WVMetroNews.com/Greg Carey

Bridgeport coach John Cole knows his team has a tough challenge ahead with a quarterfinal matchup against Robert C. Byrd.


Class AA

No. 8 Point Pleasant (9-1) at No. 1 Fairmont Senior (11-0)

The Polar Bears kept rolling with 56-6 first-round victory over Lewis County, rushing for a season high 290 yards. Senior quarterback Connor Neal also set a Polar Bears single season record with his 38th touchdown pass.

Fairmont Senior now has all of its top skill position players healthily and Rhett Heston led the way with 105 yards on the ground. 

Caleb Walker has returned from a broken jaw he suffered early in the first game of the season. Walker scored his first rushing touchdown of the season on a short run and later added a 73-yard touchdown run. 

Breeden Gilbert missed the majority of the regular season injured as wel and also had a touchdown run against the Minutemen.

One constant on offense for the Polar Bear this season has been the junior dominated offensive line. Juniors Zach Frazier, Dominick Owens, Lance Payton and Magnus Sheets all start up front for a group that’s performed at a high level.

Point Pleasant has a massive offensive line as well, averaging 6-foot-2 and 270-pounds across the front.  Point’s high powered offense is led by quarterback Cason Payne who rushed for 242 yards and six touchdowns in a wild 65-36 win over Mingo Central.   Payne also threw for 164 yards in that game. Point Pleasant has fallen in the playoffs to the eventual state champion twice in the last three seasons.

No. 6 Robert C. Byrd (9-2) at No. 3 Bridgeport (10-1)

RCB has won six in a row since early-season losses to top-ranked Fairmont Senior and No. 3 Bridgeport. The Eagles fell to the Indians 41-35 back on September 21.

“We are better and more focused,” RCB coach Josh Gorrell said. “We are more confident and we are doing things at a higher pace and a higher level. I think we are at a point where we have hit our stride and we’re doing things the right way.

“We are happy to be playing Bridgeport again,” Gorrell added. “It’s easy travel and it’s a great community event. What better way than to go compete against your biggest rival and try to get to the next level of the playoffs. 

“It’s great for both cities to come together and play Friday night.”

Bridgeport senior running back Jake Bowen led the way with 252 yards rushing and five touchdowns as the Indians rallied from 10 points down in the fourth quarter to win the regular season game against the Eagles.

RCB’s Ghovan Davidson scored three touchdowns and rushed for 270 yards in defeat.

Bridgeport has won 11 consecutive games in this series, a streak that dates back to 2010.

“We have talked about (the regular season game against Bridgeport) but it’s over and done,” Gorrell said. “We’ve forgotten about that one and moved on. We played physically the entire game. It’s not like we handed them the game. They came out and won it. We just need to do some things better to finish the game off.

“This is a smash mouth, hard-nosed, man on man game,” Gorrell said of the Bridgeport matchup. “You’ve got to be willing to come down hill and hit people in the face play after play after play. It’s more of an old fashioned grudge match. 

“You are going to have to get physical and want to beat the man in front of you. If we have that mentality, we’ll be OK.”

Bridgeport utilized the passing game more than it had all season to beat Frankfort 49-13 in the opening round. 

The duo of Devin Vandergrift and D’Andre Hallaway connected four times for 109 yards and a touchdown. 

Vandergrift also threw a touchdown pass to Carson Winkie. The Bridgeport quarterback added two rushing touchdowns as well.

“You know what you are going to get,” Bridgeport coach John Cole said of a rematch with RCB. “You just have to be ready if there is something different.  It will likely come down to who has improved the most and who makes the fewest mistakes.”

Cole knows the RCB offense will be improved and ready to play in this one.

“They rushed for nearly 400 yards against us and we haven’t seen anything like that,” Cole said. “Davidson and (freshman running back Jeremiah) King are big, strong running backs that really challenge us. They are special talents with a great line in front of them.

“We are definitely going to have to play much better defense if we want to beat them this time around,”  Cole concluded.

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