SHORT GAP, W.Va. — One week after securing a one-point win at top seed Winfield in the final seconds of a Class AA quarterfinal, No. 9 Herbert Hoover again rose to the occasion in the late stages.
As a result, the Huskies are headed to the Super Six for the first time.
Dane Hatfield scored on a 1-yard quarterback sneak to give Hoover its first lead over No. 5 Frankfort with 5:53 to play, and Andrew Rollyson’s interception of a Luke Robinette pass with 1:55 remaining enabled the Huskies to escape with a 17-10 victory in the last of six state semifinals.
“They just keep battling and we talk about it taking four quarters to beat us and we believe that,” Huskies’ head coach Joey Fields said. “You can say those things and they’re cliche, but when your kids believe it and they go through and adversity and continue to show it, that’s who you really are.”
With the win, Herbert Hoover (10-2) will carry a 10-game win streak into Friday’s Class AA title game at Wheeling Island Stadium, where unbeaten Independence awaits.
The Falcons’ season ends at 11-2.
“It’s hard a school of our size to make it this far and then we were this close to making it to Wheeling, so it really hurts right now,” FHS head coach Kevin Whiteman said. “I’m really upset. This has been a great group of kids and they’ve played together as a team. I’m just devastated for them that they didn’t advance to the championship. They deserved it, but Herbert Hoover played a good game and I wish them well.”
Hatfield’s winning touchdown run capped a drive that the Huskies had to cover only 38 yards on as a result of good field position from forcing a three-and-out.
On the series, Hoover overcame a holding penalty on its first play and the Huskies would rush 10 times, including eight from Hatfield for 28 yards. Tailback Randy Hughart added two carries for 21 yards.
“He blocks amazing and when it’s his time to run, he runs it downhill really aggressive,” Hatfield said of Hughart. “You saw him out there breaking tackles and getting big yards. I’m so proud of him.”
Levi Paxton knocked in the point-after kick, giving the visitors a seven-point advantage just past the midway point of the fourth quarter.
After an exchange of punts, the Falcons got the ball back at their 36 with 3:23 remaining.
Normally a run-heavy offense, Frankfort instead utilized a shotgun formation and went to the air.
Robinette’s 24-yard pass to John Anderson allowed the Falcons to reach the Huskies’ 23.
After an incomplete pass, the Huskies called timeout with 2:01 remaining.
Out of the timeout, Robinette threw a pass into double coverage and it was intercepted by Andrew Rollyson for a touchback with 1:55 to play.
“The timeout was just to gather and get our right guys on the field — more of our skill guys, because they were wanting to throw,” Fields said.
“That’s part of our package and we went down the field pretty quickly, but on that last ball, we ran a corner route and they made a good play on it,” Whiteman added. “I’m not going to fault my quarterback. He’s a heck of a football player and he’s done a great job and been our leader.”
Because Frankfort still had one timeout, the Huskies needed a first down to seal the game. They got it on the first play courtesy of Hughart’s 14-yard run.
Hoover trailed 10-3 at halftime and lost out on a chance to immediately tie the game when a holding penalty negated Brayden Jones returning the opening second-half kickoff for a touchdown.
But the Huskies put together a 15 play drive that featured Hatfield’s 17-yard run on third-and-15, before the quarterback plunged into the end zone on a 1-yard sneak, which combined with Paxton’s extra point, tied the game at 10 at the 5:33 mark of the third quarter.
“He’s special to be a sophomore and do what he’s done,” Fields said of Hatfield. “He’s 21-3 in two years, so he’s a winner and they feed off him. I’m so proud of him. That kid deserves everything he gets because he’s a good kid.”
Rollyson recovered a Parker VanMeter fumble on Frankfort’s first series of the second half, though the Huskies were unable to capitalize and punted after starting at midfield.
Paxton’s 42-yard punt pinned Frankfort inside its 10-yard line. After a three-and-out, the Falcons had to punt, allowing the Huskies to start in FHS territory ahead of the game-winning drive.
Hatfield lost a fumble on a 15-yard run that Frankfort’s Logan Athey recovered to end the Huskies’ opening possession of the contest.
Tyrique Powell ripped off a 38-yard run on the Falcons’ ensuing series and Powell scored two plays later on a 4-yard run to give Frankfort a 7-0 lead 7:04 into play.
Hoover answered with Paxton’s 19-yard field goal on the first play of the second quarter to cut its deficit to four.
VanMeter had a 15-yard touchdown wiped out for a holding penalty on the Falcons’ next series, which ended with a turnover on downs inside the red zone.
“We had penalties at bad times and we were behind the chains too many times,” Whiteman said. “Those holding penalties killed us. One of the biggest plays of the game is when we scored on a run and had a holding penalty that brought it back. That would’ve been huge if we could’ve punched that one in.”
However, Robinette intercepted Hatfield on the following possession, and it helped lead to Rhett Sensabaugh’s 29-yard field goal on the final play of the first half, giving FHS a 10-3 advantage at the break.
Hatfield rushed for 185 yards on 36 carries, while Hughart added 112 yards on 12 attempts. Hoover’s 301 rushing yards enabled the Huskies to overcome minus-4 passing yards.
Powell’s 62 rushing yards led the Falcons, while Robinette added 50 and VanMeter 42.
Robinson caught four passes for 63 yards and rushed for 28 yards.
One year after earning the top seed in the postseason only to bow out to eventual state champion Fairmont Senior in the opening round, Hoover will make its coveted trip to Wheeling next week.
“I can’t even describe it,” Hatfield said. “Best feeling ever. Happy tears and we’ve come a long way. Started 0-2 and really came together. Look where we’re at now.”
— (Coverage sponsored by Burdette Camping, www.burdettecamping.com)