SPENCER, W.Va. — In Week 9 of the 2021 high school football season, a one-loss Roane County team traveled to Doddridge County and was handled by the Bulldogs in a 44-16 defeat.
Looking back on it, Raiders’ head coach Paul Burdette didn’t feel he handled the buildup to the matchup as well as he could have.
“I think a mistake was made last year when we went to Doddridge, and that’s taking nothing away from Doddridge, because they played a heck of a game last year and beat us,” Burdette said. “But as a coach, I put too much pressure on my guys last year talking about how big a game it was.”
Flash forward to Week 9 of the 2022 season, and the Class AA No. 2 Raiders got another crack at the Class A No. 4 Bulldogs in a showdown of unbeaten teams at County Stadium.
While the significance of the contest was anything but lost on Roane County, the Raiders made the most of a more relaxed approach and scored the first 20 points in a 26-6 victory against Doddridge County.
“We talked about our motto being 1-0 and that’s the way we kept it all week long,” Burdette said. “The guys knew it was a big game and I didn’t have to come out and say that. They had a focus in practice all week long and we tried to stay away from saying how big a game it was.”
With the win, RCHS improved improved to 8-0 and moved one step closer to an unbeaten regular season, while the Bulldogs, who entered one of nine remaining unbeaten teams in Class A, fell to 7-1.
After the teams exchanged turnovers within the first 2 minutes of play — with the Raiders producing theirs on Skyler Delk’s recovery of a Trenton Huffman fumble, before the Bulldogs’ Brandon Hileman intercepted Delk — Roane settled in to go on top for good.
The Raiders forced a three-and-out on the second series for Doddridge, and speedster Brandon Richardson returned the ensuing punt 25 yards, putting Roane at the Bulldogs’ 30 to start its second series.
Five plays later, Briar Bregler scored the game’s first touchdown on a 9-yard run. Although the Raiders’ 2-point pass plays was unsuccessful, they led 6-0 at the 5:58 mark of the opening quarter.
It took the Bulldogs until the second play of their fourth series to pick up a first down, and they moved into the red zone later on that possession, before the drive stalled and ultimately ended on downs following a penalty.
“They were running some nice blitzes and had the box loaded and it took a while to adjust to that,” Doddridge head coach Bobby Burnside said. “Unfortunately, we turned it over real quick, but we got rolling and got moving, then made too many penalties and mistakes. You can’t make those against a good club like Roane County.”
Gabriel Stewart’s recovery of a Bregler fumble gave Doddridge the ball back at the Roane 39 with 9:49 left in the first half, but the Bulldogs couldn’t muster a first down and Stewart was stopped for 3 yards on a fourth-and-11 fake punt option play from the Raiders’ 42.
“We slowed them down enough, but made too many mistakes on offense,” Burnside said.
Roane took over 7:42 before halftime and went on to march 61 yards in 16 plays, chewing off all but 28 seconds of the remaining time and doubling its lead courtesy of Delk’s 1-yard TD run. Roane earlier converted separate fourth downs on the drive to maintain possession, and though another 2-point pass play was unsuccessful, the Raiders took a 12-0 lead into halftime.
Richardson’s 41-yard kickoff return to start the second half enabled Roane to start 1 yard shy of midfield, and Delk immediately broke free for a 51-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage. Bregler crossed the goal line on the 2-point run to give the Raiders a commanding 20-0 lead.
“We gave them short fields by mistakes we made and they’re a good club. The effort was good for the entirety,” Burnside said. “We played hard until the very last tick, but we did not execute well enough with the penalties and turnovers.”
Utilizing tempo on the following possession, Doddridge put together its only scoring drive, going 70 yards in 12 plays and getting Bryce McKinney’s 4-yard touchdown run to close its deficit to 20-6. The point-after try was no good, leaving the Bulldogs in a 14-point hole at the 6:53 mark of the third quarter.
McKinney’s sack of Jacob Greenhouse with 2:29 left in the third quarter allowed Doddridge to regain possession, but on its first play, Stewart fumbled following a 4-yard reception and Richardson pounced on the ball and returned it 25 yards to the Bulldogs’ 10.
“We had a really good defensive plan and we tweaked it as the week went on to match exactly what we wanted to do,” Burdette said. “The best part it was it was simple. We didn’t have to think a lot. We wanted to be in the same spot every time with the right guys on the right people and work that way. Our defense has been pretty tough all year.”
Four plays later, Delk reached pay dirt from 2 yards on a fourth-and-goal run with 18 seconds left in the third for what proved to be the game’s final points.
Delk rushed for 120 yards and three touchdowns on 22 carries. Bregler added 83 yards on 17 rushes.
“Offensively, we kept it a little tight to the vest tonight and tried to do our power stuff,” Burdette said, “but we were able to break out a few other things later on and they worked big as well.”
The Bulldogs and allowed only 6 total points over their previous five games and 24 points for the season before Friday.