The 2018 high school football season came to a close shortly before 10pm this past Saturday night and when that final horn had sounded, one thing was very clear……the three champions that were crowned this past weekend in Wheeling were without question the three best teams in their respective classes and all were very deserving!
On Friday evening, the Class AA title game was a rematch of last year’s championship game and just like last year this game, at least from a fan’s perspective, was the best game of the weekend. Two very evenly matched ball clubs battled it out on the Island and #1 seed Fairmont Senior defeated #2 seed Bluefield 23-13. In doing so, the Polar Bears captured their first football championship in 72 years and Coach Nick Bartic’s crew finished a perfect 14-0 season! Unlike the regular season where the Polar Bears relied heavily on the passing attack of senior quarterback Connor Neal, Coach Bartic decided to rely on his offensive line to open up some holes for the run game and Breeden Gilbert and Rhett Heston took advantage of several opportunities. Gilbert ended the night with 22 carries and 120 yards rushing including a 2 yard touchdown. Heston carried the ball 11 times for 100 yards and another score. Now don’t think Connor Neal didn’t play a big part in the success for the Polar Bears Friday night, because the young man did have an outstanding evening completing 13 of 19 passes for 187 yards and a 25 yard touchdown pass to J. D. Smith! For Bluefield, Juice Edwards was the go to back as the youngster carried the ball 16 times for 113 yards, but was kept out of the end zone. Quarterback Chandler Cooper finished the night 7 of 14 passing for 146 yards and two scores. Success for Fairmont Senior came when they opened a 20-0 lead with 10:43 left in the 2nd quarter and Bluefield was unable to climb out of what proved to be a very deep hole!
On Saturday afternoon, the Class AAA game kicked off and featured two very talented undefeated teams. The #1 seeded Bulldogs of Martinsburg was facing the 2nd seeded Timber Wolves of Spring Valley for the third straight year in the championship game and for the third straight year, Martinsburg proved why they are without a doubt the best team in Class AAA. The Spring Valley Timber Wolves had every opportunity to get on the scoreboard a couple of times in the 1st quarter, but thanks to some great defense by Martinsburg and some very untimely penalty flags, Spring Valley came up scoreless! Martinsburg, which totaled 261 yards on only 39 plays, was led by quarterback Grant Harman. The senior signal caller rushed for a game-high 123 yards on 14 carries and completed 5-of-9 passes for 71 yards. The Timberwolves finished with only 180 total yards on 55 plays, rushing for 101 yards on 37 attempts and most of that was from “Mr. Do Everything” Graeson Malashevich. It was Malashevich and Owen Chafin that Coach Brad Dinguess relied on for most of the game.
Saturday evening saw #1 Wheeling Central and #6 Williamstown matching up for the second time this season and even though the Class A title was on the line, the out come this time around was much like the first week of the regular season when the Yellow Jackets fell to the Maroon Knights 33-0. On Saturday night, Williamstown would score, however the margin of victory was still 29 as Wheeling Central prevailed 44-15! While Williamstown moved the ball much better than it did in the season opener, the Maroon Knights (13-1) were never seriously threatened thanks in large part to scoring the game’s first 16 points. Wheeling Central finished with a 427-317 advantage in total yards, with quarterback Curtis McGhee completing 10-of-17 passes for 154 yards and rushing 23 times for 131 yards. Bray Price and Adam Murray added 73 and 55 rushing yards, respectively, on five carries, while Price also had six receptions for 87 yards.
So, the final horn has sounded on the 2018 season and the lights have been turned off at Wheeling Island Stadium bringing to a close the 25th year the Super Six tournament was played on the Island. For me, it was another long, but successful season of covering high school football through GAMENIGHT and a very special thanks goes out to my co-host Dave Jecklin as we just completed year #17 of the most popular show on the Network!! I am already looking forward to year 18!!