WEST UNION, W.Va. — Entering Friday’s matchup against No. 4 Williamstown, No. 6 Doddridge County had won each of its first eight games by at least 19 points while outscoring the opposition, 396-76.
However, with the Yellowjackets coming to Cline Stansberry Stadium for a showdown of top 10 Class A teams, Bulldogs coach Bobby Burnside was well aware of the challenge awaiting his squad.
But Burnside saw his experienced team rise to the occasion in a driving rainstorm. Doddridge County used another big game from tailback Hunter America, combined with a stingy defensive effort, to hold off Williamstown, 14-7.
“The effort by the team tonight on both sides of the ball was great. Every second and every snap, we were bending and there were times they were driving and we had to rise to the occasion,” Burnside said. “I’m truly proud of how far we’ve come.”
The Bulldogs (9-0) have a chance to complete an unbeaten regular season next week against Tygarts Valley, while Williamstown finishes its regular season 8-2 and will wait to see if it hosts a first-round playoff game.
America ripped off a 55-yard run on the Bulldogs’ first play from scrimmage, and five plays later, the junior reached the end zone on a 2-yard run for his 33rd rushing touchdown of the season. DJ Devinney converted the point-after kick to give Doddridge a 7-0 lead with 8:08 remaining in the first quarter.
“We knew what we were in for, especially watching America,” Williamstown coach Terry Smith said.
The Yellowjackets answered with a nine play, 51-yard drive and scored on Carter Haynes’ 14-yard touchdown pass to Eric Brown. Joshua Erb made the extra point to tie it at 7 with 4:25 on the first quarter clock.
The rain picked up over the remainder of the first half and neither offense could get going. Faced with a fourth-and-9 at the Doddridge 39-yard line late in the second quarter, Williamstown lined up to punt. However, the Yellowjackets directly snapped the ball to Haynes, who was brought down just short of the line to gain after an 8-yard run. The stand by the Bulldogs sent the teams into the intermission deadlocked at 7.
“We talked about in 2014 we hosted a playoff game and at halftime it was 0-0 and we lost. Last year, in the first round of the playoffs, we played a St. Marys team that went to Wheeling and it was 7-7 at halftime and we lost,” Burnside said. “Tonight at halftime, it’s 7-7 and it was time to break through. It wasn’t going to happen with anything but great effort.”
Williamstown started the second half with good field position at its 46 but was unable to capitalize and went three-and-out.
That gave the Bulldogs the ball back at their own 23, and America immediately broke loose for a 77-yard touchdown run with 9:49 on the third quarter clock. Devinney made the PAT to increase the lead to 14-7.
“Here’s what’s crazy — we talk about his ability to change directions, and tonight you saw his north-south power,” Burnside said of America. “You couldn’t cut very well on this field, but he ran hard and got yards after contact.”
Doddridge County elected for a squib kick on the ensuing kickoff and the move worked wonders as the ball hit off a Williamstown upman and was pounced on by the Bulldogs’ Michael Chandler at the Williamstown 49.
America then carried the ball on 10 consecutive plays, helping his team get down to the Yellowjackets’ 8-yard line, where they drive stalled. Devinney came on to try a 25-yard field goal, but missed it wide, giving the Yellowjackets the ball back with 2:56 to play in the third quarter.
From there, Williamstown marched 67 yards, but Haynes’ pass fell incomplete on fourth-and-8 at the Doddridge 13 with 8:31 remaining.
The Bulldogs then gave America the ball on 12 straight running plays, five of which were good for first downs. A 13th consecutive run by America on the drive would have been good first a sixth Bulldogs’ first down, but he fumbled at the end of his 14-yard run and Williamstown’s Ryan Brown recovered at his team’s 8-yard line.
Out of timeouts, the Yellowjackets were unable to capitalize and gained only 6 yards on four plays, with Haynes throwing an incomplete pass on fourth-and-4 that gave Doddridge the ball back with 1:40 remaining.
“I knew they had heart and were going to give effort,” Burnside said of his defense. “I don’t care what the conditions were — to hold Williamstown to 7 points and to win time of possession makes me proud.”
America finished with 310 rushing yards on 42 carries, marking the third game this season in which he has surpassed 300 rushing yards. Doddridge did not complete a pass and only attempted two, while America had all but one of his team’s rushing attempts in the win.
“They have a huge offensive line and you have to tip your cap to those guys,” Smith said. “They did a good job up front. Besides having a super back, they have a super line and we just couldn’t do anything with them.”