Class A No. 8 East Hardy took advantage of a Midland Trail fumble to get the go-ahead score in a 12-7 first-round playoff victory over the No. 9 Patriots on Nov. 16.
In arrears 7-6, the Cougars got the recovery and eventually crossed the goal line on a late pass play to go ahead 12-7.
In the game's waning minutes, Midland Trail freshman receiver Cody Harrell caught a pass from Chris Vines and emblazoned a path 60 yards toward the end zone, juking several Cougars defenders along the way, but East Hardy’s Christian Dove pounced back up and dashed to make a touchdown-saving strip-fumble tackle, according to The Moorefield Examiner. Teammate Dawson Price recovered the ball in the end zone to seal the 12-7 triumph in Baker.
"We were snake-bit by those last three yards," Midland Trail head coach Frank Isaacs said of the Patriots' final scoring thrust. "He (Harrell) made the catch, and he broke tackles and made a few guys miss.
"That kid is going to be a better player because of that play."
Isaacs was obviously frustrated that the squad didn't pull out the win, but "I'm not really torn up about it.
"The kids regrouped and we came out and gave a really good effort. And the defense played awesome."
Midland Trail held the Cougars to just 29 rushing yards on 21 carries and limited Dove to 9-of-28 passing for 176 yards, including two touchdowns, and snatched three interceptions, one thrown by punter Adam Baker.
Vines provided Midland Trail's lone six-pointer on a 25-yard run with 2:51 left in the opening quarter. Talon Shockey's PAT kick made it 7-0 for the Patriots before the hosts responded with two scores.
Robert Ruffner carried eight times for 63 yards to lead the Patriots' ground attack. Griffin Boggs added 55 yards on nine attempts, Vines rushed for 38 yards and the score on seven tries, Aaron Sisler ran six times for 37 yards, and Colton Yoder was held to 15 yards on eight rushes.
Vines was 5 of 8 for 98 yards to guide the aerial attack. Besides Harrell's 60-yarder, Liam Gill hauled in a 32-yarder, and Sisler caught three balls for 6 yards.
Vines, Aden Isaacs and Jonathon Stark each registered an interception for the Midland Trail defense. Stark forced a fumble, which was recovered by teammate Zach Moores.
Ruffner was in on eight tackles, Isaacs and Yoder had six apiece, and Adam Gill logged five stops.
Isaacs said his young team, which was beset by injuries all season long, will come back stronger in 2020.
"I think those young kids are raring to go," he said. "We feel as positive as you can possibly feel.
He said the players will take several key thoughts away from this season. Key among those will be that "you can't take anything for granted. Play like every play could be your last."
Strong returning players — many whom gained valuable experience stepping in for injured upperclassmen this year — should provide a strong nucleus next season, he said.
The win lifted East Hardy (8-3) to a second-round matchup with No. 1 Doddridge County on Nov. 23. Doddridge won 21-6. Others advancing to the semifinals next weekend were Wheeling Central, Pendleton County and Williamstown. The latter defeated No. 4 Greenbrier West 34-22 this past Friday.
Midland Trail closed out its campaign with its third consecutive playoff appearance and a 6-5 record.
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