By Michael Minnich
Mineral Daily News Tribune
No. 3 Capital (11-1) at No. 2 Martinsburg (11-1), Saturday, 1:30 p.m.
Chalk has ruled the Class AAA bracket, so it’s no surprise to find a 2-vs-3 semifinal matchup on this half of the bracket.
Both of these teams advanced through the quarterfinals with impressive Saturday offensive displays: Martinsburg took care of Cabell Midland, 54-28, while Capital cruised past University, 65-14.
After falling behind on the first play thanks to Kasey Thomas’ 79-yard scamper, the three-time defending champs got even on a 50-yard pass from Malique Watkins to Dylan Brewer, then went in front for good on an 18-yard strike from Watkins to Deamonte Lindsay.
Eric Mitchell ran a pick back for a score, then, after Cabell Midland answered with a one-yard TD rush by Thomas, Mitchell snared a 23-yard pass from Watkins to make it a two-score game again at the half.
Watkins and Thomas traded scores in the third quarter, but 50-yard scores for Lindsay (by run) and Mitchell (by interception return) put the game out of reach.
Watkins was efficient in the rematch of last year’s state title game, completing nine of 11 passes for 170 yards and also rushing for 95 stripes.
Capital, too, fell behind early only to kick it into high gear.
Kashaun Haley rushed for 126 first-half yards, 153 for the game, and found the end zone twice in Capital’s 28-point second quarter, which turned a 7-7 tie into a blowout.
Capital added three more scores in the third quarter, with Haley scoring on a 92-yard kickoff return.
Watkins’ 1,688 yards is fourth-most in Class AAA and best among the four surviving teams; the MHS quarterback has scored 19 touchdowns.
Haley is close behind with 1,565 yards and has found the end zone 20 times on the ground.
Lindsay went over 1,000 yards rushing in the quarterfinals, sitting at 1,003 to go with 12 scores, while Eric Brown has 859 yards and 10 touchdowns.
In the passing game, Capital’s Tyrhee Pratt has completed 107 of 200 attempts for 1,727 yards, 15 touchdowns, and four interceptions, while Watkins is 58-for-98 for 850 yards, 14 scores, and six picks.
Pratt’s top target has been Tyrell Davis (26 catches, 508 yards, six touchdowns).
Also worth noting if this game is close: Capital’s Logan Garrison has made seven field goals this year, while Martinsburg’s Fisher Boeckmann has only extra points to his credit.
Martinsburg’s recent success is well-documented, while Capital’s in the final four for the first time since 1999; they haven’t played in the title game since losing by a touchdown to John Marshall in 1996.