FAIRMONT, W.Va. — Leading by a touchdown with 9:37 remaining in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s opening round game in Class AA playoffs, No. 9 Herbert Hoover regained possession at its 7-yard line following a punt by No. 8 East Fairmont.
The Huskies then put together a 12 play drive that covered 93 yards, keeping it on the ground for every play of the game-sealing series, which ended with quarterback Dane Hatfield’s 14-yard run and helped the Huskies put the finishing touches on a 28-14 victory.
“I’m sure linemen like playing like that. We found our physicality in the second half,” Huskies’ head coach Joey Fields said. “We got whooped in the first half. They were much more physical than we were and played a lot harder. When you have that guy at quarterback and he can make plays, that’s the difference.”
With the win, Herbert Hoover (8-3) was victorious for the eighth time in nine games and advances to play at No. 1 North Marion in a quarterfinal. Fields indicated he’d likely again pick 4 p.m. Saturday as game time.
On the 93-yard drive, Hatfield ripped off runs of 21 and 14 yards on consecutive plays and Blake Fisher added a 14-yard run. Following a false start penalty in the red zone, Hatfield reached the end zone to make it a two score game for the first time with 2:22 remaining.
“Our kids battled and had opportunities that we didn’t finish. Our kids didn’t back down,” Bees’ head coach Shane Eakle said. “We were probably one of the few home underdogs statewide and we know that. We showed up and went toe-to-toe physicality wise with them and I’m proud of our kids for that.”
After the game went to halftime tied at 7, the Bees gained early second-half momentum when Chase Hudson intercepted Hatfield and set EFHS up at the Huskies’ 32-yard line.
East Fairmont ultimately got to the Hoover 1-yard line, but on fourth-and-goal, quarterback Ian Crookshanks was stopped for a 1-yard loss on a run up the middle.
“It was huge. If we punch that in, that probably flips the momentum and who knows? But give them kudos,” Eakle said. “They reared up on the 1 when they had to.”
The Huskies got off their goal line when Hatfield rushed for 9 yards on the second play of the ensuing series, and six plays later, Hatfield found Bryce Grimm for a 59-yard touchdown pass with 4:37 remaining in the third quarter.
“A kid who probably doesn’t have ten catches on the year and goes and makes a big play in a playoff game. I’m super proud of him,” Fields said. “He works hard and he’s a team player.”
East Fairmont answered with a 51-yard touchdown drive to get even, capitalizing on two Hoover penalties and scoring on Adrian Fleming’s 10-yard run to pull even at 14 with 2:25 left in the third quarter.
But Hoover countered immediately and used seven rushing plays to gain 72 yards on its ensuing series, before Hatfield capped it off with a 1-yard scoring run on a quarterback sneak at the 10:55 mark of the fourth quarter.
The Huskies defense allowed an 18-yard pass on the first play of the Bees’ ensuing series, but ultimately forced a punt four plays later that led to the game-defining series.
“It started up front with our guys winning the line of scrimmage and making them throw when they have to and not when they want to,” Fields said. “I’m proud of our group. At this point, it’s about being 1-0 and finding ways to win.”
The Bees struck first on the game’s fifth series when Crookshanks connected with a streaking Avery Brown for a 61-yard touchdown pass, allowing the home team to lead 7-0 with 8:11 to play in the second quarter.
Following an exchange of punts, the Huskies answered with a 78-yard drive to pull even, getting a 1-yard touchdown run from Fisher 2:30 before halftime.
Although East Fairmont lost a fumble on its following series, the Bees’ defense forced a three-and-out to keep the contest tied at 7 at halftime.
Hatfield rushed for 211 yards on 37 attempts to lead the way in the win.
“Give them all the credit in the world. When they had to make plays, he’s the guy,” Eakle said. “I’d have given it to him 37 times if I had him as well.”