North-Central Report: Quarterfinals

AAA #6 University (10-1) vs. #3 Capital (10-1)  Laidley Field, Saturday 1:30

University beat rival Morgantown for the second consecutive game, holding the Mohigans out of the end zone both times. University beat Morgantown 9-3 in a first round playoff game just two weeks following a 14-3 victory in the MoHawk Bowl.

“It was highly intense,” said University coach John Kelley of just the second playoff victory over Morgantown in school history. “We should have scored more points early, but we didn’t get them. It nearly came back to bite us. But for our defense to shut that crew down and to hold them to just two field goals in two games is absolutely amazing. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anything like that in all my years of coaching.”

Senior defensive linemen Clint Arbaugh, Jeff Headley and Tony Richardson were outstanding, along with junior Scott Dixon up front. Richardson was credited with two sacks. Junior linebacker Jeremy Eckles led the team with eight tackles. Junior linebacker Jeremy Hunter had 1.5 sacks. Senior linebacker John Moore and senior cornerback Stratton Spirou were second on the team with seven tackles each.

The Hawks’ defense also came up with a pair of interceptions. Eckles picked off a deflected ball. Senior safety Jack Armstrong intercepted a pass near the sidelines late in the game that sewed up the victory.

“Anybody will tell you that defense wins championships,” Kelley said. “If you are playing good defense, you’ve got a chance to win. It doesn’t matter what level. If you are playing defense well, you’ve got a shot.”

University’s offense in the rematch win over Morgantown came almost exclusively on the ground. Senior quarterback Travis Renner rushed for 140 yards including a 35-yard touchdown. Junior tailback Jace Neville had a career high 124 rushing yards. University had just eight yards passing in the game.

“We missed a lot of opportunities to score,” Kelley said. “I was concerned on Saturday night. We didn’t win the line of scrimmage on that night. We’ll get going offensively. I don’t think we’ll have any trouble with that.”

Kelley credited Renner with making big plays with his feet.

“Absolutely amazing,” Kelley said. “You talk about stepping up big time in the playoffs. He just creates a match up nightmare for opponents even when he scrambles. He is running that mid-line veer and zone read better than I’ve ever seen it run before.”

Renner had 230 rushing yards in the back to back victories over Morgantown, and he leads his team with 842 rushing yards and nine rushing touchdowns.

The Hawks will be up against another very good defensive team. Capital has allowed an average of just six points over their last five games. No team has scored more than one touchdown against the Cougars since Cabell Midland did way back during the second week of October.

“It’s an extremely tough test going to Capital,” Kelley said. “This will probably be the first team we play that has more speed than us.  “I’m hoping our guys will focus a little more this week in preparation because we are talking about a team they’ve never seen before.”

This current group of UHS players have yet to see Capital. Ironically, the only previous time UHS beat Morgantown in the playoffs, the opponent the next round was Capital. UHS beat the Cougars 24-13 at home during round two of the 2007 postseason.

 

AA #13 Robert C. Byrd 8-3 at #12 Ritchie County (8-3) Friday

An improving and maturing RCB team pulled off a first round upset on the road at No. 4 Frankfort last week, 21-17.

“Frankfort had a nice team,” RCB coach Bruce Carey said. “For our guys to come through, it was a big step for a young team. We hung in there and were able to win it at the end.”

Julian Malfregeot caught a 27-yard touchdown pass for the game winning score against Frankfort with just over 3:00 to go. RCB was able to overcome a late turnover with a good 4th quarter defensive effort.

“We’ve really improved as the season has moved along,” Carey said. “We still start just three seniors on the whole team. We have a lot of young kids that haven’t been in these situations before. Every week seems like we’ve grown a little bit more.”

The Eagles’ next opponent will be upstart Ritchie County who won the road at Summer’s County during week one.

“A lot of people have talked about there are three contenders in AA and the rest are pretenders,” said Ritchie coach Mike Dawson. “We’re not one of the three that they consider a contender. But I just think about all of the effort that everybody pours into it.

“We are still here and we are excited to be here,” Dawson says. “And we are really thrilled to be home for the second round. Our seniors lost their final (regular season) home game to Tyler this year, so they get a chance to redeem that.”

Carey says his defense will key on Ritchie County senior quarterback Alex Lipscomb had 313 yards of total offense in the first round win.

“We know they spread you and and they like running that quarterback,” Carey said. “We’ve got to be ready for that.”

 

AA #7 Fairmont Sr. (8-2) at  #2 Bridgeport (10-1) Saturday, 1:30

Fairmont Senior has survived into the second round of the playoffs but the Polar Bears will move forward without two of their top offensive players. Quarterback Austin Norman suffered a serious ankle injury during a 49-26 first round playoff win over Keyser. The Polar Bears were already playing without top running back Noah Harmon. Harmon had rushed for over 1,100 yards prior to a season ending injury.

In the Keyser game, Norman had thrown four touchdown passes in the first half as Fairmont Senior bolted out to a 42-0 lead. Norman, however, suffered a serious ankle injury in the third quarter.

“We were in shock,” said Fairmont Senior coach J. L. Abbott of Norman’s injury. “We had just come back out after half time. We had the lead, but we wanted to make sure we maintained our play. It zapped everybody on our sideline. But credit the defense with continuing to play.

“We’ve got to move forward now. It was a big loss losing Austin. Three weeks ago we lost Noah so we are down about 3,000 yards and over 30 touchdowns. That’s the sport were in. We always try to teach our players that football is about more than X’s and O’s. It’s about building life lessons and they sure got one Friday night.

“It’s about the lessons learned and dealing with adversity,” Abbott continued.  “They all want their friends to get healthy and be OK, but our team has just got to move on. We’ve got to get to work this week. No one expected us to be in the second round of the playoffs.  Everyone wrote us off against Keyser. But we are here and I expect our team to play hard.”

Abbott says he and his staff picked Saturday in order to have an extra day to game plan with a new quarterback.

“We’ve got great kids and we still have great athletes at Fairmont Senior,” Abbott said.  “We’ve got kids that want to touch the ball. We’ll have a game plan ready.”

Bridgeport overcame a touchdown by Roane County on the opening kickoff to roll to a 54-20 first round victory. The Bridgeport power pistol offense accounted for 268 first half rushing yards while the Indians defense held Roane to negative rushing yards in the first half.

Now it’s a rematch with Fairmont Senior. Bridgeport won that game 37-14 at home back on Oct. 4.  Bridgeport went back to its traditional stick-I formation during that first Fairmont game.

“They put (senior lineman Vincent Delligatti) right over our center and I fully expect that again,” said Bridgeport head coach Josh Nicewarner. “We have to get better at that or we will be running under center.”

Bridgeport will have to overcome the loss of another key defensive player as junior outside linebacker Mitchell Winkie was injured and was lost for the rest of the way. Winkie also plays up back on offense.

“They are going to be a physical team and this will be a physical game.” Nicewarner said of the Fairmont State match up. “They will be aggressive on defense and they’ve got the athletes to score quickly on offense. It doesn’t matter if we know them or not, we’ve got to be able to stop them.”

And at Fairmont Senior, they are hoping for a different result.

“I think we’ve grown as a team enough to put that week five loss behind us,” Abbott said.  “That was half a season ago. We’ve been pretty good on defense all season and our kids are pretty resilient. I expect them to show up and perform.”





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