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Cougars feast on Applemen, keep playoff hopes alive

September 29, 2007|By John O'Brien

INWOOD, W.Va. - Despite failing to complete a pass in eight attempts, Jefferson quarterback Brandon Hyler had a heck of a game Friday night.

Playing on defense for the first full game this season, the junior picked off three passes in addition to running for 86 yards and a touchdown in leading the Cougars to a 27-6 win over No. 6 Musselman at Waldeck Field.

"Whatever the coaches tell me to do, I try to do it," said Hyler, a junior who added that the 2-4 Cougars still have their sights set on a playoff berth.

He certainly did his part, opening the scoring with a 40-yard run just 2:28 into the game and anchoring a defense that allowed just 138 yards on the Applemen's 58 plays. Musselman (3-3) barely averaged 2 yards per rush (45 attempts for 92 yards) while turning it over on its first five pass plays.

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"Our defensive secondary has had quite a few interceptions this year," Jefferson coach Richard Mills said. "They've played fairly well. The rest of the defense has taken a little longer to come around, but they're almost there."

The Cougars feasted on quarterback Ethan French, as Hyler picked off a jump-ball thrown by French on Musselman's first possession. On an untimed down at the end of the first quarter, Dewey McDonald intercepted French at the Applemen 45-yard line and returned it for a touchdown, his first of three. The play gave Jefferson a 14-3 lead.

In the second, Britton Puller sacked French and forced and recovered a fumble on Musselman's 5-yard line, leading to McDonald's short touchdown run with 3:34 left to make it 20-3.

On Musselman's next possession, Hyler again intercepted French. On French's first throw of the second half, Hyler came down with another pick.

"He happened to be at the right place at the right time," Mills said. "He was playing more free (than the other defensive backs). We tried to man up underneath, but he was free to roam a little bit."

McDonald did his share of roaming, too, returning a Corey Smith punt 34 yards for a touchdown with 5:10 left in the third quarter.

Two minutes later, Brandon Michael hit French for 24 yards, Musselman's first completion. French was 0-of-7, and Michael went 2-of-6 for 46 yards.

Corey Smith hit field goals of 22 and 38 yards, and Andrew Clark rushed 18 times for 55 yards. Trailing 6-0 in the first, Musselman had a chance to take the lead after Casey Cochran returned a punt to the Cougars' 14-yard line. Instead, an illegal motion penalty stopped a fourth-and-goal play from the 1, and Musselman coach Denny Price decided to go ahead with the field goal.

McDonald ran 17 times for 93 yards, and Hyler's 86 came on nine carries. On Hyler's touchdown, he ran off tackle to the left and cut outside after making his way into the secondary.

The defense held Musselman to 51 yards on 26 plays in the first half.

"We were fantastic," Hyler said.

Mills knows that has to keep up if Jefferson wants to make the postseason.

"We need to win the rest of the way to have any real hope," Mills said. "Five-and-five will get you in every once in a while, but I'm not sure it will this year."

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