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Parkersburg’s defense on display in 32-7 win over George Washington

PARKERSBURG, W.Va. — Friday’s matchup at Stadium Field pitting a pair of Class AAA teams with 3-3 records was thought to likely be a high-scoring affair.

Class AAA No. 12 Parkersburg, which entered with three wins in its last four games and having scored 20-plus points in all six games, was welcoming a George Washington team guided by dual threat quarterback Grant Wells that had scored at least 21 points in all six of its contests.

But the Big Reds’ defense seemed to take the challenge personally and one week after Parkersburg outscored Wheeling Park for a thrilling 57-51 win, no late heroics were needed this time around. Instead, PHS started fast and finished even stronger, holding the No. 16 Patriots scoreless in the second half of a 32-7 win.

The victory puts Parkersburg (4-3) above .500 for the first time this season, while GW (3-4) suffered a disappointing defeat one week after a quality win over Hurricane.

“One person even said, ‘the first team to 50 wins,'” Parkersburg coach Mike Byus said. “I’m proud of the defensive coaching staff and their preparation to get ready to play this week. Our defensive coaches worked their tails off and our kids were ready to play. This was big for us to protect our home turf.” 

The Big Reds marched 62 yards in 11 plays on the game’s opening drive and took the early lead when quarterback Jake Johnson threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to a wide open Shane Miller. Isaac Withrow converted the point-after attempt to give PHS a 7-0 lead at the 9-minute mark of the opening quarter.

Johnson was intercepted by GW’s Brayden McCallister on the Big Reds’ second series, but they got the ball back on the very next play when Brenton Strange picked off Wells.

Still facing a 7-0 deficit, the Patriots moved into the red zone after Wells completed consecutive passes for 36 yards, then broke off back-to-back runs for an additional 30 yards. However, the Marshall commit was again intercepted by Strange and the recent Penn State commit returned it 100 yards for a TD, though it was called back on a holding penalty after the change of possession.

“We threw interceptions and we didn’t run good routes, but they played well. I don’t want to knock their play, but we certainly didn’t help ourselves,” GW coach Steve Edwards Jr. said. “We played probably as bad as we could play and still were in there for a little while. But the defense was on the field way too much and we’re not real strong defensively.” 

The teams traded punts before the Big Reds regained possession at their own 41-yard line 5:56 before halftime. Needing an offensive spark, Parkersburg found one in the form of tailback Tyler Moler when the senior raced 53 yards for a touchdown with 4:36 to play in the half, leaving his team with a 13-0 lead.

GW responded quickly with a five play, 65-yard drive to produce its only touchdown of the game on a 7-yard pass by Wells to Alex Mazelon, who somehow managed to get a foot inbounds on a leaping grab near the sideline. Michael Hughes made the PAT to pull the Patriots to within 13-7 at the 2:50 mark of the opening half.

A critical pass interference against GW negated an interception on the following series and Parkersburg capitalized with Moler’s 29-yard TD run 28 seconds before halftime that sent the Big Reds into the break with a 19-7 lead.

“They tackled us well in the first half. We just tried to be patient with the running game until we were able to pop a few runs,” Byus said. “We struggled a little bit in the passing game tonight, but we’ll get that ironed out and move forward.”

Neither team scored in the third quarter, but the Patriots squandered chances to draw closer before Wells was intercepted by Jacob Woodyard with 54 seconds to play in the period.

On the second play of the fourth quarter, Johnson threw a 37-yard TD pass to Strange, who also recorded a pair of sacks in the third quarter after coming up with two first half interceptions.

“He’s a heck of a player. People marvel about how well he plays offensively, but he’s one heck of a defensive player,” Byus said. “We use him in multiple ways, because he can play.”

Kionte Peacock picked off a Wells pass with 11:06 remaining to help set up Moler’s 80-yard TD run with 9:03 to play. Withrow made his second PAT to up the lead to 32-7 and Moler went on to add 25 more rushing yards to set the school’s single-game rushing record with 308 yards.

“What people don’t know about Tyler is he has a sports hernia and he’s playing on like a leg and a half all year,” Byus said. “This kid would have more yards than he does at this point if he could turn it on when he gets in the open field. He can’t hit fifth gear. When he breaks through the line, he’s finding where he can go to get as much as he can.

“He broke a couple tonight, but that’s not been the case all year. He’s a sprinter in track but he can’t turn it loose and go right now. But he’s still doing a heck of a job, because he sees the hole really well. He follows his blockers really well and then he explodes through the hole.”

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