Martinsburg takes off with with AAA title
WHEELING — It turned out to be a super sixth for Martinsburg.
The Bulldogs just had to shake off their sluggish first half and change a stellar effort by Spring Valley during the opening 24 minutes.
Taking total control in the second half, Martinsburg scored all 31 points points and held the Timberwolves to little yardage to win 44-16 in Saturday’s Class AAA state championship game at Wheeling Island Stadium.
Martinsburg claimed its sixth title in eight years and won its 28th game in a row.
The Bulldogs trailed 16-14 at halftime to the Timberwolves, who managed 209 yards of total offense, most of it on the ground, and held better than a 2-1 advantage in time of possession.
“That whole first half, we did some good things; we did more bad,” Martinsburg quarterback Tyson Bagent said. “The second half, the defense came out juiced up and the defense did good things. We were a little nervous, but we handled it.”
And turned more like the nation’s 21st ranked team by USA Today.
“I thought we were lucky, honestly,” Martinsburg coach David Walker said of the first half. “We made a ton of mistakes in the first half. The first half and second half were like two different ballgames.”
To demonstrate the difference, Spring Valley’s bruising running back Owen Porter gained 156 yards on the ground in the opening half, but he finished with just 160.
He nursed an arm injury and was hobbled with an ankle issue in the second half.
“You can’t lose a kid of that caliber,” Spring Valley coach Brad Dingess said.
The Timberwolves added just 7 total yards of offense in the second half to finish with 216.
Martinsburg, meanwhile, moved from 142 at halftime to 385 yards total.
Martinsburg wide receiver Jarod Bowie admitted that maybe the Bulldogs overlooked Spring Valley, given Martinsburg’s 49-7 victory in 2016.
“We came out (in the second half) like we should have in the beginning,” Bowie said. “We made some progression, and the defensive line came out in the second half crazy.”
Spring Valley got Martinsburg’s attention right from the start, however.
The Timberwolves (11-3) cobbled together an 18-play, 81-yard drive which consumed 8:41 of the first quarter.
Isaac Howard ran 4 yards for the touchdown on the drive’s third third-down conversion. The Timberwolves also succeeded on fourth down one time.
“We took it 85 yards and took a lot of time off the clock,” Dingess said. “That’s what we had to do.”
Especially when Martinsburg tied the game on its ensuing possession, but needing only 2:42 to go 64 yards.
A 41-yard pass play from Bagent to Bowie put the Bulldogs in the Spring Valley red zone, and Bagent ran 1 yard for a tying touchdown.
Then Porter dashed 49 yards on Spring Valley’s next series. Mike Jackson stopped a two-point run, leaving the Timberwolves ahead 13-7.
“We weren’t lined up right,” Martinsburg defensive end Tavis Lee said. “That kid was making some big-time plays. He broke four or five tackles. He’s a good player.”
Martinsburg went ahead 14-13 two series later as Bagent hooked up with Bowie on a splendid 20-yard touchdown pass play as the sophomore wide receiver ran a corner route and caught the ball on the sidelines.
Bowie caught five passes for 87 yards, while Bagent, winning his second straight most valuable player award, completed 14 of 21 passes for 232 yards. The quarterback also punted once for 42 yards – just the sixth punt by Martinsburg all season.
Spring Valley responded with a nine-play, 74-yard drive that ended controversially with Mitchell Hall converting a 22-yard field goal to put the Timberwolves ahead 16-14.
Martinsburg was called for roughing the kicker, which should’ve carried an automatic first down as part of the penalty. However, the officials enforced the penalty on the kickoff, denying Spring Valley a chance to run its offense with a first-and-goal inside the 5.
“The way they were running, the probably would’ve scored a touchdown,” Walker said.
The field goal was it for Spring Valley, however.
Martinsburg moved back ahead 17-16 on its opening drive of the second half as Lucas Duffy hit a 22-yard field goal.
Then the Bulldogs held Spring Valley to four straight three-and-out situations and scored touchdowns after each series.
Chelto Teneval caught a 29-yard touchdown pass from Bagent, Dewayne Grantham ran 39 yards for a score then next series, Bagent broke off a 10-yard scoring run and Grantham added a 32-yard touchdown run.
Grantham, who had 18 yards rushing at halftime, finished with eight carries for 90 yards.
“We had to make sure we didn’t make stupid penalties,” Walker said. “We made some adjustments with our front. Offensively, we had to establish the run a little bit. We made some plays. I thought our speed was a factor.”
The Bulldogs were penalized six times for 51 yards in the first half and had no penalties in the second half.
“For anybody that runs for 200 yards against us, you have to give everything you have,” Bagent said. “I don’t think we would’ve played as well in the second half if they didn’t get 200 yards.”
The quarterback thought Spring Valley’s success motivated the Bulldogs.
“If they would’ve had an average first half, we wouldn’t have come out with as much energy and fire as we did in the second half.”