Few thought the quarterfinals would be more spaced out than the first round. Out of the twelve matchups, two were close and boy they were close. The top teams look even more frightening but also increase anticipation for their collisions coming the next two weeks. The stage is now set for the history to be made.
Here is our take:
#9 Hurricane at #1 Huntington
In one of the only close games, it was CLOSE. One yard and one point to be exact. Hurricane, a team Huntington thumped weeks before, was playing their best ball. The offense was moving better and the coaches were calling it almost perfectly. Huntington is an insanely talented squad and once again relied on Kennedy candidate Jadon Hayes for 285 yards and four scores. Those four scores had Huntington up 28-21 with little time left and a long field to cover for the Redskins. A dramatic drive ensued ending with a Roy-Shine TD with a little over thirty seconds left. They elected to go for two where Dakota Williams was stopped one yard short on a formerly successful end around. Huntington would win 28-27.
#10 John Marshall at #2 Martinsburg
Few believed in John Marshall and rightfully so. The historic Martinsburg defense has now allowed -6 yards of offense in its first two playoff games (two yards gained by the Monarchs). Both of their first downs were via penalty. On the other side of the ball, Tyson Bagent set a playoff record for completion percentage going 15/16 with four of those being touchdowns. Trey Sine, Mikey Jackson Jr., and Dewayne Grantham all had huge plays which had this game out of reach after the first quarter. The Bulldogs are putting out legendary performances perhaps never seen before. In an awesome draw, they will host Capital, a program they have a notable past with.
#6 Capital at #3 University
University did not back up their schedule. After much arguing, it seems as if the Cougars of the MSAC will be the ones laughing. Though the score was not fully indicative of the game, Capital was head and shoulders better. University shot themselves in the foot repeatedly including the opening kickoff which Capital scored off. They would turnover the ball in the redzone and have several touchdowns revoked because of penalty. We can not discredit Capital, they are playing their best football so far. Kerry Martin Jr. is a shoe-in week in and week out to perform at a high level; this week with three total touchdowns. Capital will hope to ride this impressive win all the way to the eastern panhandle.
#12 Cabell Midland at #4 Spring Valley
The ground game of the Scarlet Knights and the Timberwolves has been extraordinary in 2017. However, the quarterfinals was all about defense. Cabell Midland was held to their worst performance of the year tallying 76 yards. Ivan Vaughn, the all-state workhorse, only got up to 56. Spring Valley’s Owen Porter had a career day which was instrumental in the shutout. He had SIX sacks. When the defense plays like that, pressure is relieved for the offense. Owen Chafin led the way for the partially stagnant Spring Valley defense with 103 ground gains. However, it was discovered Chafin was injured during the game and will not be suited up as Spring Valley rematches with nearby Huntington.
#8 Liberty (Harrison) at #1 Mingo Central
Liberty went down swinging. Many expected the Miners to run them out early, but the Mountaineers stuck around longer than anticipated. Early success by the Lantz/Westfall duo, which ended with 184 combined and two scores, had them within arms reach of the defending champs. Mingo’s liable defense was eventually relieved by the Dillon-Elia combo. By the half, the two had heated up and began widening the margin. Jeremy Dillon would finish with 200+ total yards and four scores where Dawson Elia ran it in three times. Mingo Central will host Fairmont Senior in a rematch of the 2016 state championship; all eyes will be on their defense.
#7 Point Pleasant at #2 Bluefield
We thought it would be closer. We thought. Though the Beaver perform every week, there still seems to be a lot of doubt as they remain with three teams who have been in the semis for consecutive years. Point Pleasant’s Cason Payne played decent but was not 100, and add in Point’s lackluster defensive play, and it was a wrap. Mookie Collier would tote 167 and three scores and was well complimented by Truck Davis. Perhaps, the most pleasant surprise was QB Chandler Cooper who tossed 117 and two scores. A little bit of dual-threat could be an important part when they host Bridgeport this upcoming week.
#11 Winfield at #3 Bridgeport
And right back in the Semifinals is Bridgeport. Despite a first-year coach and injuries on defense, the Indians find themselves with one loss and one game away from the ole familiar state championship. We thought Winfield was dangerous and their quickfire offense would challenge Bridgeport… not even close. Andrew Huff played decent with 187 and two scores but turned it over three times. This was too much to give to a rushing attack where Jake Bowen scored four times on 201 yards while QB Jon Merica added two more. Bridgeport controlled this game from the get go and will prepare for a much anticipated matchup with Bluefield.
#5 Wayne at #4 Fairmont Senior
In the second North-Central vs Valley matchup, there were similar results. Wayne’s usually consistent attack of Bartrum and Milum never got even close to going. Fairmont Senior showed incredible experience and maturity to never let the dangerous Pioneers within arms reach. Connor Neal has been specifically impressive in his first playoffs going for 171 and two scores. The Polar Bear offense was the game icer, scoring five times on their first six drives. After back-to-back great showings, they will travel to Miner Mountain to rematch with the Miners. Many would argue the Miners are not the team of 2016 and the same for Fairmont.
#9 Sherman at #1 East Hardy
Sherman had a high rating but everyone knows that East Hardy is on a mission. Though late success and early takeaways, the Tide never had too much of a shot. The Cougars played a complete team game with everyone pitching in. Brett Tharp affected the game more on defense with interceptions and slowing down the Will Hensley passing attack. Aden Funkhouser was the standout in the quarterfinal matchup, catching several Clay Skovron touchdowns. East Hardy bounced back to their blowout ways after a scary Williamstown game and now look to avenge their second state championship loss to St. Marys. It will be one for the books.
#10 Wheeling Central at #2 South Harrison
Many believed Wheeling Central had a shot at the stunning South Harrison Hawks; nobody predicted a blowout. Freddy Canary was held to 123 on 30 carries and 50 of those came off one run. The impressive Maroon Knight defense was assisted by big plays from QB Curtis McGhee. He finished with over 200 yards and multiple touchdowns including a momentum turning 93-yard score. It seems as if the extremely tough schedule played has prepared them for about anything. They will now take on the mysterious Summers County Bobcats at home; a team that has had three consecutive shutouts.
#11 Summers County at #3 Midland Trail
The other of the two games that were not blowouts. This was a defensive showcase for the books. On the chilly night, neither offense could get quite going. If they did, a failed fourth down conversion, missed field goal, or turnover would ensue. Trail’s 2000 yard rusher, Thomas Ferris, appeared banged up after the impressive Summers County defense played out of their minds. The game was scoreless until an early fourth quarter bomb thrown by Tucker Lilly. Up 6-0, Summers County could not stay on the field to run the clock out. Trail would need to travel the entire field in a little over a minute. Insert two long QB draws and a wide receiver thrown pass and the Patriots were on the three. Tragedy would follow as Ferris would lose grip of the ball and Summers County would recover. The improbable Bobcats are heading to the Semifinals.
#5 St. Marys at #4 Tug Valley
Being the fifth seed can be slightly misleading. St. Marys is a one-loss team and the defending champs. Tug Valley has had a spectacular year but when Jonathan Blankeship, their top runner, left the game… it was all she wrote. Jaiden Smith would run wild as he usually does for 206 yards. The Blue Devil defense was ready to blow out the undefeated hosts as well, recording four takeaways. St. Marys’ last six quarters of play have looked incredibly similar to the 2016 State Champions they are. They will need to answer the call as they previously did as they rematch with East Hardy.