Round One of the West Virginia playoffs is usually unappealing in the high-low seed matchups. Every 1-4 seed won along with two of the five seeds. After that, it was pretty back and forth. No result was very surprising except for several that were extremely close or extremely spread out. Regardless, the stage is now set for the quarterfinals. For the first time this year, we saw the north vs the south, the east vs the west, the panhandle vs the valley. The dream is weeks away.
Here’s our takeaway of Round One:
#16 South Charleston at #1 Huntington – This one was way too close for comfort. The Highlanders are without a doubt talented but did not play to their fullest Round One. Though Jadon Hayes performed as expected with 196 and three total touchdowns and QB Luke Zban hit three scoring passes as well, the Black Eagles stuck around until late. This can be a good building block for a young South Charleston team. The Highlanders on the other hand will need to rid the mental mistakes if they expect to contend.
#15 Morgantown at #2 Martinsburg – The Bulldogs had the Mohigans beat before the game started. Some predicted a potential upset but that was never in the cards. Martinsburg first play was a Tyson Bagent TD and Morgantown’s first was a fumbled snap. This was only the beginning… Dewayne Grantham would run in three scores before the half ended putting it at 47-0 at the half. Perhaps, the most amazing stat is Morgantown’s offensive yards: -10 total yards. Winter is coming in the valley.
#3 University at #14 Spring Mills – We thought University was finally embracing being the big dog in 2017 with a first play score from Clay Bailey to Amir Richardson. However, the Cardinals of Spring Mills kept it a game the first half- being 10-7. Finally, the Hawks stepped up and stuck the dagger in. With an explosive third quarter led by the returning Trevor Barnhart, University sailed to a 37-7 win. Not the most impressive of wins, but it’s not about the looks, it’s about the dubs.
#4 Spring Valley at #13 George Washington – The former State Runner-Up Timberwolves are ready for their run. The Patriots late season rally did not work as well as in 2016. Grant Wells never quite got going and that ended with Spring Valley’s second shutout over them this season. The Timberwolves had all their star players making plays. QB Derek Johnson and RBs Owen Chafin and Graeson Malashevich combined for over 400 yards and a 31-0 thumper.
#12 Cabell Midland #5 Musselman – The closest ratings matchup of any playoff game. No top eight team wanted the Scarlet Knights, and we found out why. The Applemen represented the panhandle well. In a close, smashmouth game, Cabell Midland would rely on Ivan Vaughn to carry them. 35 carries and the majority of a 400 yard rushing performance by the Knights. Even with all that, Musselman had a shot late but allowed a fourth down conversion to put the game on ice. Both are excellent teams.
#11 Wheeling Park at #6 Capital- Capital ran over, ran around, and shut down an outmanned Wheeling Park squad. In a rematch of the State Championship of 2015, Capital would come out on top this time. Kerry Martin Jr. put together one of his top performances yet with 300 total yards and five touchdowns. Cross Wilkinson still held his own with 200+ yards, but the Capital defense was after him all night. If Capital plays like they did in their 63-21 win, it could get very interesting.
#10 John Marshall at #7 Parkersburg – So much for the home field advantage of Stadium Field, and The Monarchs not being able to play in that environment. The Big Reds remained behind the entire game due to a 249 rushing performance by Charles McCool. Though 14-7 at the half, both offenses would burst in the third and fourth. Getting up by several scores, John Marshall held on to a 42-35 despite late success by Kam Mace and Brenton Strange. The Monarchs reward will be a trip to Martinsburg.
#9 Hurricane at #8 Hurricane – This was perhaps the most interesting matchup in AAA. Hurricane played an absolute murder schedule and was up and down with it. They showed signs of being a legit contender and at times they showed signs of being average, usually due to injuries. A looming long trip proved to be okay by the Redskins as they never allowed Hedgesville within striking distance. Both relied on big plays from players like Dakota Williams or N’yjere Smith. The solid running of Christian Hill is what pushed the Hurricane to a 52-21 win.
#16 Robert C. Byrd at #1 Mingo Central – Both teams have put up big numbers this year but if RCB had any chance, they had to hang north of 50. This is because the Miners have a knack of scoring over 50 points on a regular basis. Robert C. Byrd’s freshmen led offense did perform notably, however, The Miners are a different beast. Jeremy Dillon totaled 444 yards and five touchdowns. Also, Dawson Elia had a five touchdown on the ground. The game was always in Mingo’s hands, and even after an explosive 4th quarter where 45 combined points were scored, they finished with an astounding 76-40 win.
#15 Braxton County at #2 Bluefield – The only chance Braxton had in this one was if their passing game could harass Bluefield. But even at that, they had no shot. Mookie Collier touched the ball four times and had 107 yards while Truck and Juice Edwards combined for four touchdowns. Braxton County was not ready for the speed of the Beavers and the score slipped to 40-0 at the half. A running clock, and a very impressive win for Bluefield. Onto the next round.
#14 Weir at #3 Bridgeport – Weir had an up-and-down year, but everyone knew they had a load of potential. In a full-team aspect, the Red Riders perhaps outplayed the Indians in the first half. They didn’t outplay Jake Bowen, though, who returned the opening kickoff and had another big run to have them up by only two in the first half. This positioned them to dominate the second half where Bowen finished with 200 plus and four scores. The Red Riders played hard but failed to capitalize with their opportunities. Bridgeport sailed to a 35-12 victory.
#13 Keyser at #4 Fairmont Senior– Keyser might have a few bad memories with their recent trips to the Fairmont-Bridgeport area this season. It has not faired very well for the Keyser bunch. It didn’t help they were facing off against a multi-starred and experienced Polar Bear team with their own star, Brady Ours, playing at under 100 percent. His heart was noted but Fairmont Senior was too good. Connor Neal threw for 150+ and three scores and still has zero interceptions. Bryson Gilbert did lightwork of the Golden Tornado D with 143 and two touchdowns. In a odd similarity to Bridgeport-Weir, they won 34-12 but in much cleaner fashion.
#12 Sissonville at #5 Wayne – Wayne was once the bullies on the block in AA. They had to sit at home and watch the title game on TV the last couple of years. It appears they are ready for another title run. Sissonville got off hot in the beginning of the year only to back into the playoffs. In their rematch, it seemed on pace to repeat being 14-14 at the half and including a slew of turnovers. Despite the sloppy start, Wayne set themselves away from the pack with Michael Bartrum tallying 167 and three scores in a 54-28 finish. Will Hackney played hard with 321 threw the air but had several important picks.
#11 Winfield at #6 James Monroe – Perhaps the surprise game of the week was the Generals coming into James Monroe’s house and shut them out. James Monroe has played an extremely difficult schedule and had a few big time wins and many thought the home field would be a big advantage for the Mavericks. But if the ratings were any indication, the Generals were a threat. The red hot Generals played specifically well on defense where they struggled the week prior. Zach Bratton led the way with 167 on the ground and despite three turnovers, they never let the Mavericks on the board- only allowing 35 yards in the second half. Very impressive and a good 29-0 win.
#10 Phillip Barbour at #7 Point Pleasant – Philip Barbour should be immensely proud of their turnaround year. 0-10 to 8-2 is amazing! To draw an away game where almost no one wins is a tough match. Point Pleasant was just far too much for the Colts and hung a half of a hundred on them. Though the Mason-Collier defense kept it close in the first quarter, Cason Payne got warmed up in the second where the Black Knights scored five times. From there on out, it was a textbook blowout. 63-14 and Point Pleasant rides some confidence back into Bluefield.
#9 Nicholas County at #8 Liberty (Harrison) – Nicholas County has played up and down all year. Their defense seemed to be the only consistent part of their team. Liberty limped into the playoffs off some tough losses. So when Broderick Lantz and Dalton Westfall went back to their old ways for 250+ and multiple scores it was surprising. Sitting at 7-7, they would score 20 straight to soar into the second round and matchup with #1 Mingo Central.
#16 Williamstown at #1 East Hardy – This was the toughest 1-16 matchup in all three classes. While others cakewalked, this rematch was a war to the end. The game lived up to its hype. Though QB Clay Skovron had a spectacular regular season finale, the Yellowjacket defense was not as forgiving. It was actually Williamstown’s ballgame until five minutes left when East Hardy pushed ahead 14-10. The ensuing Williamstown drive seemed promising until a fumble promptly ended their season. A hard fought game and East Hardy escapes to the next round.
#15 Richwood at #2 South Harrison – The feel-good story of Single A football has been the Lumberjacks. After the floods of 2016 and consolidation battles of 2017, it was great to see them have a good season for their community and make the playoffs. They played a fantastic South Harrison team. It looked evident it would be a blowout, but Richwood replied with three straight scores of 50+ yards to bring it within two in the second quarter. From there on, they would only manage 28 more yards. And Hawk RB Freddy Canary would set a preliminary Single A rushing record with 368 yards and five touchdowns in the 58-19 win.
#14 Fayetteville at #3 Midland Trail – Round two of the Battle of the Bridge was about as exciting as the first one. Though the Pirates did have a second wind to keep close early, as in the first, the dominating Midland Trail line wore them down and out. Thomas Ferris saw similar success and ended his career with back-to-back wins on the nearby rivals. Midland Trail should be revving the engines preparing for the quarterfinals- they’ve been very impressive thus far.
#13 Pocahontas County at #4 Tug Valley – This was the game of the weekend for the A ranks. As it looked like the Pocahontas County gang was on its way to an upset over the highly ranked Panthers a turnover gave them life. A great historical comeback playoff performance for Tug Valley and an epic performance by both teams as they both left it all on the field. Many doubted both of these teams but no one can doubt the character of Pocahontas County or the heart of Tug Valley in their 30-29 dramatic comeback.
#12 Doddridge County at #5 St. Marys – The Bulldogs defense played about as well as they could against the defending champs. In the first half, they slowed every St. Marys weapon down and stood 6-6. The second half was completely different however. When St. Marys found their offensive stride, Doddridge didn’t. Jaiden Smith was fed carry after carry to a dominating 38-8 second half score. St. Marys proved their worth and should have a lot of confidence wearing down one of the best defenses in Single A. The Bulldogs should be proud of a great season.
#11 Summers County at #6 Webster County – With eight teams left in Single A, we doubt many would have predicted the scariest to be Summers County. It’s one thing to have good team but another to be constantly improving. In a rematch of a close regular season game, Summers County goose egged the #6 team in Single A. A team noted for their big time runners was held underneath 20 yards rushing while sophomore QB Tucker Lilly of the Bobcats found the endzone three times. This was the biggest shock judging by the ratings.
#10 Wheeling Central at #7 Cameron – Just like Cabell Midland in AAA, somebody in the Top Eight was going to draw Central Catholic. Unfortunately, it was Cameron. The rating system predicted the toughness of Wheeling Central’s schedule. Cameron backed their side up though. It was very much a game being 14-12 in the third. The game breaker: Curtis McGhee. The Maroon Knights would proceed to score 20 straight points and McGhee would tally 250+ yards. They are every bit as good as advertised and an absolute contender.
#9 Sherman at #8 Madonna – A clash of worlds occurred Friday in Weirton. Two different types of schools, hours away, no common opponents, but both with great RBs. The ratings showed a big favor toward The Tide but was the drive too much? It was actually The Blue Dons who showed shakiness, fumbling the opening kickoff. They were forced to play from behind the rest of the night. Sherman would feed Ben Salmon for a 153 and two score night. Sherman held their lead the whole game despite a 193 effort by record-breaking runner Donovan Kirby. QB JT Hensley of Sherman was the ultimate game breaker with solid play for Sherman to finish 37-14.