NEW MARTINSVILLE - Steve Daley sees Friday's tough road trip to Magnolia as a chance for his Catholic Central football team to make a statement.
After watching the film of last week's heart-breaking 21-20 loss to Madonna, Daley told his Crusaders "your character as a team will be exemplified by what you do this week."
"You see other teams go through a tough loss and they don't bounce back," Daley explained. "We want our kids to try and make a statement by this next game. We want them to show the type of team they are and the type of athletes and kids they are. We want to put forth our best effort this week."
Central and Magnolia will be meeting for the third time. The first two games, both won by the Crusaders, were played in the 1940s. Daley's gridders are 6-3 (the three defeats coming by a total of six points. Mark Batton's Blue Eagles dropped their opener to Linsly (21-20) before reeling off seven straight wins.
Both teams are in the hunt for the post season. Central stands eighth in Region 21 of Ohio's Division VI. Magnolia is among the leaders in West Virginia's Class A ranks.
"They're a very good football team," Daley noted. "From what we've seen on film and in person, they're solid, very solid. They're good up front offensively and their running backs are quick and run hard.
"Then (Stephen) Rogalski is a super athlete who can flat out fly. They give you a lot of looks formation wise that you have to worry about. Defensively we have to get lined up correctly against their various looks and that just compounds the situation."
Rogalski, a 5-11, 170 pound senior, plays the slot-flanker position in Batton's offense. Senior Tanner Hanna (6-1, 165) directs the Magnolia attack. In last week's rout of Barnesville, he threw for a touchdown and ran for another.
Kage Rohde, a junior who stands 5-9 and goes 180, mans the tailback spot. Against the Shamrocks, he exploded for 109 yards on just seven carries and scored four times. He also caught a Hanna aerial for another six-pointer.
Junior Drew Keller (5-10, 185) is a threat from his fullback position. He had 15 totes for 86 yards and a touchdown last week.
Senior Ryan Walton (6-0, 180) and freshman Kyle Ritz (6-0, 190) man the wide receiver spots for the Blue Eagles, who are in the Class A ranks for the first time after spending decades as a Class AA squad.
"Defensively, we have to get aligned right against all their formations," Daley said. "Once we align right and recognize the formations, we have to make plays. That kind of bit us a few times against Madonna. We had players in position but we didn't make plays. That's something we have to focus on-getting the stops we need."
Through nine games, the Central defense is allowing 266 yards an outing and 17 points. The offense averages 355 stripes and 40.8 points.
Junior quarterback Brenton Colabella has thrown for 2,102 yards and 25 touchdowns. Both totals lead gridders in The Herald Star/Daily Times coverage area. Senior Zack Herrington tops area receivers in catches (37), yardage (660) and touchdowns (10). Kyle Laukert has 29 grabs for 544 stripes.
''We saw Colabella last year and I was really impressed with him," Magnola coach Mark Batton said.''You can tell that he put the time in during the offseason to get better. ''You have to get there with two or three people if you want to tackle Maslowski. He's an exceptional athlete."
Doug Maslowski has 808 yards to lead the Crusaders. He has found the end zone 14 times.
Friday's battle in New Martinsville will mark the final regular season contest for nine Central seniors. Daley was quick to point out the 12th graders have "led by example and worked hard during the off season through camp and doubles."
"They did everything the staff asked and really set the tone and tempo for the season," he added. "They are the type of kids our younger guys can look at and say 'this is how we want to be when we are seniors.' We've had great leadership out of this group. Plus, they are a tight group and really have blended well with the other kids."