George Washington holds off Cabell Midland, 28-21

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — There were plenty of positives to take away from George Washington’s productive offensive showing Thursday night against Cabell Midland at Steve Edwards Sr. Field.

However, when the Patriots were in desperate need of one, their defense made a game-saving play that preserved an impressive 28-21 victory over the Knights on the opening night of high school football across the state.

“They are a really good team and a very good program, but we like to think of ourselves as a pretty doggone pretty good program,” GW coach Steve Edwards said. “We’ve been to the Island a couple times. I’m really proud of this team and really proud of the way my seniors played. They came through and then the supporting cast of underclassmen had some key plays and did a good job.”

With Cabell Midland on the brink of scoring late to potentially tie the game or take its first lead, the Patriots’ Heith McCormick recovered an Alex Smith fumble on a third-and-1 play that followed a timeout and began with 10 seconds remaining.

The Knights had forced a punt to start on their 29-yard line with 2:15 remaining. A 23-yard run by Zechariah Roberts put CMHS into the red zone, before Curtis Jones broke off a 7-yard gain and Ryan Wolfe worked his way for 2 yards to set up the third and short.

Out of the timeout, Smith took a pitch and ran to his left, and as he was stood up near the line of scrimmage, the ball came free with McCormick pouncing on it to preserve the outcome.

“We stuck together. We knew they were going to try to pound us all four quarters,” said GW running back/defensive back Keegan Sack. “We watched a ton of film and just worked together and we completed the job.”

It was one of two costly red zone fumbles for the Knights in the fourth quarter, the first of which came with 9:57 remaining when Jones lost possession and GW’s Anthony Valentine made the recovery. At that time, the Patriots led 28-14, though Cabell Midland forced a three-and-out and got the ball back in 1:05, before marching 53 yards on eight rushing plays, the last of which was Wolfe’s 1-yard touchdown run. The third of three point-after kicks from Olivia Charles left the Knights with a 28-21 deficit and 6:04 to play.

GW picked up a critical third-and-14 on its ensuing series, as quarterback Abe Fenwick connecting with wideout Hayden Hatfield for a gain of 18.

That proved to be the Patriots’ final first down, and the Knights forced a punt to get the ball back, but came up just short in the late stages.

“We held our own and didn’t give up the big play, which is crucial,” Edwards said. “They’re known for it and they have some breakaway backs and the quarterback is tremendous. The fullback does a nice job, too. We just played our keys, played hard and did what we needed to do.”

A stellar start for GW went a long way in determining the outcome. The Patriots forced a three-and-out on the game’s opening series, then got a 47-yard touchdown run from Valentine on their third play to lead 3:03 into the action. The first of four Rylan Morehead point-after kicks left the home team with a 7-0 lead.

The Knights again went three-and-out on their second series, allowing GW to start at the CMHS 44.

Three plays later, Fenwick connected with Sack for a 38-yard touchdown pass, allowing the Patriots to double their advantage at the 5:22 mark of the opening quarter.

“The early start was a key and we got going,” Edwards said.

Cabell Midland responded with a 12 play, 63-yard drive that was capped off by Jones’ 8-yard TD run, allowing the visitors to cut their deficit in half 10:08 before halftime.

Neither team scored again in the first half, and GW went to the break with a seven-point advantage despite being outgained 136-119. CMHS hurt its cause with seven first-half penalties.

The Patriots started the second half much like they did the game, and Fenwick’s 58-yard run on the opening series of the third quarter helped lead to his 7-yard touchdown pass to Sack, giving GW a 21-7 edge 3:01 into the second half.

However, CMHS had a strong answer in the form of a 13 play, 65-yard drive that Wolfe finished with a 4-yard TD run at the 2:30 mark of the third.

GW never backed down though, and the Patriots concluded the third quarter with a pair of positive plays as Fenwick first ran for 20 yards and then found Hatfield for an additional 8.

On the first play of the fourth quarter, Fenwick scrambled to buy time, then threw back across his body to Sack, who hauled in the pass and reached pay dirt for a 27-yard reception that marked his third touchdown catch of the contest. More importantly, it left GW with a 28-14 edge with 11:52 remaining, and the Patriots were able to hang on for a marquee win.

“It’s a great feeling come out on top,” Sack said. “Cabell Midland is a great team and a very big program. This was a very anticipated game that we really wanted to win and we came out here and did what we needed to do.”

Both teams moved the ball well, with the Knights gaining 362 yards on 61 offensive snaps to the Patriots’ 269 yards on 42 plays.

Fenwick finished 11-of-20 with 140 yards and three touchdowns and added 80 rushing yards.

“He played big time in a big game,” Edwards said. “He needed that really bad and we needed him to do that really bad. I know he’s capable of doing it. I’m tickled to death he was able to make some plays.”

The win was No. 182 in Edwards’ coaching career, making him the winningest football coach in Kanawha Valley history.

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