WHEELING - It may have been billed as a battle between two very good teams with outstanding records, but in the end Saturday's matchup between Linsly and Brashear was just another day at the office for the powerful Cadets.
Again Coach B.J. Depew's squad did it on both sides of the ball early to put things out of reach before the half.
Senior Alex Stephens threw a pair of first-half touchdowns and junior Chinelo Oparanozie finished with 147 rushing yards on eight eight, including a pair of long scoring runs, as Linsly took care of business with a convincing 33-8 victory against the Bulls to help celebrate Homecoming/Reunion Weekend festivities at muddy Lockhart Alumni Field.
Linsly’s Ricky Jordan lays a hit on a Brashear player during the Cadets’ victory
Saturday at Lockhart Alumni Field.
Not to be outdone, the Cadets defense limited a good Brashear offense that had been averaging more than 28 points a game to 16 total yards and two first downs.
With the victory, Linsly (9-0) sets up a colossal battle with city rival, and fellow unbeaten Wheeling Central at 7 on Friday night at Wheeling Island Stadium. While the Cadets are ineligible to play in the West Virginia state playoffs, it could arguably be a battle between the Mountain State's top two small-school squads.
''It's our 10th game and they are next,'' DePew said with a smile in talking about the Wheeling Central game. ''We are not going to approach this game any differently than we have the other nine. We are going to stick with what got us here so far and try and go out and win one more game.''
The Cadets got the scoring parade going early after recovering a fumble deep in Brashear (6-2) territory. A pair of runs from junior Oparanozie and three straight from senior Mark Dodd were enough to do the damage.
Dodd's 1-yard burst finishing things off at 8:10, however, Rainer Whiteside's PAT was off to the left leaving the count at 6-0.
Another turnover, this time an Anthony Thompson interception at the Bulls 42, led directly to another Linsly touchdown. On first down Stephens went deep and hooked up with Ricky Jordan for 33 yards to the 9.
Following a delay of game penalty, Stephens hit Gabe Hill with a 14-yard scoring strike to the left side with 5:42 showing. Whiteside connected on the PAT for a 13-0 score.
The Cadets' third touchdown came on quick, 84-yard drive that was capped off when Oparanozie busted to the right, cut back to the middle and out-raced the defense 64 yards to the end zone as the margin had ballooned to 20-0.
Linsly tacked on another score midway through the second quarter, finishing off a six-play, 47-yard march on a 29-yard scoring strike from Alex Stephens to his brother, Chris. A bad snap prevented the point-after attempt and the Cadets took a 26-0 upperhand to the lockerroom.
With Alex Stephens throwing for 124 yards and Oparanozie added 86 on the ground, the Cadets held a whopping 243-29 yardage advantage at the half.
Also at the half, Shadyside resident Breanne Schau picked the white rose to become Linsly's 2011 Homecoming Queen.
Oparanozie's second long scoring upped the tally to 33-0 in the third. The bruiser raced to the outside, leaped over a defender near the 20 and raced into the end zone for a 47-yarder.
Brashear finally dented the scoreboard with a little less than 11 minutes to play when Deshaun Roberts ripped the ball from a Linsly runner and traveled 54 yards for the score. The 2-point try was good and it was 33-8.
''We made some changes in the defense this week and all the credit goes to the kids for learning what was new and going out and getting it done,'' DePew said. ''Coach (James) Cowart came up with an outstanding game plan and everything clicked.
''I think getting those early turnovers were a big key also. With these kind of field conditions those things can go either way, and luckily they went in our favor. It just shows a lot of hustle on our part to make that happen.
''Offensively we had to call plays based on where we were on the field and what the conditions were for footing and snapping the ball. We went out of a lot of shotgun formations due to the mud, but the running game was really going.
''I also can't say enough about the job the offensive line did. The line had a great push and there were times our fullback picked up 3 or 4 yards before he was even being touched by a defender.''
Linsly finished with 382 total yards of offense with Alex Stephens throwing for 126 yards and two scores. Thompson recorded three interceptions on the day after pilfering a pair of passes last week.