen last week.

"It was an encouraging sign."

The running game is paced by Chris Graziani's 655 yards and eight touchdowns on 101 carries. Marcus has shown his dual threat ability, gaining 441 yards and scoring seven times on 85 rushes.

As the Wildcats begin their final three games it has become less about wins and losses, and more about improving weekly.

"We're trying to be more about the process than the outcome the rest of the way," said McKenzie. "We're getting better, they played their tails off last week, and if they play like that this week we'll give ourselves a shot to win."