The balanced offense is back for George Washington, and so are victories against South Charleston.
Grant Wells threw for 267 yards and three touchdowns and Aidan Johnson ran for 154 yards and two touchdowns Thursday night, leading the Patriots to a 45-30 victory over their neighboring rivals at Steve Edwards Sr. Field in South Hills. The win ended a four-year losing streak in the series.
Wells, who completed 15 of 25 attempts without an interception, also added a 10-yard scoring run for the Patriots, who led 31-21 at halftime. Wells realized that GW needed to diversify its offense after it became almost totally dependent last season on his throwing.
“They did feed off each other,’’ Wells said of the run and pass mix. “If you don’t have a pass game, you don’t have a run game. Both worked tonight and helped us out a ton. We put up a bunch of points.’’
Wells found Alex Mazelon with TD tosses of 60 and 17 yards and hit Isaac Isabell with a 25-yard scoring pass. Mazelon finished with five catches for 129 yards.
“The kids are cooperating, trying to get better and working hard every week,’’ said GW coach Steve Edwards Jr. “They’ve gotten better in the scrimmages and got better this game. We hope to get better next week, but right now I’m just happy my seniors got a chance to get on the winning side of this [rivalry] for once.’’
Johnson also caught six passes for 45 yards for GW. His scoring runs came on plays of 57 and 7 yards, both in the first half.
For South Charleston, quarterback Shyleik Kinney completed 8 of 23 passes for 209 yards and all four of his team’s TDs, but was intercepted twice and sacked four times.
Samajhi Simon caught three of those scoring tosses on plays covering 41, 22 and 27 yards. The other TD connection went to Shaun Agard on a 29-yarder.
However, the Black Eagles kept giving away possessions, finishing with four turnovers. They also had 10 fumbles (losing two) and 10 penalties.
“You don’t win football games with four turnovers,’’ said SC coach Donnie Mays. “We have 30 points on the board and gave up 45, which is unacceptable. One penalty cost us a touchdown and we had some other plays we could have scored on but didn’t. We’re still growing and learning.’’
The flow of the game was entirely different than the two previous years, victories of 13-12 and 13-6 for SC.
Each side lost a key player in the game. GW linebacker-running back Dakota Cosby suffered a knee injury in the first quarter and SC defensive end-fullback Zeiqui Lawton had severe leg cramps in the third quarter. Neither returned to the game.
GW took a firm hold of the lead by halftime, in large part because SC failed to hold onto the ball. The Black Eagles fumbled the ball eight times and lost two of them, helping the Patriots take their 31-21 advantage at the break.
Wells threw a pair of touchdown passes, 60 yards to Mazelon and 25 yards to Isabell and Johnson ran for scores covering 57 and 7 yards. Michael Hughes also booted a 20-yard field goal.
For the Black Eagles, Kinney threw TD passes of 41 and 22 yards to Simon and 29 yards to Agard.
SC had another touchdown wiped off the board when Simon took a lateral on a kickoff return and carried it 83 yards for a score. However, he was cited for unsportsmanlike conduct for holding the ball over his head as he scooted down the sideline, and the ball was placed at the GW 30. SC eventually ran out of downs at the GW 33.
South Charleston was also flagged eight times for 60 yards in the first half, twice for delay of game before taking the first snap of a possession.
At halftime, Wells was 7 of 15 passing for 121 yards and Kinney was 4 of 9 for 125 yards.
Both teams made the West Virginia Class AAA playoffs last year despite having losing seasons. George Washington was 5-6, falling in the first round of the postseason to Spring Valley, and South Charleston was 4-7, losing to Huntington in a playoff opener.