WILLIAMSTOWN, W.Va. — Ahead of Friday’s matchup at No. 3 Williamstown, second-ranked Doddridge County had surrendered the second fewest points of any team in the state and lowest of any Class A school with 52.
Many thought that number would rise somewhat significantly against the Yellowjackets, who entered with the third highest point total of any Class A team at 314.
But thanks in large part to the Bulldogs forcing five turnovers, the figure hardly increased. Williamstown scored on only one of its 11 possessions, and Doddridge County rode its dominant defense and ground game to an important 20-7 win over the Yellowjackets.
“That was a gutsy effort,” Doddridge County head coach Bobby Burnside said. “Every play was a battle.”
With the win, the Bulldogs (9-0) claimed the Little Kanawha Conference title and will take over the No. 1 spot in next week’s WVSSAC playoff ratings. Additionally, Doddridge County moved to within one victory of a second straight unbeaten regular season.
The teams exchanged punts to start the contest, before Doddridge put together a seven play, 64-yard drive that culminated with Noah Bumgardner throwing a 19-yard touchdown pass to Hunter Jenkins on a slant. D.J. Devinney made his first of two-point after kicks to up the Bulldogs’ lead to 7-0 at the 2:54 mark of the first quarter.
Doddridge needed only four plays to cover the necessary 56 yards on its next series, which saw standout tailback Hunter America break free for a 34-yard run to the end zone that made it 14-0 with 11:20 remaining in the opening half.
“Without a doubt it was nice to establish a little bit of a lead early, and be able to grind it out and hit some key passes at pivotal points,” Burnside said.
Connor Cunningham recovered an Eric Brown fumble that allowed the Bulldogs to regain possession, but Trevor Oates intercepted Bumgardner three plays later to give Williamstown (8-2) the ball back.
After the Bulldogs forced a punt, Griffin Devericks produced a 56-yard run on a reverse that put Doddridge at the Yellowjackets’ 1-yard line. However, Bumgardner fumbled the ensuing snap and Brown recovered, allowing the Williamstown deficit to remain 14 points.
Jenkins’ interception of a Brayden Modesitt pass on fourth down gave Doddridge the ball back, but it was forced to start at its own 3-yard line, and the Bulldogs ultimately punted out of their end zone. That gave the Yellowjackets the ball back at the Bulldogs’ 33 with 1:54 left in the half.
Williamstown was able to produce its lone scoring drive from there, which finished with Modesitt finding an open Mason Deem on a 4-yard throwback pass 28 seconds before the intermission.
“We had a big chance there in the second quarter to get a really nice gap, but they come up with a turnover and do what they do to close it right before the half to 7 points,” Burnside said. “Everybody knows how well Williamstown plays in the second half, but our young men and coaching staff just elevated their game to get this win.”
Still, the Yellowjackets had the momentum at halftime and carried it over into the start of the third quarter by gaining 42 yards on the first three plays.
But Modesitt fumbled a snap and Bulldogs’ linebacker Austin Kelley came up with a recovery, allowing Doddridge to maintain its touchdown lead with 10 minutes left in the third quarter.
“The ball is inside their 15 and we fumbled. That’s a turnover and against a good team, you just can’t do that,” Williamstown head coach Terry Smith said. “It wasn’t like the kids didn’t try or anything, but that’s part of football.”
Two drives later, Doddridge put together a defining 14 play, 85-yard drive to regain its two score lead. The drive, which began with 7:49 left in the third, ended with America’s 3-yard TD run on the first play of the fourth. It also featured Bumgardner going 3-for-3 with 41 passing yards.
“We wanted to get Hunter America going and he’s getting healthy and ran hard,” Burnside said. “We needed to hit a couple (throws) and we did. We were able to hit a couple plays that made them stay honest a little bit and they were big plays for us.”
That was more than enough offense for the Bulldogs, who got a second interception from Jenkins and one final pick by Jared Jones for their fourth and fifth forced turnovers, respectively.
America rushed 40 times for 245 yards, including 24 attempts for 139 yards in the second half.
“I don’t think you can beat anybody with five turnovers,” Smith said. “We had a few turnovers and we didn’t take advantage of them.
“Of course America just ran through us or over us or whatever. We kind of expected it, but we didn’t expect to get trounced a few times. But he’s really good.”