MOUNDSVILLE - After advancing to the West Virginia Class AAA state championship game in each of the past two seasons, Brooke High struggled out of the gate with a 1-4 record to begin the current campaign.
But after a three game winning streak, Coach Tom Bruney's club finds itself right back in the thick of the playoff chase heading into a Friday night meeting with winless John Marshall at Monarch Stadium.
To make matters even worse for interim coach Bob Triveri's team, the Monarchs have lost five consecutive times to the Bruins, by a combined 185-58 count, including a 69-13 setback a season ago.
The teams are coming off completely different outcomes last week as Brooke pounded Weir by a 63-7 margin while John Marshall fell to Morgantown by a 60-12 score.
''We are focusing on us now,'' Bruney said. ''There were just too many mistakes early on and we struggled. But we are doing what we have to do to get better and still have a chance to be playing in November.
''It is a tribute to these kids that they didn't quit on us. We just had a few things that we had to work on mentally. There were too many kids listening to the wrong people, and once we got everyone on the right page it really helped this team get better.''
Peaking at the right time is something the Bruins can hang their hat on, especially after the first half they had against the rival Red Riders last Friday.
In the opening half alone Brooke put up 514 yards on 15 plays, a remarkable average of 34 yards a play, with quarterback Alec Buckmelter throwing for 266 yards and four scores and running back Tim Faulkner rushing for 248 and four more touchdowns - all in the opening two quarters.
Faulkner also went past the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the season, sitting at 1,076 and 10 six-pointers.
''Brooke is always Brooke, th-at is what we have said for years he-re,'' Triveri said. ''Th-ey are a very well-coached football te-am that has been playing well and I hope we can generate enough excitement to come after them.''
On the other side of the coin, the Monarchs were in the game against the Mohigans early, trailing 21-12 in the second quarter after a pair of long scoring passes from Aaron Fonner to Jake Lucas.
Lucas, who has 617 receiving yards and five scores on the year, finished with 178 last week. Fonner comes in with just less than 1,000 passing yards - 992 - and has thrown six touchdowns and six interceptions.
However, Morgantown ended up scoring 34 points in the half and the final 39 points of the game. And while allowing 506 total yards of offense, John Marshall finished with 297, just 14 on the ground.
''They have a quarterback that has been their starter for several years and he scares me every time we line up against him,'' Bruney admitted. ''And they have plenty of size up front to protect him and let him throw the football.
''I know what their record is, but when he is on they are a tough team to beat.''
Triveri did not want to make excuses, but admitted his team had chances against Morgantown and have a brutal end-of-the-year slate.
''That score should have been 21-20 last Friday, but we dropped a big pass and overthrew another,'' Triveri said. ''After that they just got upset and came after us.
''But we are coming to the end of a murderer's row of teams. It has been that way for a long time on our schedule. When you play Park, University, Morgantown, Brooke and Parkersburg South in consecutive weeks, that is a heckuva schedule.''