JM, Brooke to clash in key AAA battle tonight
Bruins ranked 11th, Monarchs sit at 15th in Class AAA standings
MOUNDSVILLE — John Marshall coach Justin Kropka and Brooke coach Mac McLean go way back and have always faced off in big games.
That trend continues tonight as the 4-1 Brooke Bruins trek to JM (4-2) for a Thursday night battle under the lights with plenty of postseason points on the line.
As it stands now, Brooke is ranked 11th in West Virginia Class AAA, while JM is sitting at 15th.
The top 16 clubs make the playoffs.
“It’s definitely going to be a really good one,” Kropka said of the game. “Coach McLean and I have gone against each other a million times. Our dads worked on the same mill on the same crew together for 40 years and I’m close to his brother (St. Clairsville coach) Brett McLean and the family. I know what kind of coach Mac is and I have all kinds of respect for him. I’ve never played a McLean with a big game not on the line.”
That respect is certainly mutual.
“I’ve known him for a long time,” McLean said of Kropka. “We joke around but I have all the respect in the world for him and he is doing a good job at JM.”
Both JM and Brooke provide many similarities, starting with their talented youth all over the field.
“I think maybe because we came up in the Buckeye 8 but this will be an easy week for our scout team because we run a lot of the same stuff out of a lot of the same formations,” McLean said. “Our two teams are about as evenly matched as anybody playing this weekend. It’s just two teams on the same trajectory with a ton of postseason points on the line. The winner coming out of this game will be in a good position.”
One upper hand that may go to John Marshall is it is coming off a bye week, while the Bruins are playing on short rest due to it being played on a Thursday.
“That’s definitely an advantage,” Kropka said. “We had the opportunity to see Brooke play Friday (a 21-14 win over Oak Glen). That helps you in preparation to work on them and yourself. I never had that opportunity when I was in Ohio because we didn’t get bye weeks. It was a nice break to get healthy. The first week we worked on ourselves and this week we are focused on Brooke.”
In his preparation for Brooke, Kropka has noticed how each week, the Bruins have gotten better and better.
“They are really playing well,” Kropka said. “You can actually watch those kids improve week-to-week on film. This game will come down to taking care of the ball, not making mistakes and not getting called for stupid penalties. Those three things will determine who wins the game.”
McLean sees it coming down to one or two plays late in the game, which could lead to some fourth quarter fireworks.
“It’s going to be decided on basically who can put a key drive together or who steps in front of a pass,” McLean said.
Leading the Bruins is sophomore quarterback Braelyn Sperringer, who is having a breakout first season as Brooke’s primary signal caller with 456 passing yards, five touchdowns, no interceptions and a completion percentage of 58.5 percent. With his feet, he’s found the endzone even more frequently, compiling nine TDs and 378 yards on the ground.
Jace Campinelli has racked up 406 yards and four scores on the ground for Brooke.
The Bruins average 25.4 points and 281.4 yards, while the Monarchs allow an average of 22.8 points.
On defense, Brooke allows 21.4 points and 242.6 yards, while John Marshall’s offense is scoring an average of 29.3 points.