South’s remarkable 2019 run comes to close in state semis
MARTINSBURG — Martinsburg football coach David Walker expected a tight game when his No. 1 Bulldogs hosted No. 4 Parkersburg South in the Class AAA semifinals on Saturday.
The Bulldogs addressed Walker’s concerns early, taking advantage of opportunities in the opening minutes as Martinsburg claimed a 77-20 victory. The Bulldogs punched their card to Wheeling for the fourth straight year with the win. They’ll take on No. 2 Cabell Midland on Dec. 7 at noon.
“I think they did (step up to the challenge of South),” Walker said. “We were able to take advantage of a couple opportunities on special teams, getting that pooch kick and scoring real fast, just making plays. That fourth down with the Banks-to-Marshall pass was huge, too. Defensively, I thought they played great. I thought they really set the tone for what we were doing, and offensively, I just felt like we were doing what we do.”
A pair of South three-and-outs turned into Martinsburg touchdowns on the first two possessions. The first came two plays into the drive as Elijah Banks scored from 1 yard out after taking over at the South 14-yard line. The next Bulldog possession lasted six plays as Martinsburg faced three penalties. However, Teddy Marshall capped the drive with a 14-yard score that put Martinsburg ahead 14-0.
“We did a couple stupid penalties, but that’s part of the game. Better to do it early than to do it later. We did it early and were able to overcome it,” Walker said.
Kai Walker recovered the ensuing onside kick to give Martinsburg the ball at the South 36, and one play later, Kevon Warren cut to the South sideline, back to the Martinsburg sideline and sprinted 36 yards for the touchdown.
South answered, doing what no other team had done thus far into the postseason: score on Martinsburg. A 10-play drive ended with Devin Gaines scoring from 1 yard out. Anthony Smith blocked the PAT to maintain a 21-6 lead for the Bulldogs.
The Bulldog defense forced South to punt twice and turnover on downs in the second quarter, stalling three possessions. The Patriots’ best chance found them at the Martinsburg 7, but Malakai Brown pulled in an interception in the end zone to hold off the score.
Four touchdowns in the second quarter extended the Bulldog lead to 49-6 by halftime. Jarod Bowie scored two touchdowns, the first from 3 out and the second an impressive catch from 21 out, grabbing the ball amid the defense of two Patriots. Banks also scored twice, a 4-yard score and a 1-yard score as the Bulldogs kept rolling.
Parkersburg South quarterback Brandon Penn, a big playmaker for the Patriots, was shaken up when lineman Ty Lucas recovered a Martinsburg fumble and went 16 yards, being tackled by Penn. Penn did not return to the game.
In the first half, Martinsburg ran 35 plays for 300 yards of offense, led by Warren with three carries for 71 yards. Bowie had a pair of catches for 64 yards.
South ran 33 plays for 107 in the first half, just 2 came from the ground. Penn, a nominee for the Kennedy Award, had three positive plays, carrying the ball 10 times for -22 yards. Gaines led the offense with 30 rushing yards.
The Bulldogs got right back to work after halftime, quickly jumping ahead 56-6. Martinsburg ran two offensive plays on the first possession, Trey Sine carrying both times after lining up at quarterback. The second carry took him 37 yards for a touchdown.
Brown pulled in his second interception of the day, giving the Bulldogs the ball at their own 47. After a loss of 3 and a 54-yard catch by Bowie, Warren finished the drive with a 2-yard score to stretch the Bulldog lead to 63-6.
Both Smith and Brown has big days defensively and on special teams for the Bulldogs, leading units that have been lights-out all season but in the postseason particularly.
“Anthony does his work kind of unnoticed at times. We notice it as coaches and spectators, but he really probably doesn’t get at much credit for what he does defensively for us. He’s just always around the ball. Offensively, he had the one big catch. You only got one football, so it’s hard to get it around sometimes,” Walker said.
It was another South three-and-out and another touchdown for Martinsburg as the Bulldogs continued to dominate. Martinsburg eclipsed the 800-point mark for the season two plays after the punt when Warren went 20 yards for a touchdown that gave Martinsburg a 70-6 lead.
Braxton Todd took the lead to 77-6 with a 20-yard touchdown after Peyton Curry converted on fourth down, keeping the ball at quarterback, part of a six-play drive in which Martinsburg overcame back-to-back illegal motion penalties.
Josh Kinnaird cut into the deficit when he went 75 yards for a score on a toss from Samuel Schuler on the first play of the ensuing drive. However, Smith recorded his send block of the day on the PAT, keeping the Martinsburg lead at 77-12. He followed that with a big return to give the Bulldogs the ball at the South 36.
Martinsburg had been putting together complete team-efforts in the postseason, something that has been key to the team’s success. They’ll be looking to continue that and maintain focus as the Bulldogs gear up for the state championship.
“It’s huge. If we’re going to go and be successful next weekend and win a championship, we’ve got to play great in all three phases and we’ve got to play as a team,” Walker said. “I think they will be (focused for next week). I think we’ll have a good week of practice.”