WELLSBURG - When Sean Blumette took the job at Brooke, the one thing he figured he'd be able to count on was having a veteran duo at quarterback and running back in seniors Alec Buchmelter and Raleigh Mason.
It lasted three plays before Mason was injured in the opener against Parkersburg.
Mason, described as a workout freak like few others by his coach, returned last week against Weir and rushed 11 times for 101 yards and a score.
But Buchmelter wasn't with him. The QB had re-injured a hamstring and was ruled out against the Red Riders, with Aaron Walker filling in and completing 6 of 7 passes for 59 yards and a touchdown.
''We are really looking forward to having our offense back at full strength for the first time all year,'' Blumette said.
John Marshall coach Rick Goodrich is not.
''They're better than their record indicates,'' Goodrich said of the Bruins. ''Their schedule is pretty formidable. They're not your typical 2-6 football team. And Mason's back. He's just solid. Who knows what their record would be if he was at full strength?''
That's the big news as Brooke prepares to play host to a John Marshall team that similarly has two victories, something almost unheard of in this rivalry this late in a season.
''We're playing for pride and a little bit of respect,'' Blumette said. ''We've got to be ready to take their best shot.''
On paper, Brooke and John Marshall are similar. They both have first-year coaches implementing their new systems and things haven't gone as planned at either place.
Still, neither team has players that are the type to give up.
''Our kids fight,'' Goodrich said. ''They're fighters. Sometimes we're outmanned. There's nothing you can do about it. They'd like to have a better record, who wouldn't? But they see a lot of the small accomplishments we're making that maybe outsiders can't see.''
Looking at the short term, Goodrich looks at the new-look, or the original-look, Bruins backfield and sees some issues in defending it.
''It makes you prepare for the run and the pass,'' Goodrich said. ''You have to be balanced on defense. They provide a lot of threats you need to prepare for. In Morgantown and teams like University, you knew you had to stop the run. These guys, you're not sure what they're going to do. They do both efficiently.''
Buchmelter is 76 of 159 for 971 yards, nine touchdowns and nine interceptions on the season. In Mason's stead, freshman Justin Loughrie remains the team's leading rusher at 88 carries for 413 yards and five scores.
Hunter Wallace is Brooke's leading top receiver with 25 catches for 289 yards and three scores. Heath Hildreth has 16 catches for 207 yards and two touchdowns, followed by Thomas Cole (15 catches 167 yards, three TD).
As a team, the Bruins have completed 87 of 165 passes for 1,146 and 11 touchdowns, while the opponents are 69 of 104 for 1,170 and 15 scores.
They've run it 297 times for 1,193 yards and 11 scores, while their foes have 290 carries for 1,568 yards and 15 scores.
''They are hard-nosed, fundamentally sound kids,'' Blumette said of the Monarchs. ''They're going to be physical, they're going to be big, and they're going to want to run the ball. (Goodrich) makes no secret about it. With a team that runs as much as they do, play-action can be deadly for them.''