Eight teams remain in the race for the greatest team to ever grace a West Virginian high school field. Round one saw some upsets (or if they really qualify for) and some incredibly close games. Round two will crown the best from each era. Once again, the stats have been analyzed- taking into account every variable we can think of… then we simulate a realistic happening between this ultimate squads. Here is what we have:
’65 Bluefield vs ’73 East Bank
One week removed from their previous wins, and both teams are beaten up. Preparing to go down the hardest stretch of games ever played in West Virginia, East Bank is ready to take on the other greatest Bluefield team ever in another Gainer-Arthur coaching matchup.
The styles are the same but this Beaver team has a much stouter defense and also an X-factor in young runner Pete Wood. With the Beavers taking the ball first, they would try to run Wood toe-to-toe with Geiger. This would work for one first down- but that was it.
East Bank would attempt to show them how Pioneers run the ball, but they too would go one and done. This theme held true for the first quarter and a half as neither team crossed the fifty. Only up until a big Beaver pass by John Land had a busted play push them into the redzone. However, two TFL’s by Don Payne set the ball back and allowed Bluefield to miss their field goal heading into the half.
The second half would appear to be taking a much different route as Claude Geiger got rolling down the field. Three consecutive 10+ yard runs had the Pioneers sitting steady enough to squeak in a field goal when the Beaver defense clamped down. 3-0 East Bank.
Bluefield owned the next three drives but got nothing out of them. Though Tim Sarver pushed the ball down the field twice, no points were gained. And a forced three-and-out followed by another long but non-scoring drive allowed East Bank to have the game with the clock ticking. Geiger horsed two first downs to the ice the game and take it home for the Pioneers. The now champs of the Bronze Era.
’65 Bluefield (0) ’73 East Bank (3)
’79 Bridgeport vs ’87 Winfield
Winfield stands alone in being the only non-AAA team in the field. However, it is deserving. Their blowout win gave them a little better rest than Bridgeport intense overtime win over Charleston. But Core Field isn’t Bridgeport Atheltic Field, and the Tigers aren’t the Indians.
The foot behind was obvious from the get-go. Winfield did belong on the field but Bridgeport owned it. The Indians superior line play allowed for an early breakaway TD by Charlie Fest. Winfield crushed for every yard but eventually gave the ball back over. This time, it was a designed QB run by Bobby Marra that caught the Generals on their heels- allowing for another Indian touchdown into the second.
Right as it seemed coach Leon McCoy and his squad was outmatched, they put together an impressive drive pulling out everything in the playbook. They relied heavily on wideout Brent Wells to outmatch the Indian secondary. Sure enough, it allowed for a late half march into the redzone and a QB sneak to make it 14-7.
Winfield’s opening second half drive had the same promise until Brad Minetree put an end to Wells dominant day with a lunging interception. The roaring Bridgeport stands fired up that stout O-Line and big runs from Fest, Marra, and Burner followed the next two drives- pushing it to 28-7.
The General’s had never been in the position of being behind. Their typical dominance did not prepare for such adversity and the Indians did what they did what best. Stop the offense, run the ball, and milk the clock. All the way to being crowned winners of the Silver Era.
’79 Bridgeport (28) ’87 Winfield (7)
’89 Capital vs ’93 DuPont
Perhaps the most anticipated matchup of the tournament so far. The highest projected winner of the tournament vs a one-loss team that many argued shouldn’t even be considered. This type of animosity set a violent tone heading into the game at Laidley Field. Even the fans were getting at in pregame.
Even with the tension and packed stands, it’s always football after that first kickoff. Capital deferred and wanted to test out the star-studded. Wish and receive. Though the loaded Capital D-Line owned DuPont’s front, Bobby Howard still managed to keep falling forward. This culminated in a tone setting opening touchdown drive.
Capital was not ready to flinch. They showed that they too could run the ball and scored in half the time. Coach Roger Jefferson’s decision to send multiple blockers at Howard seemed to work. The quick drive forced DuPont to score fast too but a bad pass deep to Randy Moss was undercut by Will King and returned deep.
King doubled up for the second quarter and made that takeaway a score and the first lead of the day for Capital. Coach Dick Whitman went back to what worked and pounded Howard down for a DuPont field late. Capital would complete a series of passes that allowed timeless field goal to keep it 17-10 at the half.
The unforgiving Cougars would march down the field again to start the third with 24-10 lead. However, their confidence was overdone with a kick to Moss- who took it up the middle at lightspeed to bring it back to within a score. Whitman’s defensive adjustment allowed a key stop and a chance for Howard to run them back in the game. Cougar lineman Joel Chapman began taking over the line of scrimmage.
The fourth played mainly around midfield with neither team pushing very deep into the other territories. As the impatience grew, several turnovers were forced by Capital as they kept trying to hit Moss deep. Eventually, one did strike late allowing a quick field goal bringing it to 24-20. The game culminated in a 4th and 2 on DuPont’s 45 with a minute left. Jefferson stuck to his gun and ran King up the middle for the game sealing first down and the best of Gold Era.
’89 Capital (24) ’93 DuPont (20)
’11 Martinsburg vs ’16 Martinsburg
A true paradox of time as teams not only coached by the same coach, also having very similarly designed teams. The originators of the dynasty versus the prodigies. The home crowd found themselves profoundly confused on who exactly to cheer for. Regardless, the electricity of Martinsburg was there as always.
Getting the ball to start their run was the elder of the Martinsburg teams. In a case of showing a type of older brotherly love, they ran it down the pipe constantly. Though Trey Henry and Jalen Hesen of the defensive line held tight, the constant slamming of Justin Arndt pushed them down the field. As the pressure mounted, a well-timed shotgun PA was called allowing quarterback Brandon Ashenfelter to drop a dime for the first score of the game.
Feeling confident, the older Bulldogs took the spot on defense. What they didn’t expect was a bomb down the field to start the game. And it worked. Tyson Bagent nailed Isaac Brown on the run for a game tying score just like that. Following up, the ’16 Bulldogs had a very good defensive drive. Tavis Lee finally got the better of lineman Eugene Germain for a sack and punt.
The young gun Bulldogs elected to tag team runners Mikey Jackson Jr. and Dewayne Grantham down the field resulting in a field goal. The past drives were almost identically repeated going into the half with another unsuccessful ’11 offensive drive and another ’16 field goal putting it at 13-7.
Feeling the moment, Bagent put together a string of solid passes that stretched out the middle of the field moving linebacker Logan Jenkins out of position as much as possible. The well-called drive was capped by a Grantham run in. As the ’11 Martinsburg gripped down, the pressure seeped in, and though after a tough run with several broken tackles, Ashenfelter coughed up the pigskin giving the prodigies full control into the fourth.
The more experienced version of coach David Walker attempted to take the clock out while getting a score. However, it was derailed by an awesome strip and recovery by Arndt. With under 5:00, Cedric Brown got the better of secondary for a deep score putting the game back in reach 20-14. Follow that up with a 3-and-out, several dime passes by Ashenfelter, and the game came down to a ticking clock on the ten-yard line.
With no time for timeouts, the proper coverage was called allowing for safety Grant Harman to sniff out the playcall and making a leaping interception to win the game for the younger Bulldogs. And just like that, the hype all seemed very much real as the ’16 Bulldogs were crowned winners of the Platinum Era.
’11 Martinsburg (14) ’16 Martinsburg (20)
As our project winds down, we would like to make it a little more interesting going forward. We are electing to pit the ’73 East Bank against the ’16 Martinsburg for a true test of generations. One half simulated with 70’s rules and the other with modern.