— By Joe Smith
KINGWOOD, W.Va — Hedgesville coach Joseph Yurish knows his offense is good. Sometimes, he wishes his defense got a little more credit as well.
The explosive Eagles offense was on display again Thursday during a 72-0 victory against Preston, at the Buckwheat Bowl, but the defense was the real star of the show.
The Knights (1-5) tallied minus-18 yards and failed to find the end zone.
“They thumped us. That’s a good way to put it,” Preston coach Jonathan Tennant said. “They were more aggressive than we were. We have to learn to match that aggression.”
The shutout was the first of the season for the Eagles defense, who entered the contest giving up an average of 15.8 points per game.
“I think our defense took a chip on their shoulder because everyone talks about how good our offense is,” he said. “Our defense has been playing great all year, and today they were finally able to put a big game together.”
The Knights struggled to move the ball from opening kickoff to the final whistle. Despite dominating time of possession by well over ten minutes, they completed just one pass, gained less than three yards on 30 of 39 carries, and crossed into Hedgesville territory on only four of 15 drives – including two that started there.
“I feel comfortable with our defense. We spend a lot of time in film making sure everyone fulfills their role,” said Eagles quarterback and defensive back Owie Ash. “They did really good today.”
Tennant said his team was outplayed and overwhelmed by a much larger Hedgesville squad.
“They’re kids are a lot bigger, a lot stronger, and a lot more athletic than ours,” Tennant said. “They hit a lot harder, which makes a big difference at the line of scrimmage.”
The Knights also struggled with turnovers, tossing four interceptions, losing a fumble, and turning the ball over on downs three times. Combined, those eight botched series’ resulted in four touchdowns and a field goal for the Eagles.
The Hedgesville offense didn’t appear to need the extra help, though, as the Eagles tallied 486 total yards of offense behind a 223-yard, four-touchdown performance from Ash. The Eagles nabbed seven first downs and scored on 10 of their 15 drives.
“We have playmakers outside, a pretty good young quarterback, and our offensive line is stupendous – I love our offensive line this year,” Yurish said. “We started out a little slow, but we were able to get done what we needed to do today.”
The one blemish on the near-perfect performance was penalties, as the Eagles recorded 185 yards on 15 penalties, with numerous blatant blocks in the back and personal fouls that often sent Knights’ players off the field with injuries.
“I think its aggression. A lot of it comes from guys wanting to make a play and they don’t understand its not the right time to do it and how to approach it,” he said.
The Knights will look to rebound with a bye week, during which 11 new players will join the program after completing their 14th practice.
“Probably three or four of them are going to be immediate starters,” Tennant said. “I think practices are going to be a lot more competitive. The kids that are playing now, they’re going to have to earn their spot if they want to keep it. These kids that just joined are hungry, and we’re going to give them an opportunity.”