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Doddridge drops playoff opener to East Hardy, 25-19

Photo by Josh Hughes Doddridge County’s Jared Jones looks for an opening, as teammate Levi Swiger blocks East Hardy’s Dawson Price Saturday afternoon in West Union. East Hardy won the game 25-19 and moves on to play Tolsia in the next round of the Class A state football playoffs.

WEST UNION –The No. 14 seed came into West Union with a first round upset on the mind, and that’s exactly what happened.

The East Hardy Cougars jumped out to an early 18-0 lead against the third-seeded Doddridge County Bulldogs and used it to pull off the win, 25-19 on Saturday. The Cougars move on to the second round amidst an uncertain landscape in Class A, as No. 11 Tolsia won via a Williamstown forfeit (Wood County was in the orange on the state COVID-19 map, which means the Yellowjackets were unable to play).

Nonetheless, the 6-2 Cougars used a big day from quarterback Christian Dove and wide receiver Dawson Price to get the job done. Price’s 144 yards and three scores on just four grabs led the way, as the stout DCHS secondary was put to the test.

Following an 85-yard touchdown catch which saw Price running free up the sideline, the Bulldogs (6-2) struggled to respond. Head coach Bobby Burnside made no excuses for how the team played, as the hole dug in the first half was too much to overcome.

“It’s not the way we wanted to go out, but it is what it is,” he said.

“The boy who caught those touchdowns is probably the best receiver I’ve seen all year. We had guys on him, and he just jumped up and made spectacular catches, so that was just phenomenal play by that guy. Everyone’s been dealing with (COVID). We just didn’t play well enough to win. Hats off to them, and I wish them the best.”

Dylan Knight, who managed more than 100 all-purpose yards in the loss, fumbled with 9:45 in the second, as the Cougars scored just a couple minutes later to make it 18-0. That followed Price’s second TD grab of the afternoon, as it was up to the Bulldogs to respond. Knight carried the load for the offense after the fumble, since a lengthy DC drive gave him the opportunity to punch it in from three yards away. With his Bulldogs down 18-7 at the break, coach Burnside talked about how his team kept fighting in the next half.

“I will say this, execution in the first half was key. We had miscues, and I think everyone saw in that last drive before the half how we could move the ball, but we made mistakes. They played strong defense, and we made mistakes. The two together resulted in the deficit, and in the second half, we were still playing catch up. We knew we had to open it up, but we ran out of time.”

The comeback wasn’t mean to be, but the ‘Dogs continued to fight despite the score. After Dove’s third touchdown to Price, Jones rallied after tossing two earlier interceptions to Dove on the other side of the ball. Knight found paydirt once more with a 25 yard grab from Jones with little time left in the 3rd. A 3-yarder to Seth Richards with 1:43 left brought the Bulldogs within a score, but it was EHHS’s Mason Miller who recovered an onside kick to help put the game on ice. Doddridge had one final chance to get the ball back on a 3rd and long, but a circus catch from Andrew Tharp in press coverage resulted in a game-winning 31-yard catch. Dove talked about his team’s preparation and how much this win means.

“Definitely the film watching and knowing the looks we were going to get all week helped,” he said following his 276-yard, three touchdown passing performance. “We were just able to execute and take advantage of them. We took a big loss to Pendelton County, and we didn’t play our best game. We knew we were definitely higher than a 14-seed. We were fortunate to have all of our skill players return, and our defensive backs were all back. We had one more year of experience, and we’re ready to roll.”

Contact Josh Hughes at jhughes@newsandsentinel.com

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