WHEELING, W.Va. — A year ago, Williamstown established a dominant ground game to open up a sizable first-half lead en route to a convincing win over James Monroe in the Class A final.
The Yellowjackets followed a similar script Saturday night in their third straight appearance in a state title game.
Williamstown rushed for 287 of its 390 yards over the first two quarters and scored 28 unanswered points to start the game, paving the way for the No. 3 Yellowjackets to top No. 4 Greenbrier West, 42-12, at Wheeling Island Stadium.
“We were going to come out and play physical football. That’s what we do and how we play,” Williamstown quarterback Maxwell Molessa said. “That’s how we were going to set the tone. We managed to do that and there was no looking back once we did.”
The result gives Williamstown (14-0) its second straight state championship and fourth in program history. Greenbrier West, making its first Super Six appearance in 10 years, finished 13-1.
WHS used a bend but don’t break defensive approach for much of the first half, surrendering 197 yards to the Cavaliers, but holding them scoreless for nearly 22 minutes.
“Our kickoff coverage wasn’t great, but we were able to get stops on our side of the field,” Yellowjackets’ head coach Chris Beck said. “We took away their pass game pretty well and they had to rely on their run game.”
Greenbrier West moved 49 yards on its first series, but it ended with Hayden Ridgeway missing a 28-yard field goal attempt.
The Yellowjackets then moved 80 yards in four plays, the last of which was a 59-yard touchdown run from Louis Goodnow. Molessa, who will begin a baseball career at West Virginia University next year, ran in the 2-point attempt to make it 8-0 with 7:40 to play in the first frame.
The Cavaliers got to the Williamstown 36 on their second possession, before Carson Haines came up with a diving interception at the Yellowjackets’ 2 on a pass thrown by Cole Vandall.
Although Williamstown was then backed up, that simply allowed Molessa to rip off a 98-yard TD run two plays later, with the signal-caller outracing the Cavalier defense to record the longest touchdown in Super Six history. Molessa found Goodnow on the 2-point pass, leaving GWHS with a 16-point deficit 7:15 into the matchup.
“We talked about seizing the moment, and every snap is a moment. Make this a moment you make a game-changing play,” Beck said. “I’m going to make the plays that changes the game. Carson made one and then you flip it around and give it to the best player in Class A and one of the best players in the state and he makes something happen.”
Greenbrier West head coach Kelly Vaughan felt that was the turning point.
“We moved the ball down the field and our kicker does a fantastic job, but he just missed it,” Cavaliers’ head coach Kelly Vaughan said. “That’s part of the game. Then [Haines] for Williamstown made a hell of an interception and Molessa took it a long ways to the house. That made it tough on us. He’s a great athlete.”
The Cavaliers’ third series came to an end when Vandall’s pass fell incomplete on fourth-and-11 from the Williamstown 38, and their deficit grew to 22 when Molessa reached the end zone on a 12-yard run on the second play of the second quarter.
Although Lynken Joy was stopped short on a 2-point rushing attempt, the Yellowjackets remained in complete control with a 22-0 lead 11:16 before halftime.
“Defensively, a great effort by our guys,” Beck said. “We heard a lot about their defense and they do a great job, but the 11 guys we have can play some ‘D’ too.”
Aiden Corbett sacked Vandall on fourth down to end the Cavaliers’ fourth series at the WHS 45, and two plays later, Joy added to the Yellowjackets’ scoring punch with a 48-yard touchdown run that made it 28-0.
After Greenbrier West turned the ball over on downs on a third straight series, the Cavaliers forced a punt and then produced their first points on Isaac Agee’s 25-yard TD run 2:04 before halftime.
The point-after try was blocked, leaving Williamstown with a 28-6 lead, though it failed to add to the advantage any in the opening half as time expired in the second quarter with the Yellowjackets in the red zone.
Any thought of a Cavaliers’ rally was put to rest on the opening series of the second half, which Williamstown used 15 plays to cover 65 yards, before making it 35-6 when Molessa threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to Cooper Martin on a fourth down slant with 4:31 remaining in the third.
Lynken Joy’s 16-yard touchdown run with 7:19 remaining marked the final WHS touchdown, before Greenbrier West reached the end zone a second time courtesy of Ethan Holliday’s 25-yard run.
In addition to completing 8-of-9 passes for 96 yards, Molessa rushed for a game-high 160 yards on 19 carries.
Over three Super Six appearances in his storied high school career, Molessa amassed 557 rushing yards and nine TDs on 61 attempts. He was his team’s Most Valuable Player on each occasion.
“We all saw why he’s a Division I athlete,” Vaughan said.
Saturday’s 98-yard TD run is a play he won’t soon forget.
“When I saw the gap, I had to blow through and when I did, there was no looking back,” Molessa said. “I gave it everything I did mainly for the line, because they blocked their butts off on that play and I was going to do everything I could to get in the end zone.”
Joy added 156 rushing yards on 20 carries as WHS racked up 486 total yards.
Greenbrier West never punted and finished with 282 yards. Moses Gray had a team-best 92 rushing yards on 11 carries, while Holliday and Agee added 79 and 60 yards, respectively, on seven attempts apiece.
Vandall completed only 1-of-11 passes in defeat.
“ How do we get to 42-12 when we do not punt the ball? That doesn’t make much sense,” Vaughan said, “but it is what it is.”
(Postgame “Round of Sound”)