Aug. 26—FAIRMONT — Under a spotlight on Thursday night, the North Marion Huskies showed off some new pieces to the fans gathered at East-West Stadium, and stamped their mark on their week one matchup against the East Fairmont Bees, taking home a 40-19 victory.
The Huskies excelled in all areas Thursday, throwing three touchdown passes and racking up 210 yards on the ground. Defensively, North's front seven turned in a strong performance, with multiple tackles for loss and QB hits throughout the night.
North Marion's offensive line, though dealing with a couple injuries, still got plenty of push up front all game, and gave North runners room to work with from the very first drive.
The Huskies' first five plays of the game were runs, setting the tone for a big day on the ground. North converted a 4th and one on the drive, the first of three fourth-down conversions the Huskies pulled off.
Senior running back Gavan Lemley punched in a one-yard touchdown rush to put North on the board first, 6-0, capping off a meticulous four-and-a-half minute drive. Quarterback Casey Minor, in his first game as the starter for the Huskies, ripped off a 30-yard run down the sideline to set up Lemley's rush at the one.
Minor ended with 107 rushing yards, a rushing touchdown, 131 passing yards and three passing touchdowns.
"I felt good, it's new but I feel right for the spot and I'm ready to go next week," Minor said. "I was more comfortable than I thought I would be."
North did narrowly avoid a turnover on the drive after fumbling — the Huskies had two fumbles Thursday, something that was a slight blemish on an otherwise spotless day for the Huskies.
North got big plays on the ground from Lemley (48 yards, one touchdown), Minor and Parker Kincell, who got involved on a steady supply of end-around sweeps to end with 43 rushing yards.
Through the air, Landon Frey got off to a hot start to his junior campaign, snagging no less than three touchdown passes, including a 72-yard score in the second quarter where Frey came wide open on a go route, made a leaping catch 20 yards downfield, and outran the defense the rest of the way.
Frey also made a 16-yard touchdown catch along the boundary with 30 seconds left in the second quarter, and a 2-yard touchdown catch in the corner of the end zone in the third quarter.
Frey finished with 105 yards on four catches total.
"Everything was great, Casey did a great job of finding me when I was open, the line did really well, gave him enough time and we killed it," Frey said.
"I know we're primarily a run team this year, but we did really well getting me the ball and my overall expectations for the year, I knew [Minor] was going to get me the ball."
Some sloppy early-season play came from both sides Thursday, as East had three fumbles of their own. North scored on two of the fumbles — capitalizing on turnovers helped widen the gap between the two teams.
Harley Sickles forced two fumbles Thursday, and Minor recovered one, playing both ways in the game. Two of East's best scoring opportunities were cut short by fumbles, including a play from North's 20-yard line.
"[Turnovers] were huge," East Fairmont head coach Shane Eakle said. "We talked to our guys about keeping control of the ball, high and tight, make sure we possess the ball. Give North a lot of credit, they ripped the ball out at opportunistic times, we had two drives that got killed and then they made plays off of that. That's a game changer, couple of touchdowns early, and we're down 19-3. That definitely impacted the ballgame early."
Gavan Lemley and Landon Boone also came away with sacks Thursday. North's tenacious defense limited East, though junior quarterback Ian Crookshanks still finished with 106 passing yards and a touchdown, helped by a late fourth-quarter 38-yard touchdown to Hoyt Michael.
Leading 25-3 at halftime, North subbed in second-teamers by the end of the third quarter.
In the fourth, East running back Dom Fantasia ripped off a 32-yard touchdown run, the Huskies ate a safety after a high snap in their own territory, and Crookshanks connected with Culp for the long score.
Previous to the fourth, East's only points came from Connor Tingler, who sunk a 35-yard field goal with 4:05 to go in the second that chipped into North's lead at the time, 19-3.
For North, Landon Cowger ripped off a 51-yard reception in the fourth quarter from Quinton Herbert.
The Huskies next play Preston on the road. The Bees next hit the road to face Grafton.
Reach Nick Henthorn at 304-367-2548, on Twitter @nfhenthorn_135 or by email at email@example.com.