ST. MARYS - On a blustery cold Saturday afternoon at Imlay Field in the Class A state quarterfinals, St. Marys' offense was dominated by Greenbrier West as the No. 7 Cavaliers blanked the second-ranked Blue Devils, 18-0.
With the victory, GWHS (11-1) head coach Lewis McClung's squad advanced to the state semifinals where the Cavaliers will play host to Magnolia in Charmco with the winner getting a shot at the state championship.
"I really figured this was going to be a 14-12 or 12-8 or something like an 8-6 game," said McClung, whose defense held St. Marys (11-1) to just 7 total yards after halftime. "That's what we fully expected.
Photo by Jeff Baughan
St. Marys' Jeremy Pratt goes under Greenbrier West's Cory Cox to make a tackle as his teammates, from left, Bernie Northrup, Noah Shultz, Jared Bills and Tyler Davis aid on the stop during their Class A semifinal game Saturday. West scored a 18-0 victory to move into the semifinal round against Magnolia, a 37-7 winner over Moorefield.
"We really got the advantage with some field position early and especially in the second half, it seemed like we kept them pinned deep pretty well in their territory and I thought that really played a big role in the game."
Head coach Jodi Mote's Blue Devils, who had played 28 straight games without being held scoreless, had its chances. Greenbrier West quarterback Malik Boatwright, whose longest rush was 10 yards, fumbled on the third play from scrimmage on the game's opening drive and Blue Devil Noah Shultz pounced on it. However, St. Marys (11-1) went three-and-out.
The Blue Devils, who lost the total yards battle 141-71 and held the visitors to 88 rushing yards on 55 attempts, had a great chance on its third series after taking possession at the GWHS 33. After a holding penalty moved the ball back 10 yards, Boatwright stepped in front of an errant Michael Stout pass and raced 53 yards untouched for the only score the visitors ended up needing. Following the first of two Bradden Isaacs extra points, the Cavaliers led 7-0 with 1:12 left in the first quarter.
A dominant defense, which was led most of the afternoon by the likes of Chris Gabbert and Marquis Frazier, forced St. Marys into a three-and-out on its next drive. Boatwright had a 7-yard tackle for loss on David Gray, who had 13 carries for 30 stripes, while Gabbert sacked Stout for an 8-yard loss on third down.
Greenbrier West took control of the game on the very next series, which started with 11:22 left in the second and at the Blue Devil 39 following a 21-yard punt. Boatwright had a key 5-yard keeper on fourth-and-5 from the St. Marys 34 and got the first down by the nose of the ball. He also picked up a first down via a 5-yard run on third-and-5 from the Blue Devil 24.
The key play in the series came on second-and-21 from the SMHS 30 when GWHS used a trick play it had been saving. Dustin Yoakum lined up in the shotgun, took the snap and then pitched it to Boatwright, who found an open Mike Goddard for a big 28-yard gain. Boatwright needed four tries after having the ball first-and-goal at the 2 before finally scoring from the 1 with 4:46 left in the half.
St. Marys, thanks in part to a 31-yard reception from Noah Spitzer, had a first-and-10 at the GWHS 19, but failed to score. Jeremy Pratt ran for 4 yards on first down, but Stout's pass on second down went incomplete. A Wildcat run by Gray gained nothing on third down and another Stout incompletion gave the ball to the Cavaliers.
The Blue Devils, who were led by Corey Stewart's 37 yards rushing on three attempts, got the ball to start the second half and had a first-and-10 at the Greenbrier West 23. However, a third-down sack by Logan Brown led to a fourth-and-13 play from the Cavaliers' 26. On the ensuing snap, though, the ball was centered too high and the result was a 27-yard loss.
Even though the Blue Devils, thanks to a sack of Boatwright by Dylan Wolfe and Bernie Northrop, forced a three-and-out, the hosts regained possession at their own 8. Two plays later, disaster struck as a bad snap led to a hurried pitch which Gray couldn't grab. GWHS nearly recovered for a touchdown, but the pigskin went out the side of the end zone for a safety as St. Marys faced a 16-0 deficit at 5:10 of the third.
Greenbrier West, aided by a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, drove into the red zone but St. Marys' Robby Binegar recovered a fumble. GWHS then finished off the scoring with another safety when Shulz - an offensive lineman - caught a pass in the end zone and was called for illegal touching on an untimed down at the end of the third quarter.
The two safeties tied a preliminary round state playoff record. The last occurrence was when Williamstown, which pitched a 14-0 shutout against St. Marys on Sept. 30, 2011, pulled off the feat in 2004 against Madonna. The first time came during Wirt County's 1989 loss when the Tigers allowed a pair of safeties to Peterstown.
Boatwright completed all three of his passes for 52 yards with the other big catch coming from Goddard on a 24-yard reception around three Blue Devil defenders. However, Boatwright rushed for just 19 yards on 20 attempts. Chase McClung (12-40) and Cory Cox (16-37) led the Cavaliers on the ground.