Streaking Dragons, Riders meet

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 31, 2003

It has been said that it's not how you start but how you finish. If that's the case, it's going to be quite a finish between the Fairland Dragons and Martins Ferry Purple Riders.

Both teams come into Saturday's 7 p.m. Region 15 Division IV first round playoff game on a roll. Fairland (7-3) has won its last three games while Martins Ferry has bounced back from losing its first two games with an eight-game winning streak.

"We've found our identity the last few weeks," Martins Ferry head coach Dave Bruney said. "If you're playing at a playoff level, there's not much difference in teams. You can't beat yourself. We have to minimize our penalties and not turn the ball over. We've been able to do that lately and that's why we've been able to win a lot of close games."

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One of the reasons the Purple Riders have been able to win games is tailback Trevor Bruney with 1,500 yards rushing and 21 touchdowns. He ran 31 times for 125 yards last week in a 27-20 win over arch-rival Bellaire.

Anthony Reasbeck began the season as the quarterback, but an injury sidelined him in the second game. He returned last week but reinjured his knee. Ryan Church took over and threw for 114 yards against Bellaire. Dom Bopp had four catches for 111 yards and two scores.

"Bruney is a strong runner. He runs hard and cuts back well. Very seldom do you see one kid bring him down," Ward said.

"Their quarterback is athletic. He runs the option well and he can scramble if he gets outside of the pocket. We like (defensive end Donald Machine). We saw him put some good hits on three or four different players."

After tough losses to South Point (28-27) and Chesapeake (35-21), the Dragons finished the season strong by beating Coal Grove, Rock Hill and River Valley.

The winning streak has been fueled by the running of fullback C.J. Stewart who leads the team with 669 yards on 123 carries. Tailback Tyler Bowman had 453 yards rushing plus another 276 receiving on 26 receptions.

Chance Adkins has 252 yards on 44 carries. Sam Huff leads the team with 26 catches for 450 yards and two touchdowns. Tight end Adam Fuller has 10 grabs for 236 yards.

Fairland's biggest numbers have been put up by quarterback Michael Hill who has completed 73 of 154 passes for 1,172 yards and 10 touchdowns. He has thrown 14 interceptions.

"Their skilled kids jump out at you on film," coach Bruney said. "Their tailback is not real big, but he's a smart runner and they like to throw to him some.

"The fullback is impressive on both sides of the ball. (Guard Matt Dawson) is a nice player. The love to run behind him and he's a very good defensive player."

Ward said Fairland's offense could prove to be the best defense.

"We have to sustain some drives on the ground and keep Bruney off the field, and we need for Michael (Hill) to hit a few passes and we have to keep from turning the ball over," Ward said.

Martins Ferry was 10-0 last season in qualifying for the playoffs. Fairland is making only its second playoff appearance, the first coming 10 years ago. Still, coach Bruney said his team doesn't have an advantage with playoff experience.

"They have four or five kids who have been four-year starters That concerns us. We can't afford to give anyone good field position," coach Bruney said.

The Fairland-Martins Ferry winner advances to play the winner of Bellaire and Granville.