HUNTINGTON — Wayne passed its way into the Class AA football state championship game.
Yes, you read that correctly.
The top-ranked Pioneers (13-0) passed for 251 yards, all by Grant Ferguson, Friday night in a 44-20 rout of No. 13 Robert C. Byrd (9-4) in the playoff semifinals at Huntington High School’s Bob Sang Stadium.
The Pioneers will go for their third consecutive state championship when they take on No. 2 Bridgeport (12-1) at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Wheeling Island Stadium. The Indians clobbered Bluefield 42-21.
The score and statistics aren’t a fair indicator of how dominant Wayne was.
At halftime, the Pioneers led 44-0 and held a 352-68 edge in total yardage. RCB managed just one first down in the first half and punted five times in seven possessions.
“We have a lot to play for,” Wayne coach Tom Harmon said. “We have a chance to play for a state championship.”
Wayne tied now-defunct Anstead for the state’s longest winning streak at 36 games. The Pioneers did it in impressive fashion with Ferguson leading a juggernaut offense that overpowered the Eagles. Ferguson had missed Wayne’s first two playoff games recovering from an ankle injury. Reserve Nate Adkins was stellar in Ferguson’s absence and Ferguson was just as outstanding in his return, completing 9 of 17 passes for 251 yards and two touchdowns.
Ferguson was helped by a rushing attack that compiled 167 yards and by a defense that held Byrd to 265 total yards.
That the physical, run-oriented Pioneers took control of the game via the air might have surprised Byrd.
“If you have all the pieces of a a puzzle to do it, it’s easy,” Harmon said of an effective passing game. “We had all the pieces tonight. We had guys make catches, throw it well and give us time to throw it. Having Grant back helped our offense. Being able to stand up helped us, too.”
By “standing up,” Harmon was referring to the condition of Wayne’s field, which was deemed by the WVSSAC as unplayable because it was so rutted after last week’s muddy victory over Sissonville. The Pioneers were quick on the FieldTurf of Huntington High and Byrd couldn’t catch up.
The Pioneers began the blowout on the first play of the game when Cody Stiltner raced 57 yards around right end for a touchdown.
The Pioneers needed just three plays on their second possession to make it 14-0 as Mason Hodge scored on a 20-yard run. Wayne punted on its third possession, but the hope that gave to Byrd was false, as Ferguson hit Stiltner with a 47-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the Pioneers fourth possession to make it 21-0.
As bad as the first quarter was for Byrd, the second was even worse as Wayne scored 23 points. Stiltner scored on a 9-yard run and a 36-yard pass from Ferguson. Hodge then dropped Elias Grant in the end zone for a safety before catching an 11-yard touchdown pass from Ferguson to give Wayne a 44-0 lead at the half.
The Pioneers played their reserves the entire second half and were outgained 197-73, but the outcome never was in doubt.
Seth Napier led Wayne’s running game with 48 yards on 11 carries. Stiltner caught four passes for 101 yards.
Grant led Byrd with 75 yards on 10 carries.
BRIDGEPORT — A.C. Caldera ran for 160 yards and four touchdowns, Anthony Bonamico added 110 yards and a pair of touchdowns as the Bridgeport Indians advanced to the Class AA championship game for the first time since 2001 with a 42-21 win at home over Bluefield.
Bridgeport limited Bluefield to 22 yards in the first half and built a 28-0 lead midway through the third quarter.
The Beavers got on the board with a 15-yard touchdown reception by D.J. Edwards and recovered the ensuing onside kick. Bluefield was threatening to score again but Caldera stepped in front of a pass at the 1 for his fifth interception of the year.
Nine plays later, Caldera was into the end zone with a 15-yard touchdown run that made it 35-7 and all but sealed the Indians’ trip next week to Wheeling.
WEIRTON — Ross Comis and Elliot Nero combined for 238 rushing yards and four touchdowns as Weirton Madonna defeated Williamstown 42-28 on Friday night in a Class A playoff semifinal.
The Blue Dons (13-0) broke a 21-21 tie when the Yellowjackets (10-3) attempted an onside kick. However, Will Bowser recovered the ball and took it 77 yards to the end zone.
It would be the first of three Madonna touchdowns scored in a span of just under five minutes in the third quarter.
Jake Tracewell led Williamstown with 75 rushing yards and 74 passing yards to go with three touchdowns.
David Hastings caught two of those touchdowns and picked up 25 yards on the ground, while Dakota Watson combined for 78 total yards.
Madonna advances to the Class A state championship game and will face the winner of Saturday’s contest pitting No. 7 Greenbrier West (11-1) and No. 14 Magnolia (8-4). The game was played at Greenbrier East.
* Both of the Class AAA state semifinals were set for Saturday as No. 1 Huntington (12-0) hosted No. 5 Wheeling Park (11-1) and No. 2 Martinsburg (11-1) was set to host No. 3 Capital (11-1).