ST. MARYS — In an offensive shootout, No. 4 St. Marys had just a bit more ammunition than No. 5 Midland Trail.
Hence, the Blue Devils squeaked by the Patriots, 52-49, in one of Sunday's two WVSSAC Class A football quarterfinal matchups. In the other game in that half of the bracket, No. 8 Pendleton County dispatched No. 16 Tygarts Valley, 41-17.
After a 24-yard field goal by Jonathan Morrison gave the hosts a 52-42 cushion early in the fourth quarter at Bill Hanlin Stadium, the Patriots — as they had done all night — showed they still had fight left. A 76-yard scamper down the St. Marys sideline by Trail's Robert Ruffner set up a Ruffner 4-yard touchdown on a direct snap, and Talon Shockey's PAT kick pulled the visitors to within 52-49 with 4:25 to go. However, the Blue Devils managed to control possession the rest of the way and emerge victorious.
"That ranks right up there, it really does," said 19th-year St. Marys head coach Jodi Mote, who called the win "a special one."
"Obviously, you wish you'd played better defensively," Mote continued. "But, at the same time they did a nice job offensively, as well. They've got a very good team. It's just a matter of playing four quarters and putting the most points on the board in comparison to the team you're playing."
"We didn't adjust real well to their quarterback (Brennan Boron) early on," said Frank Isaacs, Midland Trail's sixth-year head coach. "They run that quarterback counter off that jet sweep. We were chasing the sweep, and we taught 'em all week not to do that. But it's so hard when they do such a great job of it.
"Then, later on in the second half they were just running some power, and we weren't there. It really hurt us when Aden (Isaacs) went out. I think he broke his hand (and hurt his leg). Once he went out, we really had some youth out there; we had two sophomores playing middle linebacker. We didn't do well just stopping the simple stuff.
"They had a really good scheme offensively, and we just couldn't stop them."
"On the other hand, we did everything (offensively) we thought we could," Isaacs went on. "We felt like we should be able to compete with them. When they were five games in and we were five games in, we were probably the better team. They played nine games or 10, and this was our sixth game. We're still just not there offensively. We scored 49 points, but we were still not jelling 100 percent."
The Patriots thought they had recovered a fumble on the kickoff after Ruffner's late score made it a three-point deficit, Isaacs said. "We recovered on the 10-yard line, but they (officials) said it wasn't a fumble."
"I told the kids before the game, 'God had a plan for us to be here (referring to the counties dealing with the color-coded map). Lo and behold, ironically I said I guess God had a plan for us not to win, because he's the one that blew that punt for 75 yards and pinned us on the 1-yard line and they got that safety, and look what the score was."
Following said safety, St. Marys got an 18-yard TD run from Cyle West on the possession after the free kick to go ahead, 36-21, with less that 3:00 left in the third frame.
Trail's Christopher Vines answered with a 56-yard scoring jaunt on a quarterback draw, and Shockey's kick made it 36-28. But, the Blue Devils answered right back as Jason Clayton got well behind the Trail secondary for a 60-yard scoring heave from Boron with 6:27 left in the third frame.
Vines, who weaved his way to 203 yards and four scores on the turf and passed for 89 yards and another six-pointer (an 11-yarder to Isaacs in the first half) on the night, stayed active as the game progressed and the rain kept coming. Vines found the end zone on runs covering 44 and 28 yards, and two Shockey PATs left the Patriots in arrears by just one, 43-42, at the 2:26 mark of the third.
St. Marys got a little breathing room with a 28-yard Tre Moss TD gallop as the long third stanza came to a close, setting the stage for a frantic fourth quarter.
"It breaks my heart that these seniors didn't get but five games and then a playoff game," coach Isaacs said. "I wish I could have given them more.
"In my heart of hearts, I did not feel comfortable scheduling more than one game a week. I told them that, and they backed me, but it's hard to go down knowing you lost in the second round of the playoffs with only playing six games."
"St. Marys is a good team," Isaacs concluded. "It will be a really good game next week with Pendleton.
"It doesn't matter who's in the championship; whoever wins is going to be state champion, whether it's Covid-related or not. It's still football, and it's still high school football in the state of West Virginia."
Aden Isaacs (once on the ground and once through the air) and Vines (on a 13-yard burst) provided Midland Trail's first-half touchdowns.
St. Marys got a crucial six-pointer as the opening half ended when Darrien Bortey hauled in a 26-yard pass from Boron in the back of the end zone with just six ticks of the clock left, making it 28-21.
Ruffner rushed for 126 yards and one score for the Patriots. Matthew Light caught two passes for 57 stripes.
Ruffner had 11 tackles and a sack for the Midland Trail defense, while Aaron Sisler was in on 10 stops, Tyler Brasse nine and River Barnhouse seven. Vines picked off a St. Marys pass.
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MT (4-2): 7 14 21 7 — 49
SM (9-1): 7 21 21 3 — 52
MT: Aden Isaacs 5 run (Talon Shockey kick), 7-0
SM: Brennan Boron 14 run (Jonathan Morrison kick), 7-7
SM: Tre Moss 35 run (Morrison kick), 14-7
MT: Isaacs 11 pass from Christopher Vines (Shockey kick), 14-14
SM: Boron 10 run (Morrison kick), 21-14
MT: Vines 13 run (Shockey kick), 21-21
SM: Darrien Bortey 26 pass from Boron (Morrison kick), 28-21
SM: Safety, 30-21
SM: Cyle West 18 run (run failed), 36-21
MT: Vines 56 run (Shockey kick), 36-28
SM: Jason Clayton 60 pass from Boron (Morrison kick), 43-28
MT: Vines 44 run (Shockey kick), 43-35
MT: Vines 28 run (Shockey kick), 43-42
SM: Moss 28 run (run failed), 49-42
SM: Morrison 24 field goal, 52-42
MT: Robert Ruffner 4 run (Shockey kick), 52-49
RUSHING — MT: Aden Isaacs 14-42-1, Christopher Vines 15-203-4, Robert Ruffner 12-126-1, Aaron Sisler 1-9, Tyler Brasse 1-7. SM: Tre Moss 21-180-2, Cyle West 2-21-1, Brennan Boron 16-96-2, Ben Long 9-54
PASSING — MT: Christopher Vines 6-10-0-89-1. SM: Brennan Boron 4-10-1-100-2
RECEIVING — MT: Matthew Light 2-57, Cody Harrell 1-3, Aaron Sisler 2-18, Aden Isaacs 1-11-1. SM: Ben Long 1-13, Darrien Bortey 2-27-1, Jason Clayton 1-60-1
TAKEAWAYS — MT: Christopher Vines (INT). SM: NA
• • •
Also last weekend, the Greenbrier West Cavaliers saw an outstanding season end with a 38-29 setback to the Ritchie County Rebels on Saturday at Charmco. The Cavaliers led 23-14 before the Rebels rallied for the upset.
Sophomore quarterback Ethan Haught completed 13 of his 17 passing attempts for 198 yards and three touchdowns to power the Ritchie offense.
"All year we've worked hard on our passing game," Ritchie head coach Rick Haught told The Register-Herald's Tyler Jackson. "Watching film on (West), they've given up some passes this year. We were down three kids, Graden McKinney went out there, and my play card was cut about in half, so they were doing everything they could to take Gus (Morrison) out of the game and did a good job of that earlier, so it ended up we spread them out. I thought Ethan made some really nice throws and we had guys get open. Earlier this year, some of those throws had been just a little long in those games we lost early and today, we thought we’d have to have them.
"How many times did we almost get a turnover? I thought that was going to bite us and it didn't. Our kids were resilient in the second half and that's kind of the way we were last week. Against Wirt County we just kept playing and playing and that's what we did today."
Despite its leading rusher Noah Brown playing only two snaps on offense due to an ankle injury suffered last week, the Cavs had little trouble moving the ball on the ground. Levi Weikle rushed for 129 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries, Kaiden Pack carried 15 times for 100 yards and two scores (in addition to kicking a 27-yard field goal), and Cole McClung added 70 yards and a six-pointer on 16 tries.
"We knew they could do that," Greenbrier West coach Toby Harris said of the Ritchie passing attack. "We knew the plays they like to run and we wanted to play them man for man and send our line and get some pressure on the quarterback and we didn't get much pressure on him tonight throughout the game. Occasionally we did but their receivers were just able to find the opening and the quarterback made great plays and made great throws and we just couldn't stop that pass."
Greenbrier West finished with a 9-1 record, falling in the quarterfinals for the second straight year, and will graduate the core of players that led the program to back-to-back seasons with a playoff win.
"These kids had two good years and I told them they're leaving some high standards for these younger kids to step up to," Harris said. "I think we've got maybe a 14- or 15-game regular season home winning streak going on, we got in the second round of the playoffs. We're going to miss these seniors, but there's some good young kids coming and they'll have to work and step up."
RC: 7 7 8 16 — 38
GW: 7 13 9 0 — 29
GW: Pack 43 rush (Pack PAT), 1:54
RC: Wayne 27 pass from Haught (Conversion fails), 1:35
GW: McClung 3 rush (Pack PAT), 10:34
RC: Bowie 26 pass from Haught (Morrison rush), 8:36
GW: Weikle 12 rush (Kick fails), 4:54
GW: Pack 27 field goal
RC: Morrison 22 pass from Haught (Morrison pass from Haught), 5:08
GW: Pack 1 rush (Kick fails), 1:11
RC: Morrison 18 rush (Morrison rush), 7:28
RC: Morrison 22 rush (Bowie pass from Haught), 2:20
Rushing — RC: Morrison 9-66, Wayne 11-12, McKinney 1-6, Haught 5-(Minus-7); GW: Pack 15-100, Weikle 23-129, McClung 16-70, Brown 2-11, Jones 1-8
Passing — RC: Haught 13-17-198-3-0; GW: Pack 0-5-0-0-2
Receiving — RC: Wayne 2-39, Bowie 6-87, Wells 1-7, Morrison 4-45, Cunningham 1-12; GW: None