BARNESVILLE -- Like night and day.
Last year, Barnesville High never quite came together and the result was a disappointing 1-9 season.
So far in 2009, however, the team has developed into a very cohesive unit and it's been evident on the football field through five games, including Friday night's 26-7 victory over previously-unbeaten Shenandoah.
Barnesville (3-1) combined a three-pronged running attack with a staunch defense that limited Shenandoah (3-1) to just 78 total yards, including a net of minus-four on the ground, to gain the key midseason victory.
"Our offense is very well-schooled and they are comfortable with what they're doing," offered Barnesville coach Luke Johnson. "D.J. (offensive coordinator D.J. Butler) is doing an outstanding job and everybody is on the same page.
"The team concept continues to grow," Johnson. "The kids are also being more physical as they get more comfortable. Our seniors continue to be great leaders, but our young guys are really stepping up to the plate."
Barnesville cracked the scoreboard late in the first quarter with an 11-play, 75-yard drive that featured three pass completions by senior QB Dalton Smith and an 18-yard run by senior tailback A.J. Ritterbeck.
Sophomore back Jesse Stoudt got the six-pointer on a two-yard burst, with junior Tyler Kurtz adding the PAT kick for a 7-0 Shamrock lead with 1:37 remaining in the first quarter.
A fumble recovery at the Shenandoah 38-yard line by senior Gage Hanlon setup Barnesville's second TD.
It took just four plays for BHS to reach paydirt, with the score coming on a 21-yard connection from Smith to senior Jourden Yager. The point-after caromed off the upright, but the 'Rocks were on top, 13-0, with 4:09 left in the first half.
Another Shenandoah miscue led to Barnesville's next tally, with sophomore Tyler Fitzpatrick blocking a punt to give the hosts possession at the Zeps' 47.
Hanlon carried on six of the eight plays from there, including the final yard on a third-and-one sweep around the left side. Again, the PAT missed the mark, but Barnesville's lead was 19-0 with 1:45 remaining in round three.
Shenandoah's lone bright spot occurred seconds later when senior speedster Cody Farmer took the ensuing kickoff and raced 85 yards for a TD. Senior Wes Rataiczak, who played under the weather with pneumonia-like symptoms, kicked the point-after to pare the gap to 19-7 with 1:31 showing in the third quarter.
Barnesville drove to the Shenandoah one on its next series only to have a fourth down sneak stuffed, but an interception and eight-yard return to paydirt by sophomore Zack Dornon seconds later pretty much sealed the outcome. Kurtz added the PAT kick for the final point of the night with 7:37 left and a second "pick" by Dornon four minutes later finished it off.
The Shamrocks closed with 346 total yards, including 251 rushing and 95 passing. Ritterbeck collected 93 yards on 17 attempts; Stoudt had 77 yards on 11 carries and Hanlon posted 76 yards on 12 rushes. Smith completed 8-of-15 passes.
The duo of Rataiczak and sophomore Derek Leasure combined for a 12-of-23 passing effort good for 82 yards, but nothing materialized on the ground.
Shenandoah coach Tim Wilson was quick to credit the Shamrocks for being the better team on this night.
"They're very physical," he stated. "We've been able to dominate the line of scrimmage, but they were very solid up front tonight. It's tough to defend when you've got more than one guy making plays and they had that tonight.
They've got some fast kids and they were a step faster than us and everybody knows speed kills."
Wilson was still upbeat about his team's position at mid-season.
"We're not giving up," he said. "That's just one loss and we're still 4-1 with a lot of positives."