WHEELING, W.Va. — Martinsburg’s Ricky ‘R.J.’ Barrett has made a habit of blocking punts.
Barrett picked the perfect time for his latest act, blocking his eighth punt of the season in the second quarter of Saturday’s Class AAA championship against Spring Valley. Trey Sine recovered the loose ball and returned it 26 yards for a touchdown, allowing Martinsburg to take control en route to its 31-7 win against Spring Valley.
“It’s Ricky Barrett. That’s what Ricky Barrett does,” Bulldogs coach Dave Walker said. “He’s done it, I can’t even tell you the number of times in his career. We do work on that a lot in practice, but it’s about effort and want to. He goes full speed with everything he does. It really switched the momentum of the game.”
The Bulldogs, who have now beaten the Timberwolves in three straight title games, are Class AAA champs for a seventh time in nine seasons and extended their state record win streak to 42 games.
Less than 2 minutes after Grant Harman’s 20-yard touchdown run gave Martinsburg (14-0) a 6-0 lead 5:28 before halftime, the Timberwolves lined up to punt at midfield. Spring Valley appeared to have the Bulldogs pinned deep, but an illegal formation forced the Timberwolves to punt again. Barrett had other ideas, coming around the edge to bat the ball off the foot of punter Zane Porter, and Sine picked it up and raced untouched to the end zone with 3:39 to play in the opening half.
Martinsburg, which had a failed point-after try following its first touchdown, elected to go for two and Harman crossed the goal line on a run to up the Bulldogs’ lead to 14-0.
“I guess the coaches saw something so they had me go to the other side,” Barrett said. “I had a straight shot to the kicker.
“It was big momentum for the offense, because we started out a little sluggish and having a big play on special teams fired it up.”
Spring Valley (13-1) went for it on fourth-and-2 in its own territory late in the first half, but was stopped short. The turnover on downs led to Chris Catlett’s 29-yard field goal 31 seconds before halftime that allowed the Bulldogs to take a 17-0 lead into the intermission.
“We didn’t have a drive in the first half that we didn’t have a penalty on,” Spring Valley coach Brad Dingess said. “When you’re playing them, you can’t get behind the chains like we did. We kept shooting ourselves in the foot.”
Martinsburg put any thought of a Timberwolves rally to rest with a pair of third-quarter touchdowns that allowed it to build a 31-0 lead. The first came on Harman’s 30-yard pass to Teneval on fourth-and-10 with 7:57 to play in the period, before Harman ran in his second TD from 25 yards with 4:45 left in the quarter.
“Grant’s a heck of a player and he does everything for us,” said Teneval, who also caught a 42-yard pass one play prior to Harman’s 20-yard TD run that opened the scoring.
Graeson Malashevich’s 11-yard touchdown pass to David Livingston with 9:03 remaining got the Timberwolves on the board.
The Timberwolves finished with only 180 total yards on 55 plays, rushing for 101 yards on 37 attempts.
“Everybody said Spring Valley has the strongest line and running game out there. Well we have the strongest defense out there and it just so happens our defense is stronger than their offense,” Barrett said.
Martinsburg, which totaled 261 yards on only 39 plays, was led by Harman. The senior signal caller rushed for a game-high 123 yards on 14 carries and completed 5-of-9 passes for 71 yards.
Teneval caught a pair of passes for 72 yards in the win.
“Our guys are pretty tough and they play pretty hard and we’re fast,” Walker said. “Our kids used their quickness and it was exciting for our kids to have success against some big-time players, so I was happy for them.”
In addition to throwing an 11-yard touchdown pass, Malashevich rushed for 42 yards and had three receptions for 33 yards.
Both teams were heavily penalized in the contest. The Timberwolves finished with 10 penalties for 112 yards, while the Bulldogs had 11 infractions for 120 yards.