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Applemen withstand Hawks' early surge

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By Ben Gibson - Special to the Daily

BUNKER HILL, W.Va. -- The Musselman Applemen will have plenty of highlights to show on their new video screen as they cruised to 30-14 victory over the Skyline Hawks on Friday night.

Speedy running back Josh Ferguson provided the fireworks in the first half with a rushing touchdown and a 60-yard punt return, while quarterback Caleb Dembeck connected with his receivers for two passing touchdowns.

"I just thought it was big to come out of the blocks with a big win," Musselman coach Denny Price said, "We're inexperienced at a lot of positions, and we're going to get better and better."

Musselman's offense took advantage of short field position as the defense and special teams punished the Hawks.

The Applemen's offense took over after a Hawks punt, but Dembeck fumbled as he was sacked by defensive lineman Nick Helmick. Helmick also picked up the fumble.

After the turnover, the Hawks struggled to run the ball, but a toss from quarterback Aaron Jeremiah to a diving Helmick gave Skyline an early 7-0 lead on the 31-yard passing play with 6:46 left in the first.

After a Musselman punt, Skyline began its drive in the shadow of the Hawks' own goal post and fooled the Applemen with a quarterback draw as Musselman tackled a running back while Jeremiah scampered down the field untouched.

The Hawks' only problem was the referees were fooled, too, and the play was blown dead, much to the ire of the Skyline team.

"We can't use that as an excuse, it was unfortunate for our kids," Skyline coach Heath Gilbert said. "You just have to keep playing."

The Hawks were forced to punt to Ferguson, who quickly made his way through the arms of tacklers and into the end zone to tie the game at 7-7 after a Jordan Butler extra-point kick.

Ferguson again showed his speed with 6:43 left in the second quarter after a long Musselman drive paid off with him making his way into the end zone on a sweep to the left.

Butler's extra point attempt was blocked by the Hawks to leave Musselman on top 13-7 in the waning minutes of the second quarter. The Applemen added a Butler field goal to lead 16-7 at the half.

After a series of unsuccessful drives by both teams, Musselman got some breathing room when Dembeck connected with wide receiver Darrin Zombro on a 20 -yard touchdown pass to open the fourth quarter and put the Applemen up 23-7.

Musselman tacked on another touchdown through the air on a one-play drive when Dembeck hit running back Maverick Keller on a 66-yard scoring strike to put the Applemen up 30-7.

Price was pleased to see his young quarterback complete 9 of 18 passes for 105 yards and two touchdowns.

"He's young and has a lot of potential," Price said. "He made some mistakes tonight, but when he did, he didn't let it get him down."

The Hawks cut into the Applemen lead with a 37-yard touchdown pass from Jeremiah to wide receiver Marcus Turner, but Skyline was unable to draw any closer.

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