W.Va. Sports Writers Exchange
Wayne 44, R.C. Byrd 20
HUNTINGTON - Wayne passed its way into the Class AA football state championship game.
Yes, you read that correctly. The top-ranked Pioneers (13-0) passed for 251 yards, all by Grant Ferguson, Friday night in a 44-20 rout of No. 13 Robert C. Byrd (9-4) in the playoff semifinals at Huntington High School’s Bob Sang Stadium.
The Pioneers will go for their third consecutive state championship when they take on No. 2 Bridgeport (12-1) at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Wheeling Island Stadium. The Indians clobbered Bluefield 42-21.
The score and statistics aren’t a fair indicator of how dominant Wayne was. At halftime, the Pioneers led 44-0 and held a 352-68 edge in total yardage. Byrd managed just one first down in the first half.and punted five times in seven possessions.
“We have a lot to play for,” Wayne coach Tom Harmon said. “We have a chance to play for a state championship.”
Wayne tied now-defunct Anstead for the state’s longest winning streak at 36 games. The Pioneers did it in impressive fashion with Ferguson leading a juggernaut offense that overpowered the Eagles. Ferguson had missed Wayne’s first two playoff games recovering from an ankle injury. Reserve Nate Adkins was stellar in Ferguson’s absence and Ferguson was just as outstanding in his return, completing 9 of 17 passes for 251 yards and two touchdowns.
Ferguson was helped by a rushing attack that compiled 167 yards and by a defense that held Byrd to 265 total yards.
That the physical, run-oriented Pioneers took control of the game via the air might have surprised Byrd.
“If you have all the pieces of a a puzzle to do it, it’s easy,” Harmon said of an effective passing game. “We had all the pieces tonight. We had guys make catches, throw it well and give us time to throw it. Having Grant back helped our offense,.Being able to stand up helped us, too.”
By “standing up,” Harmon was referring to the condition of Wayne’s field, which was deemed by the WVSSAC as unplayable because it was so rutted after last week’s muddy victory over Sissonville. The Pioneers were quick on the FieldTurf of Huntington High and Byrd couldn’t catch up.
The Pioneers began the blowout on the first play of the game when Cody Stiltner raced 57 yards around right end for a touchdown. The Pioneers needed just three plays on their second possession to make it 14-0 as Mason Hodge scored on a 20-yard run. Wayne punted on its third possession, but the hope that gave to Byrd was false, as Ferguson hit Stiltner with a 47-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the Pioneers fourth possession to make it 21-0.
As bad as the first quarter was for Byrd, the second was even worse as Wayne scored 23 points. Stiltner scored on a 9-yard run and a 36-yard pass from Ferguson. Hodge then dropped Elias Grant in the end zone for a safety before catching an 11-yard touchdown pass from Ferguson to give Wayne a 44-0 lead at the half.
The Pioneers played their reserves the entire second half and were outgained 197-73, but the outcome never was in doubt.
Seth Napier led Wayne’s running game with 48 yards on 11 carries. Stiltner caught four passes for 101 yards.
Grant led Byrd with 75 yards on 10 carries.
Score by quarters:
R. C. Byrd …. 0 0 12 0 - 20
Wayne …. 21 23 0 0 - 44
Bridgeport 42, Bluefield 21
BRIDGEPORT — The Bluefield Beavers’ hopes for a state championship came to an end Friday night at Wayne Jamison Field as the Bridgeport Indians used an overwhelming running game and a swarming defense to claim a 42-21 win and advance to next week’s championship game in Wheeling against the Wayne Pioneers.
The Indians won the coin toss, received the opening kick and marched from their own 33 for the game’s first score. 13 plays, all on the ground, capped by Anthony Bonamico’s four yard run. Brennan Duarte kicked the point and with 5:16 to play in the first Brideport was ahead 7-0.
The Bluefield offense had it tough. On its first three plays they managed to lose 20 yards and punted back to the Indians. After a Bridgeport punt the Beavers got the ball for the second time with just under two minutes to play in the first. The quarter ended with Beavers punting again to Bridgeport and the Indians starting at the Bluefield 40. Eight plays later Bonamico took a handoff running right, reversed field and carried it to the end zone from six yards out. The kick made it 14-0.
Bridgeport carried a 14-0 lead into the half. In the first two quarters Bluefield ran 13 plays and gained 19 yards while Bridgeport ran 35 plays for 151 yards.
Carlos Reed returned the second half kick out to the Beavers 43 and a 27 yard pass from R.J. Bourne to D.J. Edwards gave Bluefield a first down at the 30. However, the drive stalled and Bourne was intercepted on fourth and 10, the Indians taking over at their own 41.
Two dead ball unsportsmanlike conduct penalties saw the Simon ejected from game and took the ball from the Bluefield 49 to the 19 with 8:40 to play in the third. Bridgeport made it 21-0 on an A.J. Caldera yard run with 7:20 to go. “I was on them (the officials) pretty hard on the fumble I thought we got, on the punt,” Simon said. “I’m not sure about the other one, but the punt I saw. It definitely hit his chest. It was a big play in the game and they were there to see it.
Less than a minute later that score and after another Bluefield turnover, Caldera ran six yards for a score to make it 28-0.
Abandoning the ground game, Bluefield went to the air. And Bourne connected with Edwards for a 15-yard scoring strike with 4:32 to play in the quarter.
Bridgeport added to its lead on a 12-yard Caldera run with 10:37 left in the game. Bourne and Edwards then capped a 65 yard Beavers drive with another 15-yard touchdown connection to make it 35-14. Again it was Caldera who took it in for Bridgeport, this time from 10 yards out, his fourth score of the game. Bluefield’s final score came on a 35 yard run by D.J. Stewart with 51.9 seconds left in the game.
Caldera led Bridgeport with 141 yards rushing on 27 carries. Bonamico ran 23 times for 109 yards. Caldera was 0-for-2 passing.
Stewart finished with 95 yards rushing on eight attempts while Bourne compeleted 16-of-30 pases for 201 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Edwards hauled in eight passes for 81 yards and two scores.
Bridgeport will face Wayne in the finals. Wayne defeated Robert C. Byrd for its 36th consecutive win, tying Anstead for the state record for consecutive wins. Anstead managed the feat in the early ‘70s.
Bluefield finished the season with a 10-3 record, while Bridgeport improved to 12-1.
Score by quaters:
Bluefield…….0 0 7 14 — 21
Bridgeport…..7 7 14 14 — 42
Madonna 42, Williamstown 28
WEIRTON - Ross Comis and Elliot Nero combined for 238 rushing yards and four touchdowns as Madonna defeated Williamstown.
The Blue Dons (13-0) broke a 21-21 tie when the Yellowjackets (10-3) attempted an onside kick. However, Will Bowser recovered the ball and took it 77 yards to the end zone. It would be the first of three Madonna touchdowns scored in a span of just under five minutes in the third quarter.
Jake Tracewell led Williamstown with 75 rushing yards and 74 passing yards to go with three touchdowns.
David Hastings caught two of those touchdowns and picked up 25 yards on the ground, while Dakota Watson combined for 78 total yards.