The sixteen teams have been introduced. Four eras, stretching from 1962-2016, all with an equal shot to be proclaimed the greatest team in state history. Each matchup was analyzed, voted on (by the staff and the public), and a realistic winne was chosen. For now, every matchup is within its own era so things such as equipment, surfaces, rules, and schemes (things we are all taking into account) do not need adjustment. Without anymore talk, here’s Round One:
’62 Bluefield vs ’73 East Bank
Mitchell Stadium would be packed endzone to endzone. Their Beavers, coming off the best season in school history, were set to face a similarly built opponent- the Pioneers of East Bank. Both led by emerging legends as coaches: Merrill Gainer and Don Arthur, respectively and both are known for their stout defense and powerful run game.
The Beavers’ gameplan would be simple. Out hit and out last this talented East Bank team. The first quarter would see both do this. Run after run after run after run. Both teams would gain one or two first downs but nothing further.
Halfway through the second, still scoreless, Beaver quarterback John Land would toss up a promising pass only for the receiver to cough it up resulting in a recovery by Pioneer Don Payne. This was the momentum needed for the Pioneers to ride their horse, Claude Geiger, straight down the field to take the 7-0 lead right at the half.
Gainer abandoned anything but their usual crash course of success. Running backs Tim Sarver and Dusty Lotito would alternate carries back and forth down the field for a game tying touchdown. Even though this chunked up the third, Geiger would break free next drive for a 76-yard score.
The fourth was intense being within one score. Both defenses were ferocious. However, only one drive even made it past the fifty resulting in a missed fourth-down conversion. The Pioneers would use Geiger to milk the clock and score a late field going up 17-7 with minutes left. That is how it would remain as the Pioneers stepped away with an impressive first round victory and still alive as the best team in state history.
’62 Bluefield (7) ’73 East Bank (17)
’65 Bluefield vs ’69 Charleston
Mitchell Stadium prepared for its second hosting as an elder team in the tournament. Their team was similar- amazing defense and led by an even more experienced Merrill Gainer. Their ’65 season shocked a lot of people, even themselves, and this was not the case as they suited up against a Charleston team primed in the middle of a three-peat.
The Mountain Lions had a much faster pace offense behind Kennedy Award quarterback Rick Hurt. Coach Frank Vincent took this difference in styles into mind on the first three drives but had zero luck in the first against the Bluefield defense.
Though the Beavers struggled size-wise to handle Mountain Lion lineman Rick Katzeff, they elected to run away from him. Johnny Wright and Johnny Beckett in the unbalanced Wing T offset Katzeff’s dominance and scored on back-to-back drives in the second.
The Mountain Lion drought lasted all the way to the fourth. Gainer utilized sophomore Pete Wood to run the clock and punch in yet another touchdown plus 2-point conversion- stretching it to 22-7. With minutes left, Hurt had his first successful drive tucking and running for a 44-yard scamper. Though they recovered the ensuing onside kick, they ran out of time. The Beavers get one through to the next round.
’65 Bluefield (22) ’69 Charleston (7)
’79 Bridgeport vs ’88 Charleston
Bridgeport Athletic Field was ready to host hopefully Charleston High’s truly last game ever. This battle of legends pitted Wayne Jamison vs Roger Jefferson. An age old school vs the final season of a legendary program. Throw out all the records.
Charleston brought a higher level of energy to the field. Quarterback Will King seemed to rise to the occasion again with a multitude of broken runs leading for a tone-setting first drive. Bridgeport played tough but lost the line of scrimmage early. Mountain Lion Jerome Dean pushed it in early 7-0.
The Indians replied with an uncharacteristic three and out due to two TFL’s by Carl Bruer. Charleston’s next drive drove down just as fast but ended in a field goal. Indian quarterback Bobby Marra stepped up through the second but on their best drive yet, was sacked from behind by Todd Robinson resulting in a turnover attempting their first pass.
Another broken scramble by King gave the Mountain Lions a field goal and 13-0 lead at the half. Jamison’s runners kept character. Big runs by Charlie Fest resulted in a long scoring drive drawing it to 13-7. For the first time, the Indians halted Jefferson’s offense. After pounding runs by Fest, a play action pass to Brad Minetree tied the game up with half the forth left. However, the extra point was blocked.
Both teams had chances to win but the defenses stepped up. The game headed to overtime where back-to-back three and outs came- resulting in two fields. The second overtime was started by Charleston and ended quickly with a bobbled run and fumble. Bridegport took the momentum and used their relentless run game to punch it in for the victory. The Indians would move onto the second round.
’79 Bridgeport (22) ’88 Charleston (16) 2OT
’81 Sistersville vs ’87 Winfield
The energy at Core Field was electric. The Sistersville Tigers were just beginning to build up steam behind dynasty-building Lou Nocida. However, their foe would be a deadly one coming off a record-breaking performance in the state championship.
The Winfield Generals were dominant from the get go. They drove directly down the field for a score 7-0. The Sistersville’s line could handle the Generals and had little success. After a punt, General receiver Brent Wells caught a curl and took it sixty-three yards for another score.
Nocida elected to slow the game down and pounded safe runs with Brian Swisher. Though it slowed down, no points came of it. In the second, Sistersville handled the difference better but though holding it 14-0, General linebacker John Brown stripped and scored with seconds remaining making it 21-0.
The Tigers seemed mostly defeated in the second and still relied heavily on Swisher for their offense. Coach Leon McCoy let them burn clock and banked on the drives to stall- which they did. Winfield would ice the half with a seven minute drive topped off with another score.
A late big run by Swisher closed the gap to 28-7 and several TFL’s gave Sistersville hope late on. It was too little too late, and the came back never happened. Leon McCoy and his Generals would still be in the running as the best ever.
’81 Sistersville (7) ’87 Winfield (28)
’89 Capital vs ’94 Ceredo-Kenova
The Wonders of Ceredo-Kenova would be ready to take on the tall task of the first year Capital Cougars. Though nobody on their schedule was on that level.
The opening kickoff made this evident as Cougar Eric Smedley took it right up the gut and back for Capital score. The momentum carried as Wonder RB Bub Taylor failed to get a first on three carries.
Roger Jefferson’s offense clicked just like the other two sides. QB Will King tucked and ran several times for big gains- finally, scoring another touchdown. Though into the second it appeared as a blowout, Ceredo-Kenova would put together an impressive drive resulting in a field goal. 14-3.
Wonder lineman Shaun Saunders held his own but couldn’t block both Todd Robinson and Joel Chapman. The second half was riddled with failed runs and another deep punt return by Smedley set up another big score.
Going into the fourth, a Bub Taylor score followed by a Zane Smith interception had Coach Don Money in position down 21-10. Cougar linebacker Al Dean quickly stopped those tides with a strip and recovery.
King would put together back-to-back drives down the field to put the game completely out of reach 35-10. The Wonders put up a good fight but were outmatched. Onto the next round for the Cougars.
’89 Capital (35) ’94 Ceredo-Kenova (10)
’90 East Bank vs ’93 DuPont
Nothing better than a rivalry matchup trying to find the greatest team in state history. Both schools facing consolidation in the coming years and one more theoretical battle at Calvert Field and one more battle between legendary coaches Ralph Hensley and Dick Whitman.
The jump start would have all the makings of the rivalry. Big hits and a good amount of smack talk. No love lost. DuPont would feed the ball to stern runner Bobbie Howard resulting in decent runs but no points. The same occurred for the Pioneers as they too quickly stalled out.
Top prospect Randy Moss would come through next drive with a long catch and run. This set up Howard for a score midway through the first. Hensley’s offense responded with another big drive but Howard quickly forced it to stall out with two big TFL’s. DuPont would show it how it’s done into the second with another Howard touchdown run.
East Bank was a disciplined team and quickly put together an important drive finishing with a push in TD by Brad Slack. A botched kickoff gave Moss another chance to gut the Pioneers, a fumbled snap gave the ball back instantly. Taking the final minutes out, the Pioneers would score again to tie it up 14-14.
The third quarter showed a swift increase in defense. Selling out to stop Moss and Howard worked and resulted in takeaways y Dale Phalen and Mike Hale. The stalemate continued through the fourth when it was quickly broke by an 81-yard slant route taken to the house by Moss.
East Bank would put together a typical rivalry drive and within the ticking minutes score yet another touchdown to look to upset the AAA champions. They would also elect to go for two and successfully have a play to Robbie Robinson. 22-21.
DuPont, with everything on the line, drove the field quickly. A big run by Howard followed by a catch and go by Moss set up a first-and-goal with seconds remaining. Whitman elected for Howard to run it in for a walk-off score- which he did to take home the trophy 27-22.
1990 East Bank (22) 1993 DuPont (27)
’04 Morgantown vs ’16 Martinsburg
The bowl that is Pony Lewis Field was packed to the brim. Their Mohicans had been nothing short of dominating- historically, at that. Coming off the destruction of a Nate Sowers-led Martinsburg team, they were ready for the Tyson Bagent-led Bulldogs. This Bulldog team was experienced with dealing with ground and pound teams- recently dominating a D1 loaded Spring Valley roster.
Coach David Walker elected to take the ball to begin the game. Things started quickly. The high paced and high-flying offense was clicking instantly. Tyson Bagent put together pass-after-pass down the field as the Mohicans seemed out-of-place. The quick drive down the field was capped by a 21-yard score by Dewayne Grantham off an outside run.
Where Martinsburg recently struggled with Spring Valley, Morgantown took note. Perennial scorer, Spencer Farley, was handed the ball time after time as he pounded away at the Bulldog line. John Bowers ground game was obviously successful- tying the game at 7-7 with minutes left in the first. The early success of the offenses faded, however. TFL’s and sacks by Spencer Farley and Jalen Hesen had both sides stalemate. Morgantown managed a long field goal before the half ended. 10-7.
Though Spencer Farley had seventy yards in the first half, the Mohicans tried to catch the Bulldog D off guard with a Charles Russell pass. Grant Harman of Martinsburg had other ideas with a key interception. Bagent took advantage of the situation dropping a 43-yard dime to Isaac Brown to take back the lead 14-10.
The defenses’ stints of dominance took break for the next quarter and a half. Farley traded a touchdown only for Bagent to pass for another. Mohican fullback Maxwell Anderson grinded a score but was matched by a Mikey Jackson scamper. Late fourth, a Mohican punt gave Martinsburg a chance to put the game on ice being up 28-24. Icing is what they did. With one minute remaining, Grantham broke free from a sure-tackle in the backfield by Adam Brandt and took it 56-yards to cement the game. Bulldogs would be moving onto the next round.
2004 Morgantown (24) 2016 Martinsburg (35)
’11 Martinsburg vs ’14 Capital
The anticipation was incredible in the stands at Cobourn Field. Martinsburg was coming off back-to-back undefeated seasons and a big time win over George Washington. Capital showed zero intimidation as they were loud pregame riding tons of momentum after destroying rival South Charleston in their previous matchup. Martinsburg elected to not play into the hype as much.
At the flip, Martinsburg deferred to the second half wanting to see what the Cougar offense had. They wished and received. Quarterback Tyree Pratt drove down the field quickly and effectively, finally scrambling in for a touchdown minutes into the ballgame. The hype train rolled as Martinsburg gained only 15 yards and punted.
Pratt took a backseat this go around and let Kennedy Award winner Kashaun Haley do the dirty work. Though Martinsburg was physical including two TFL’s recorded by lineman Eugene German, the Cougars hit hard on big plays crossing into the second quarter. The long drive was exclamated with a pass out of the backfield from Pratt to Haley. Capital stood 14-0.
The running game was not working against the motivated Cougar defense. Lineman Jonathan Burkes and sophomore linebacker Dorian Etheridge lived in the backfield. Coach David Walker elected to hit steady passes down the field to move Capital to their heels. Quarterback Brandon Ashenfelter relied heavily on three third down passes to Cedric Brown to keep the drive alive. As the half closed, they got within the one and Ashenfelter snuck it in.
Capital wasn’t content with the 14-7 lead with two minutes left and tried to air it out leading to a pick. Martinsburg kneeled the final seconds and came back out calm and collected in the second half. A big return by Cedric Brown set the tone putting them deep in Capital field position. Justin Arndt took the snap thirty-seven yards right up the gut to tie it up. The Cougars seemed rattled and though driving back down the field, had a miscue leading to fumble recovery by Bulldog lineman Josh Harwood.
Martinsburg failed to capitalize and punted it back to Haley who chunked into great field position. They continued to feed him down the field and into the fourth quarter. What ended up being a seven-minute drive culminated to a fourth and three on the goal. The Cougars elected to go for it and on a play action rollout, Huff Award winner Logan Jenkins caught Pratt’s foot causing a change of possession.
With half the fourth left, Ashenfelter led a textbook drive all the way down the field. Runs off the edge and quick passes into the hook. Capital was gassed and Ashenfelter punched in his second touchdown of the night with over a minute to go making it 21-14. Pratt seemed prepared to have a classic game winning drive but two plays in his receiver fumbled the ball leading to a scoop and score by Martinsburg. There was nothing else to do and the Bulldogs continued their win streak with a 28-14 win and the game ball going to Brandon Ashenfelter.
2011 Martinsburg (28) 2014 Capital (14)
Ayers played OT, he did not play on defense for 89 Cougars!