Already struggling with a 1-4 record, Linsly faces another challenge Saturday afternoon when powerful Bishop Ready invades Lockhart Alumni Field.
The Columbus-area Silver Knights (5-0) breezed through the first half of their 2012 season with an offensive and defensive juggernaut that outscored the opposition by a 252-63 margin, including last week's 72-20 pasting of Dawson-Bryant.
Coach B.J. Depew's Cadets, coming off a 17-3 loss at the hands of undefeated Shadyside, will be playing on their home field for the first time this fall. Previously, they hosted Magnolia in the McDonald's OVAC Kickoff Classic at Wheeling Island Stadium and played Parkersburg South on the turf at Bethany College.
File Photo by Alex Kozlowski
Linsly coach B.J. Depew talks to defensive standout Domenic Ellis (51) earlier this season.
''We're hanging in there," said Depew, hoping that the atmosphere of playing at home will boost his young squad.
It's been a rough beginning for the Cadets as they tackled one of the Ohio Valley's toughest schedules without 12 highly decorated seniors from last year's 10-0 perfect record team.
''We know we have been playing really good teams and we have been in every single game," Depew stressed. ''We are playing hard all four quarters and making our opponents play hard all four quarters.''
The combined record of the first six teams, including Saturday's visitors, is 23-7. The Cadets began the year with a 21-20 second-half comeback victory over Magnolia before falling to Class AAA Parkersburg South, Taylor Allderdice, Wheeling Central and the Tigers from Shadyside.
''Ready looks to be another quality team although they also are relatively young," Depew noted.
Just four starters rejoined the Silver Knights at the start of the current season.
Returning Bishop Ready quarterback Matt Yoho, at 6-4, 185 pounds, possesses both the height to easily find his receivers and a strong throwing arm. In the runaway victory against Dawson-Bryant, he was razor sharp while completing 10 of 12 attempts for 187 yards and four touchdowns. Three of his touchdown strikes were gathered in by backfield mate Alex Eblin, covering 30, 40 and 45 yards. Eblin also scored on a 4-yard carry while teammate Doug Strickler got loose for a 70-yard run on his way to collecting 203 yards and two touchdowns on just 12 rushing attempts.
The explosive Silver Knights backfield operates behind a couple big linemen, Luke Hackney (6-foot-2, 285 pounds) and Michael Pazz (6-2, 245).
One of Linsly's main concerns the past few weeks included the health of senior quarterback Jameson Murray and the up and down play of the defense. Murray went out with an injury in Week 2 and has yet to be cleared by the Cadets' medical staff. Depew explained that he wouldn't know until later in the week if Murray would be available to play against Bishop Ready.
''I thought Jibri Blount did a fine job Friday night for being a 10th grader playing against a very good team," Depew said.
Blount completed 9 of 17 attempts with one interception mainly on short throws that netted just 46 yards.
Defensively, Linsly appeared to have taken a couple of steps backward after having moved forward in the previous two games.
''We have been trying to get better by working on fundamentals like tackling and being physical," Depew explained. "We held Shadyside scoreless in the first half and that was an accomplishment against a team that has been able to jump on their opponents early games. But we did not play well in the second half. They definitely outplayed us and that was the difference in the game."
The Cadets' offense continues to click along nicely behind the strong and quick-moving legs of Chinelo Oparanozie. The stellar senior tailback, one of the few returning standouts from the perfect record squad of 2011, was handed the ball 28 times in the Shadyside contest and he responded by rushing for 153 yards. It boosted his season total to 778 yards on 116 rushing attempts.
Oparanozie's rushing yardage doesn't even begin to tell the story of his season as he continues to be the focal point of every defensive coordinator preparing a game plan for Linsly. Many coaches and fans of high school football have ranked the 5-8, 180-pound Chinelo at the top or right near the top of all the running backs in the Ohio Valley regardless of class.
''It hasn't been easy on him because everyone knows we are going to run the football and he is the one that's going to get it most of the time," Depew admitted.
Heading into the second half of the season, Linsly still has some goals in mind to accomplish.
''As a coaching staff we feel we are a good football team,'' Depew said. ''We approach every game with the thought that we can win it. We still believe we can turn things around and have a winning season.''