NEW MARTINSVILLE - Oak Glen solidified its standing in the West Virginia Class AA playoff chase Friday night with a hard-fought 33-19 triumph against Magnolia on Senior Night at Alumni Field.
While it was the Blue Eagles' final home game of the season, the Golden Bears are upbeat about their chances of playing one more contest in two weeks when the playoffs begin.
''It's a great win for the kids,'' an ecstatic Oak Glen coach Tony Filberto said. ''It secures us in the playoffs and hopefully, if things go our way, we'll get a home game in the first round.
Oak Glen quarterback Lucas McDowell finds room to run against Magnolia on Friday night.
''It's just a great feeling for everyone involved.''
Victories at Alumni Field have been few and far between for the Golden Bears as of late, but behind stalwarts Lucas McDowell and Jeff Hissam, Oak Glen (9-1) left no doubt as who the top Class AA team in the Ohio Valley is.
McDowell was at his best, rushing for 201 yards and three touchdowns. Meanwhile, Hissam's 90-yard kickoff return in the fourth quarter was a game-clincher. It was his sixth kick return for a score this season.
''Big players show up in big games,'' Filberto said.
McDowell carried the ball 27 times. And each time he carried the ball, it usually took three or four players to bring him down.
''McDowell is one heck of a player,'' said Magnolia coach Mark Batton, who still stands at 99 career coaching victories.
''They made some bigger plays than we did and they definitely deserved to win.''
The Blue Eagles dropped to 4-5 on the season and saw any hope of being able to defend their Class AA state championship end. Magnolia finishes the season next week on the road at Grafton.
''They basically made more bigger plays than we did,'' he said. ''That pretty much sums it up.''
Oak Glen led 14-6 at halftime and got the ball first in the second half.
Hissam returned the opening kickoff about 60 yards to the Magnolia 35. And on the next play, McDowell squirted up the middle for a 35-yard touchdown.
Josh Weltner's extra-point failed and the score stood at 20-6.
Later in the quarter, Magnolia proceeded to put together its best drive of the night at just the right time.
The Blue Eagles marched 80 yards in 17 plays. Jayson Keller, who became the school's all-time leading rusher on his first carry of the night, scored from 3 yards out to cap the drive. And when Mark Jones' kick sailed through the upright, Big Blue trailed 20-13.
Highlights of the drive included a diving 13-yard catch by Stephen Rogalski, a 15-yard pass from Tanner Hanna to Nick Blatt and a 12-yard scramble by Hanna.
The Golden Bears came right back with a 68-yard drive of their own.
McDowell carried the ball on five of the drive's six plays, including the culminating jaunt, another 35-yard touchdown run. Weltner booted the extra point and the lead ballooned to 27-13.
''You find out a lot about a team when it faces adversity,'' Filberto said. ''We came right back and gathered ourselves and showed we are a composed team that can handle adversity.''
With just 6:31 remaining in the game, Magnolia quickly went to work.
Hanna found Rogalski for 13 yards on the first play of the drive. Two plays later on a third-and-12 from the Magnolia 43, Hanna scrambled for 13 yards and a first down.
Two plays later, Hanna found Rogalski again, this time for 34 yards to put the ball on the Bears' 11. Then, on the next play, Hanna connected with Keller for an 11-yard touchdown. Jones' extra-point attempt was blocked, leaving the score 27-19.
On the ensuing kickoff, Hissam picked up the ball at the 10 and, before anyone could blink, was on his way down the sideline for a 90-yard return that sealed the deal with 3:46 remaining.
''We had some special teams breakdowns and that's on me,'' Batton admitted. ''I'll take the responsibility for that.
''(Hissam) is strong and fast and he showed his strength right there. He made a tremendous play.''
Hanna finished with 197 yards passing, 98 of which went to Rogalski.