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Wildcats look to pull off another shocker

October 18, 2012
By SETH STASKEY - Special to the Football Extra , The (Martins Ferry) Times Leader

RICHMOND - The Bellaire Big Reds are certain about one thing this week.

They won't be overlooking Edison and its 2-6 mark this Friday when the teams meet in Richmond at 7:30 p.m.

Not that it was needed, but the Wildcats certainly caught the Big Reds' attention after they posted an impressive 35-22 victory against Martins Ferry last Friday at Purple Rider Stadium.

"I don't think their record is any indication of the type of team they are," said Davis. "They played very inspired football last week, obviously and they're a typical Edison team that we've faced the last three years."

The Big Reds took care of Union Local last Saturday in their home finale and are now sitting in seventh place in the OHSAA Division V, Region 17 computer poll.

"We still have two weeks to go and our focus has to be on continuing to improve and getting better," Davis said. "We have to continue to be disciplined and play with consistency."

The Wildcats, meanwhile, are looking to end their season on the upswing and a victory against the Big Reds and then a chance to spoil arch rival Indian Creek's season could go a long way in making that happen.

"It's always for our kids to get a win," said personable Wildcats' head coach Mike McKenzie. "We've dealt with a lot of adversity this year, but the kids have stepped up and responded. I just couldn't be prouder of how they played last weekend.

"We responded like we hadn't been able to all year. They had seven turnovers, but we had four and had more penalty yards than they did so we weren't without our share of mistakes. The difference was we responded positively to those mistakes and made plays after them. That's something we hadn't been able to do this season."

In beating the Purple Riders last week, Edison was the beneficiary of seven turnovers, including five in the first 24 minutes.

"Obviously, this is a much different scheme than we saw," McKenzie said. "We hoped to stop the run last week and this week it's the pass, but Bellaire is certainly capable of running it. This is a big, big challenge because Bellaire is very good.

They impose their will differently than Martins Ferry. Martins Ferry wanted to get three to four yards, grind it out, and movie the chains. They hit every receiver on the field.

"Their running backs are receivers and they run empty backfield. (Spencer) Badia releases the ball quickly so its tough to get to him, but they also have receivers who can go get the ball deep.

"You can stop them for two or three downs and then they hit the big play. It's wearing on you."

Their running backs are receivers and they run empty backfield. (Spencer) Badia releases the ball quickly so its tough to get to him, but they also have receivers that can go get the ball deep.

"You can stop them for two or three downs and then they hit the big play. It's wearing on you."

In stopping the pass, the Wildcats must find a way to get pressure on Badia, who's been brilliant. For the season, he's thrown for 2,074 yards and 18 touchdowns. He's also ran for nearly 300 yards and three touchdowns.

The tough part of dealing with the Big Reds' no huddle, pass-happy attack is covering their bevy of receivers. The group, which features no fewer than four players with 20 or more catches, is led by junior Nick Patrone (47-669-4td), senior Quinton Crosby (26-389-4td), Kenny Hess (23-337-4td) and Hunter Westlake (21-341-3td). Tyler West is another viable option.

"Bellaire can throw the quick, short passes, but they're also capable of throwing the deep ball," McKenzie said. "They do a nice job of taking advantage of what you're giving them, so we'll have to mix things up. I think our kids will be ready for the challenge."

Nick Maffe is the Big Reds' leading rusher with 398 yards and seven touchdowns.

The Wildcats, meanwhile, have been balanced offensively. They're a spread team, but McKenzie was especially proud of how well they ran the ball when they needed to last week.

Junior quarterback Nolan Marcus leads the charge. He's an adept runner and passer. He threw for 148 yards and ran for better than 60 and two scores last week. For the season he has 1,050 yards and nine scores through the air and 508 yards and nine more touchdowns on the ground. Chris Grazianni is the top option at tailback. He ran for better than 90 yards and a score last week to give him 747 yards and nine touchdowns for the year.

"They've got some good power up front and they've shown the ability to be able to run the ball well," Davis said. "The last three years, this has been a field goal game. I expect another tight game this week."

If it comes down to kicking, Bellaire's Dalton Conroy - with seven field goals - is certainly a weapon.