No. 7 Bridgeport (10-1) at No. 2 Martinsburg (11-0) Friday night
Bridgeport has won an opening round playoff game for five consecutive years as they head on the road now to face second seed Martinsburg in round two.
"We’ve done everything we’ve needed to do so far," Bridgeport coach Josh Nicewarner said. "We need to try to stay humble and keep playing.
"It’s expected," Nicewarner said of the success at Bridgeport High. "That is a lot of pressure to put on the players and the coaching staff. But, that is also what makes it exciting. The long days and the film study, this is what makes it all worth it."
The Indians exploded out of the gate last Friday night in a first round win over No. 10 seed University. Bridgeport got points on its first three possessions. The Indians took the ball on an eight play, 81 yard drive on the first possession capped by a Corey Wagner one yard touchdown run. The Indians then added back to back field goals for a 13-0 first half lead.
"We came out of the gate strong," Nicewarner said. "We moved the ball down the field on offense and we were also able to create some turnovers."
University recovered briefly to take the halftime lead as the Hawks had a long touchdown drive followed by an 86-yard punt return for a score by Micah Wilson. It was 14-13 UHS at the half, but that would be all of the scoring for the Hawks.
"We were a little bit down at halftime," Nicewarner admitted. "But we told the kids that we just needed to keep doing what was successful in the first half and we would be O-K."
What worked best was the power running game led by 190-pound senior running back Wagner who would finished the game with 220 yards rushing. That total put Wagner over 2,000 yards on the season as he now has 2,051 yards and 20 touchdowns.
"He runs so hard and you know you are going to get his best every single carry," Nicewarner said. "But it’s also a testament to our line. Corey will be the first one to tell you that he is not going to go anywhere without those front seven guys.
Bridgeport regained the lead for good in the UHS game on a Wagner four yard run following another long third quarter drive.
"Our tailback position is the focal point of the offense and Corey is tough enough and in good enough shape that he can carry the ball 35-40 times a game," Nicewarner said.
The Indians capped the scoring when Connor Kornbrath nailed a state playoff game record 47-yard field goal in the 4th quarter. 23-14 would be the final.
This week, the Bridgeport defense will have its toughest test of the season so far against a Martinsburg team that had just 10 minutes of possession time during a first round win over Lewis County. The Bulldogs, however, had several big plays on offense and on special teams.
David Gladden of Martinsburg had four touchdowns–one on an 83-yard kickoff return and another on a 44-yard run. Chris Perkins had a 59-yard punt return for a score. Quarterback Brandon Ashenfelter had touchdown passes of 15, 28 and 38 yards.
"We’ve got to be able to move the ball and try to keep their offense off the field," Nicewarner said. "As high powered as their offense is, they can’t score if we have the ball. We certainly can’t turn it over.
"Special teams are key. We allowed the long kick return in the University game. We’ve got to watch that close and try to avoid letting that happen again."
"We are not going to change anything," Nicewarner said of the daunting challenge of playing at unbeaten Martinsburg. "When you advance in the playoffs you are going to face these schools. We are not going to feel sorry for ourselves. We’ll just go and play."
No. 6 Capital (9-2) at No. 3 Morgantown (10-1) Friday night.
The Mohigans were sloppy at times, but still managed a 45-29 home turf win over Robert C. Byrd last Friday night.
MHS jumped out to a lightning quick 14-0 lead as senior linebacker David Stanton returned a fumble 29-yards on RCB’s first possession. Then the Mohigans’ offense would score for the first time on a short run by Chris Glover. But MHS would then lose the ball on turnovers on three of the next four offensive possessions. Morgantown would have total of five turnovers in the game.
"We didn’t play our ‘A’ game," MHS coach John Bowers said. "We had scrimmaged them during the summer and we had great success. They are kids, they may have overlooked this game a little bit.
"We need to focus on ball security and having concentration on the small things the entire game. If we do that, we should be fine."
Bowers was pleased by the Mohigans’ defensive effort as MHS faces one of the more prolific quarterbacks in the state. RCB’s Adam Secret managed 184 yards on 15-32 passing.
"I thought the defense really did a good job, especially when the offense put them in some pretty bad situations," Bowers said. "They were difference makers for most of the game."
That defensive focus will now shift from RCB’s spread attack to a ground oriented Capital team led by 2,000 yard rusher Keion Wright. Wright has 25 touchdowns on the year.
"Keion is going to get what he gets," Bowers said. "We just can’t let him go 50-plus yards for a touchdown. Or we can’t let a ball over our head. We can’t let a big kick return.
"If we minimize the big plays and control the ball, that will go a long way to determining whether we win the game or not."
"We need to control the football, manage the football and secure the football on offense," Bowers said. That would be a great defense. If we have the ball, Keion doesn’t. If we have the ball, (Capital quarterback) Josh Sharp doesn’t. They have speed all over the field. If we have the ball, that limits their ability to make big plays."