BY C.J. RICKER
WAYNE, W.Va. — As the “second season” begins for the No. 1 Wayne Pioneers, the quest for history is also coming to the forefront. When Wayne (10-0) steps on the field Friday night in the first round of the playoffs against No. 16 Philip Barbour (6-4), they will not only begin their defense of back-to-back state titles, but also but a 33-game winning streak on the line.
If the Pioneers can capture another championship, they will also set the state record for most consecutive wins in a row (37), which is currently held by Ansted (1970-74) at 36 straight.
“We don’t talk about it a whole lot,” Wayne head coach Tom Harmon said. “If I had one word to describe [the streak] it would be focus, that focus and aiming for the prize at the end of the week has worked for us the last 33 games at least.”
Wayne comes into the game against the Colts, off of their toughest test of the year, a 29-27 battle against Bluefield.
“To our kids’ credit, we hadn’t been put in a situation like that all year,” Harmon said. “And we kinda stepped up and answered the bell.”
The Pioneers, who have been known for their rushing attack in the past, pride themselves this year on being an even more balanced attack led by quarterback Grant Ferguson. Ferguson has thrown for 1,090 yards through the air and ran for 595 yards on the ground, while accounting for 22 total touchdowns.
“You have to be balanced to be able to excel at the game exclusively,” Harmon said. “You need to be able to do a little both [running and passing] to win a playoff game.”
On the ground, Wayne leans on the legs of running backs Mason Hodge and Nathan Spurlock. Hodge leads the team in rushing with 1,110 yards and 14 touchdowns and Spurlock has added 536 yards and nine scores.
Harmon notes that there are many different variables that go into such a special winning streak – talented players and coaches, great team chemistry, some luck as well, but another crucial key for Harmon’s club has been the play from his role players.
“Last week, we had two seniors in Chris Darby and Brody Lunsford, who are getting their first opportunity to start and both had interceptions at critical times,” Harmon said. “Those are the kids that kind of put you over the top.”
Philip Barbour limped its way into the playoffs losing two straight games after getting off to a 6-2 start overall, but Wayne will still expect their best shot.
“They’re the type of team that didn’t have success at the end of the year,” Harmon said. “When you get that infusion of getting a chance to play another game when your not expected, I’m sure they will play better.”
The winner of this game will go onto face either No. 8 Sissonville or No. 9 Mingo Central in the quarterfinals next week.