— By Wes McKinney for WVMetroNews.com
Class AAA No. 4 Spring Valley (11-2) vs. No. 2 Martinsburg (13-0)
Spring Valley created a rematch from last year’s Class AAA state championship game by capitalizing on two Huntington turnovers turned into a 10-7 semifinal win.
“We played really well—especially up front and inside the box,” Spring Valley coach Brad Dingess said of his aggressive defense. “We were able to control the line of scrimmage on defense. Huntington got out of rhythm and had to throw it a lot. I thought our secondary played really well.”
Owen Porter led the defensive effort as he seemingly lived in the Highlanders’ backfield. Spring Valley held Huntington to under 100 yards and Kennedy Award and MetroNews Player of the Year candidate Jadon Hayes to just 22 rushing yards.
“(Porter) makes us tick. As he goes, we go,” Dingess said. “He’s the leader of that defense. He was able to apply a lot of pressure on the quarterback. It seemed like every time they tried to give the ball to Hayes on the inside we were right on him. Owen played a great game.”
The secondary came up big as well, particularly free safety Logan Caldwell with a couple of pass break-ups in the fourth quarter.
“He’s like our quarterback on defense — he gets us lined up on the back end,” Dingess said. “He does such a good job as a three-year starter.”
Spring Valley will be making its second straight trip to the Super Six, but perhaps this moment wouldn’t have happened had it not been for a late September loss to Hurricane.
Since allowing 41 points that night, Spring Valley has allowed more than two touchdowns just twice, and enters the title game allowing seven points the last three games.
“If you look back at scores and how everything happened, it was like a light bulb went off for us,” Dingess said “I think that has shown a lot about the leadership of our senior group. We were at a crossroads. We could have taken the path we did and really buckled down started playing well or we could have done a lot of finger pointing, thrown in the towel and had a pretty bad season.”
Another pivotal point of the Spring Valley season came during a win at Capital when the secondary picked off Kerry Martin four times.
“When people talk about Spring Valley football they think we’re one-dimensional, that all we do is ground-and-pound and we can’t win games on turf,” Dingess said. “We beat Huntington and Capital both on turf this year. Those are two of the most athletic teams in the state.”
Now Spring Valley is back on turf will take on what has been the most athletic team in the state Saturday afternoon.
“Nobody has stopped them and nobody has really scored any points on them,” Dingess said. “They’re just so good at everything they do. They are solid at every spot — offensively, defensively and special teams. We’re going to have to play near perfect and hope they mess up.”
The blue-collar Spring Valley defense will face a Martinsburg offense led by Tyson Bagent and his 39 passing touchdowns. Dewayne Grantham has already rushed for 1,000 yards and Mikey Jackson is approaching the mark.
“They are not only athletically better than most teams they play, but they are physical and hard-nosed,” Dingess said. “They are just really, really good.”
After years of playoff frustration, it appears Spring Valley has arrived with back-to-back appearances in the Super Six.
“I really think last year was a big moment for our kids,” Dingess said. “You can tell that the experience they had throughout the playoffs really paid off this year for us. Against Huntington, we didn’t get caught up in the moment.
“I hope when we get to Wheeling that we’re not star struck. We’ve been preaching for years about getting to this point, but we have to try to figure out how to win one.”
Saturday’s game will kick off at noon with a radio broadcast on MetroNews affiliates across the state, along with a live HD broadcast at the MetroNews Channel of WVMetroNews.com.