— By Wes McKinney
No. 2 Spring Valley (13-0) vs. No. 1 Martinsburg (13-0)
When: Saturday at noon (at Wheeling Island Stadium)
Last Week: Spring Valley jumped out to a 28-7 halftime lead against Capital and never looked back in a 56-14 win over the Cougars in the Class AAA Semifinals. Will Adkins threw three touchdowns as he continued his postseason surge.
“Will made a bunch of great decisions,” Spring Valley head coach Brad Dingess said. “Owen Chafin did a good job running the ball. Isaac Howard is an unsung hero in that game. He did a good job blocking and was able to catch some balls out of the backfield.”
Chafin and Howard combined for three total touchdowns in the contest. Howard also had an interception in the emphatic semifinal win. Martinsburg beat Musselman for a second time this season, 42-14, to make a third consecutive trip back to the Super Six.
Why It’s Important: Spring Valley is no stranger to the Super Six as it meets the Bulldogs for a third straight year, seeking its first state championship in football. And it’s a different feeling for the Timberwolves this season, who have become a more-balanced team with the passing ability of Adkins and Kennedy Award candidate Graeson Malashevich.
But the biggest difference for Spring Valley in the 2018 edition of the Super Six might just be the fact the Timberwolves have been here before.
“We’re a year older — have most of our guys back,” Dingess said. “We lost some guys, but right now we’re an old football team with a bunch of seniors. Hopefully, we can give it a better run this year.
“We had some young kids two years ago,” he continued. “Going from winning one playoff game in the school’s history to making the state championship in the first year that was a ride. It was a little eye-opening once we got to Wheeling with that crew. All these kids were on that football team two years ago.”
Players to Watch Spring Valley: Even though the Timberwolves have the ability to attack teams through the air more so than before, it could very well be the powerful smash-mouth style that built the Timberwolves into one of the most successful programs in the state that leads the way this weekend. Behind Ohio State commit Doug Nester, Louisville commit Zac Williamson, who missed last year’s game due to a broken leg and Wyatt Milum, Spring Valley possesses one of the best lines in high school football.
“We have to try to get them in some third-down situations,” Dingess said. “We need to try to neutralize the running game and make them one dimensional. If we can’t get any pressure on the quarterback and he has time to throw, then it could be a long day for us.”
After playing a close first quarter with the Bulldogs last season in the title game, then-Martinsburg quarterback Tyson Bagent took control of the game and the Spring Valley defense as MHS went onto win 44-16.
Players to Watch Martinsburg: Grant Harman and Elijah Banks have assumed the quarterbacking duties with Bagent now at Division II Shepherd.
“Harmon is a winner,” Dingess said. “That guy has been first team all-state two years in a row and I’m sure it’ll be the third year this year. He’s a guy that you want to go into battle with.”
Dingess spoke just as highly of Banks.
“The Banks kid has an arm on him, a cannon,” he said. “I know now what teams were struggling with when we would run two and three quarterbacks. You have to make two game plans when you have two different guys like that.”
But it’s not all about the quarterbacks for the Bulldogs as they still have plenty of playmakers too.
“Martinsburg is going to get some points on us, but we have to make them drive the field and earn it,” Dingess said. “We can’t give up 70 and 80-yard touchdowns that only last one or two plays. We need to make it almost like a slugfest where we’re battling and battling and not a track meet. If it gets into a track meet, we’re in trouble.”