WAYNE — The mud might get the blame, but Wayne’s defense deserved the credit.
The top-ranked Pioneers football team (12-0) ran their winning streak to 35 games Friday night in a dominating 48-7 Class AA playoff quarterfinal victory over Sissionville at swampy Pioneer Field. The victory sends Wayne to the semifinals next week against Robert C. Byrd (9-3), which defeated Ritchie County, 36-6, Friday night.
Wayne’s defense held a team that had two 100-yard rushers a week ago to 79 total yards. The Indians (10-2) rushed for just 58 yards on 41 carries. Sissonville completed just 4 of 16 passes for 21 yards and was intercepted three times.
“Our defense,” I can’t say enough about how they prepared,” Wayne Coach Tom Harmon said. “If you play the way they did, you’ll be in every game.”
The Pioneers dropped Sissonville for 14 negative yardage plays, left running backs Dominic Walker and Jared Wilkinson no room to run and harassed quarterback Nathan Miller all evening. Sissonville picked up two first downs in the first five minutes of the game, but didn’t get its third until a Wayne penalty with 6:42 left in the game.
The victory was the second this season for the Pioneers over the Indians. Wayne won 58-19 in September. Just as in the first meeting, the second quarter was Sissonville’s undoing. Wayne out scored the Indians 14-0, running 24 plays to Sissonville’s eight.
Steven Perry scored both of Wayne’s touchdowns in the first half, capping a 13-play, 86-yard drive with a 1-yard plunge 7:56 before halftime. Mason Hodge ran for a two-point conversion to make it 8-0.
The physical Pioneers pushed the Indians around on the muddy field and established their dominant running game, covering all 86 yards on the ground.
Wayne made it 14-0 on Perry’s 4-yard run to finish an 8-play, 53-yard drive.
The Pioneers had a chance to essentially put the game away after Tucker Watts intercepted a Nathan Miller pass at the Sissonville 45 with 2:49 left in the half, but six plays later Nate Adkins’ only pass of the half was picked off at the Indians’ 7.
Wayne out gained Sissonville 162-24 in the first half.
The Indians had their chances, recovering fumbles at the Pioneers’ 34 and 24, but couldn’t convert against a stout Wayne defense that stuffed the run and sacked Miller twice.
Perry’s third touchdown, a 7-yard run at 7:24 of the third quarter, finished a 10-play 77-yard drive to begin the second half and deflate the Indians.
Cody Stiltner scored on a 1-yard run with 3:07 left in the third quarter. Brody Lunsford added a pair of fourth quarter touchdowns and Logan Queen finished the scoring on a 47-yard sprint with 4:13 to play.
Sissonville’s lone score came on a miscue when Walker fumbled from the 1, but the Indians recovered in the end zone with 4:24 left in the contest.
Mason Hodge led Wayne’s 397-yard rushing attack, accounting for 126 yards on 19 carries. All of Wayne’s yards came on the ground.
“When your options are limited on offense (because of the weather), you do what you need to do,” Harmon said. “It’s not a glamorous way to move the football, but it worked.”
Nicholas County 14
BLUEFIELD — D.J. Stewart rushed for 156 yards and three touchdowns and the Bluefield Beavers held off a tough Nicholas County Grizzlies team 26-14 in the rain at Mitchell Stadium in a West Virginia Class AA quarterfinal contest Friday night.
With the win Bluefield advances to meet either No. 2 Bridgeport or No. 7 Fairmont Senior in next week’s state semifinals.
“They (Nicholas County) are good defensively. They’ve got some big guys,” said BHS head coach Fred Simon. “They did a nice job of stuffing us, we didn’t move them off the ball, but again we made plays when we had to. Frankie (Desiderio) came through for us with some clutch field goals and helped us get through.”
Stewart led all rushers with 156 yards on eight carries. R.J. Bourne was 5-of-8 passing for the Beavers.
Wil Mayes carried 27 times for Nicholas County and gained 69 yards. Tyler Sagraves was 10-of-22 passing for 82 yards and a touchdown.
Nicholas County head coach Gene Morris said, “We just had too many turnovers, things like that. They (Bluefield) hit a big play on us at the end of the half. We had a little momentum going at the time. I thought defensively we played just as well as we could play. We had a little trouble moving the football. You’ve got to tip your hat to Bluefield, they did an outstanding job and have a good football team.”
Nicholas County finished its season with 9-3 record. Bluefield improved to 10-2 and will play the winner of Saturday’s game between Bridgeport and Fairmont Senior.
George Washington 13
HUNTINGTON — George Washington seemed to have Huntington right where it wanted Friday night — 66 yards from the end zone and a little more than five minutes left.
The Patriots had bottled up the No. 1 Highlanders most of the night with a collapsing defense, but this time, on this drive, Huntington got it done.
Charles Crawford leaped into the end zone to score on a 9-yard run with 40 seconds left in the game, giving the unbeaten Highlanders a 17-13 victory in the Class AAA quarterfinals at soggy Bob Sang Stadium.
“It worked,’’ a smiling Crawford said moments after the game. “It took a lot of courage. My coach depended on me, and I got it done for them. It was a big play.’’
The win sends Huntington (12-0) into the semifinals for the first time in the history of the consolidated school, where it will take on No. 5 Wheeling Park next weekend. The date and kickoff time will be decided Sunday.
George Washington (9-3), the No. 8 seed, took a 13-7 lead into the fourth quarter, riding a staunch defense that stacked 10 players into the tackle box near the line of scrimmage in order to slow down Huntington’s run-oriented attack.
It worked much of the night, but when the Highlanders took over following a punt at their own 34 with 5:36 left in the game and trailing 13-10, they finally pieced together a drive.
Twelve plays later, Crawford took a toss to the right on third-and-goal from the 9, followed a convoy of blockers to the sideline and dived into the end zone from about the 2 to score the winning touchdown and rescue the state’s top-ranked team from elimination.
“We ran it into the boundary,’’ said Huntington coach Billy Seals. “Most teams are going to adjust to the field and (look for) the quick pitch to the field, but we ran it to the boundary and Charlie stuck it up in there. It was a great win by our football team. We showed a lot of guts tonight.’’
GW appeared to frustrate the Highlanders at several points in the game, holding them to a net of 203 offensive yards. Unfortunately for the Patriots, 50-plus of those yards came in the waning moments as Huntington inexorably marched downfield.
One of the game’s biggest plays came when the Highlanders lined up for a first down play at the GW 41 on their winning drive. Crawford took a pitch to the sideline for a 9-yard gain, and a 15-yard penalty was tacked on for a late hit out of bounds, giving the Highlanders a first down at the 17.
GW seemed to recover nicely from that, as Zach Malone tackled Nick Tubbs for a 4-yard loss on second-and-goal from the 5, but what followed was Crawford’s winning score.
“They had a lot of good things go well for them, that’s all I’m going to say about that,’’ said GW coach Steve Edwards Jr. “They did what they had to do when they had to do it. That’s what good teams do, and that’s how undefeated teams get it done.’’
GW also had two touchdowns called back by penalties.
“I really feel bad for my bunch,’’ Edwards said. “I’m heartbroken for those guys. They played good enough to win tonight. They just came up a little bit short to a good football team. I feel awful for them, I really do.
“A lot of good things happened for (Huntington) to keep them in the game. It’s not so much what we didn’t do, but good things happened for them. They took care of business a little longer than we did.’’
The Patriots trailed 7-0 after a Crawford 34-yard TD run in the first quarter, but rallied for a 13-7 lead by the third period.
Malone, subbing for starting tailback Draven Riffe, who hadn’t completely shaken off the effects of his latest ankle injury, scored on a 1-yard run in the second quarter to tie the game 7-all at halftime. Malone finished as GW’s top runner with 65 yards on 16 carries. Riffe had 28 yards on 11 attempts.
GW took the third-quarter kickoff and put together a 12-play, 65-yard drive that culminated in a 16-yard Jon Alexander to Austin Giacomo TD pass. The big play on the drive was a 26-yard connection from Alexander to Luther Toney.
The extra point kick failed, but the Patriots had a 13-7 lead with 5:36 left in the third.
Not only did Huntington have just six first downs at that point, but it had thrown two interceptions and didn’t have much spark on offense.
Crawford said that on the sideline, the Highlanders refused to accept their fate.
“Our coach, our teammates, we’re family,’’ he said. “We held each other up. It’s all we could do — hold each other up. We came together as one and made it happen.’’
A 60-yard punt pinned GW inside its own 15 late in the third quarter and led to a 33-yard Zack Stevens field goal to start the fourth quarter, shaving the deficit to 13-10.
GW could have struck a real blow if it had run off another lengthy drive at that juncture, but its next two possessions resulted in three-and-outs, giving the Highlanders the chance they needed.
“We felt like we needed our defense to make a great stop out there,’’ Seals said, “and we knew our offense would come through. They’ve come through in clutch situations before.
“We gave a couple different formations in the second half that we kind of hurt South Charleston with a couple of weeks ago, and we went back to it again. They zoned in on Nick Tubbs tonight and were going to make Paden (Christian) and Charlie beat them — and you know what? Those kids did it.’’
The gamebreaking Tubbs, who entered the game with nearly 1,800 all-purpose yards and 17 TDs, was held in check all night. His first four carries all resulted in lost yardage, and he finished with 10 carries for 6 yards.
Christian led Huntington with 80 yards on 21 attempts and Crawford added 78 yards on nine carries.
Alexander hit on 9 of 15 passes for 106 yards for GW. He also had several nice scrambles in the first half, but ended up taking two sacks in the second half.
After Crawford’s late score, GW got only one first down at its own 43 before Huntington’s Brandon Morrison picked off an Alexander pass with five seconds to go.
GW nearly took the lead as the first half ended after setting up shop at the Huntington 46 following its second interception of the game.
Alexander ran four times for 29 yards and completed 3 of 3 passes for 23 yards to place the ball at the Highlanders 3 with a first down and 17 seconds left.
However, a motion penalty moved the ball back to the 8 and Alexander’s cross-field scramble that resulted in a TD pass to Jackson was negated by a lineman being illegally downfield.
Reed Deer then missed a 30-yard field goal try as the half ended in a 7-all tie.
Wheeling Park 28,
Point Pleasant 7
POINT PLEASANT — Wheeling Park’s big plays spelled defeat Friday night for Point Pleasant in the Class AAA football playoffs second round.
Fifth-rated Wheeling Park (11-1) downed No. 4 Point Pleasant, 28-7, at the PPHS Athletic Complex.
Elijah Bell of the Patriots opened the scoring on a 58-yard touchdown pass from Zach Phillips.
Point Pleasant (11-1) tied it at 7-7 after one quarter with Gage Buskirk’s 27-yard touchdown reception from Aden Yates and Collin Peal’s extra point.
The Patriots then scored once more in each quarter.
Savion Johnson went to the end zone on a 79-yard run, Bell took an interception 31 yards for a touchdown and Geremy Paige closed the scoring with an 8-yard TD run.
Johnson carried 14 times for 144 yards to lead Wheeling Park’s 311-yard total output. Phillips completed 9 of 16 passes for 129 yards. Bell was the top receiving target with two catches for 76 yards.
Point Pleasant had 243 total yards — 142 rushing and 101 passing.
Cody Mitchell of the Big Blacks had 15 carries for 58 yards and Chase Walton ran 10 times for 45 yards. Yates hit 11 of 14 pass attempts for 101 yards with with one interception. Buskirk and Mitchell both caught four passes for 49 and 30 yards respectively.
Robert C. Byrd 36,
Ritchie County 6
ELLENBORO — It was “old-school” versus “new-school” when No. 13 Robert C. Bryd brought is stick-I attack to Chuck Schofield Memorial Stadium Friday night to face No. 12 Ritchie County’s “spread attack.”
When the dust had cleared, however, it was the Eagles’ offensive attack that proved to be too tough as RCB pounded its way to a 36-6 victory in the second round of the WVSSAC’s Class AA playoffs.
“It was old-school,” Ritchie County head coach Mike Dawson said. “They (RCB) just lined it up and ran it right at us and we couldn’t do anything to stop it.”
Sophomore Juwan Jones-Wright proved to be too much to handle for the Rebels’ defense as the 235-pounder rushed for 177 yards and two touchdowns as the Eagles advance into next weekend’s semifinal round where they will take on No. 1 Wayne.
* No Class A playoff games were played on Friday night.
On Saturday, No. 8 Wahama (10-1) was set to travel to No. 1 Weirton Madonna (11-0), while No. 7 Greenbrier West (10-1) played at No. 2 St. Marys (11-0). No. 12 Bishop Donahue (8-3) went to No. 4 Williamstown (9-2), while No. 14 Magnolia (7-4) was slated to play at No. 6 Moorefield (10-1).
In Saturday’s Class AA playoff game, No. 7 Fairmont (9-2) played at No. 2 Bridgeport (10-1).
Two 3A contests were on tap on Saturday as No. 7 Cabell Midland (9-2) went to No. 2 Martinsburg (10-1) and No. 6 University (10-1) traveled to No. 3 Capital (10-1).