Blues Embrace ‘New Season’

Blues Embrace ‘New Season’

ABOVE, PM fullback Keaton Coleman runs by a Craig County defender as tight end Holden Kerr (84) holds off a Rocket. Coleman led the Blues with 171 rushing yards on 20 carries, and he ran for two TDs.

Blues Embrace ‘New Season’

BELOW LEFT, Fighting Blue quarterback Ty Ruley tries to get around a Craig defender as Coleman moves in to help.

Blues Embrace ‘New Season’

BELOW RIGHT, Ruley looks for a teammate to pass to as offensive lineman Brendon Conley (57) prepares to block for him. (Ronnie Coffey photos)

Blues Embrace ‘New Season’
PM Begins Pioneer Play With 40-0 Win Over Craig

The Parry McCluer High School football team picked up its first victory of the season Friday night by thrashing Craig County 40-0 in the Pioneer District opener in New Castle.

With the victory, the Fighting Blues (1-5 overall, 1-0 district) extended their win streak over Craig County (2-4, 0-1) to nine consecutive games.

The Blues allowed a total of 187 points and scored only six points through their first five games. On Friday, they finally put together a complete performance on both sides of the ball, and the scoreboard reflected their efforts.

“We are looking at the second half of the season as brand new,” said PM head coach Mark Wheeler. “As far as our record is concerned, we are 1-0 and not looking back!”

After struggling through a tough nondistrict schedule, Wheeler said he is proud of the way his team continued to battle.

“So many things can happen when the team is struggling,” Wheeler said. “Tension builds and I’ve seen teams crumble under the pressure. The one most satisfying quality of this team is that they will not quit. We keep working, clawing, scratching, and coming back for more.”

PM established the running game early in the contest and had their way with a struggling Craig defense. Keaton Coleman, Ethan Moore and John Snider all had big nights on the ground. Coleman led the way with an impressive 171 yards and two TDs on 20 carries. PM finished the game with a total of 393 rushing yards, while Craig had just 17 rushing yards.

“The backs were hitting the holes with some authority,” Wheeler said. “All of those guys played their butts off, but it is really a testament to our offensive line. We won the battle in the trenches.”

After scoring the Blues’ first points of the season last week, Moore picked up where he left off and capped the Blues’ first scoring drive with a 2-yard TD run early in the first quarter. Moore then extended the Blues lead to 13-0 before halftime with a 12-yard TD run down the sideline.

Just before halftime, the Blues’ defense delivered a big hit and tensions flared on both sides. A small fight looked like it might break out after some pushing and shoving, but the referees diffused the situation quickly.

PM never looked back in the second half, and Coleman helped the Blues blow the game open with two TD runs. His first TD came on a goal-to-go plunge 1-yard off the left side that put PM ahead 21-0 after a successful 2-point conversion in the third quarter. In the fourth quarter, Coleman put his speed on display for a 55-yard TD bolt up the middle that split the Rockets’ secondary and put PM ahead 27-0 after a failed PAT.

The Blues’ faithful had reason to be concerned when Moore went down with an injury in the third quarter. Fortunately, Moore walked off the field under his own power. Wheeler said Moore’s status for next week is undetermined. He finished the contest with 102 yards and two TDs on 10 carries before exiting.

Freshman John Snider heard his name called at running back frequently after Moore went down. Snider made the most of his opportunities and finished the game with 74 yards and two TDs on 11 carries. Snider also served as the Blues’ kicker for the night, as Jacob Wooten was still out with an injury.

Snider scored his first touchdown of the season on a handoff from quarterback Ty Ruley up the middle that made the score 34-0 after a successful PAT early in the fourth quarter. After the Blues forced a turnover on downs, Snider capped another solid drive that featured several nice runs plays by Jeremiah Fulwider, who had 23 yards on 3 carries.

The Blues’ lethal rushing attack made Ruley’s job much easier. He finished the game with 36 yards on 1-of-5 passes and enjoyed solid protection from his offensive line.

The Rockets, with quarterback Dakota Henderson, launched a pass heavy offense to counter the Blues’ run game. Henderson threw for over 300 yards in the Rockets’ win over Montcalm earlier this season, but the Blues’ defense kept him in check on Friday night, holding him to 100 passing yards.

The PM pass rush, led by Holden Kerr, Brendon Conley, Zavery Wallace and Forrest Vassar, stepped up to make key tackles that prevented the Rockets from ever threatening to score.

In the fourth quarter, Nick Reid nearly secured the Blues’ first interception of the season on a lob pass from Henderson, but the pass fell just out of Reid’s reach.

All season, turnovers and penalties have hurt the Blues’ offense. Against Craig, the Blues were not flagged for any penalties and committed zero turnovers after committing three in a 52-6 loss against Roanoke Catholic last week.

“It’s always a coach’s greatest joy to see their team persevere and keep getting better,” Wheeler said.

Wheeler credits the Blues’ lack of mistakes to an increased focus on fundamentals. “We have been working tirelessly on the fundamentals on both sides of the ball,” Wheeler said. “When teams are young and don’t have a lot of experience, fundamentals are vital. We are starting to see the payoff for hard work in practice.”

Looking ahead, the Blues will face only Pioneer District opponents for the remainder of the regular season. This Friday, they will play host to Covington (0-1, 2-4) for their homecoming game at 7 p.m. in Buena Vista.

Covington is coming off a 42-14 loss against Narrows, but Wheeler says he expects the Cougars to come ready to play.

“Covington has a very good team, and we are going to have to work extra hard this week to continue to improve our offensive execution and prepare to stop their powerful run game,” Wheeler said.

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