First down

Nicholas County running back Kaleb Clark leaps over Boone County defensive back Shadraq Greathouse to get the first down.

SUMMERSVILLE — Ball control often helps Roane County control its own destiny.

Such was the case Friday night when the No. 10 Raiders invaded Memorial Stadium to tangle with No. 7 Nicholas County in the first round of the 2021 WVSSAC Class AA football playoffs.

Ahead 12-7, Roane County capitalized on a fumble recovery by Raider Colton Albright to launch a time-consuming, 17-play drive that chewed up almost 8:00 of the clock spanning the end of the third quarter and deep into the fourth period. The resulting score — a 6-yard halfback pass from Briar Begler to a diving Shawn Conrad on the right side of the end zone on a fourth-and-goal situation — lifted the Raiders into an 18-7 advantage, and they eventually wound up prevailing, 18-15, to end the Grizzlies' fine season at 8-3.

Of the halfback pass, Roane County head coach Paul Burdette said, "That's the first time we ran it. We've worked on it, but it's the first time we've ran it in a game. The only thing I was worried about was if Nicholas would bite on the toss. We set it up obviously all game with our toss. Our receiver was just able to get open enough and our back did a good job of placing the ball where it needed to be, and he made a heck of a catch."

On the evening, Roane had 51 rushes for 295 yards, compared to 38 carries for 175 yards for the Grizzlies. And the Raiders won the time of possession, 26:31 to 21:29.

"Offensively, our MO all year has been powering the ball and controlling the clock," said Burdette. "There have been several games where we've had over 30 minutes in time of possession. Thankfully we were able to do that again tonight against a really good ball team.

"We had to dig down deep and give everything we had without a doubt. Obviously, it's the biggest win this year. We've played pretty tough all year long, and the biggest thing about our team is we're completely unselfish. Our guys don't care who gets the ball or who scores. They just want to win ball games."

"We got beat by a good football team," said Nicholas County head coach Gene Morris. "A 7-10 is a tossup.

"We had a costly turnover that hurt us. They played hard and I thought we did, too. They were able to just mount a scoring drive there. There's nothing you can do except tip your hat to them."

After the Raiders moved into the 11-point cushion, the Grizzlies still exhibited signs of life. With 2:57 left, quarterback Brycen Morriston lofted a nice ball across the field to back Kaleb Clark, and Clark raced 38 yards to paydirt. Eden Addair hauled in the conversion pass from Morriston, and the hosts trailed by just three points with time remaining.

After Nicholas was unsuccessful with an onside kick, the Raiders controlled the clock the rest of the way. A 29-yard gallop by Begler (31 carries for 167 yards and one TD on the evening) kept the possession alive, and Roane eventually gained a first-and-goal situation at the 5 before being able to assume the victory formation.

The Grizzlies owned a 7-6 halftime lead. Begler drew first blood on a 4-yard burst at the 10:26 mark of the second quarter, then Nicholas County responded with a 9-yard TD run by Clark that capped a drive which also featured a 12-yard Clark run, a 7-yard Morriston dash, and a pair of facemask penalties against the Raiders. Brayden Short's PAT kick gave the Grizzlies a 7-6 advantage, which they carried into the locker room at intermission.

Roane County began to assert itself in the third quarter, first getting a 63-yard TD scamper from quarterback Shadraq Greathouse on a sneak into the middle of the line.

That tally came after the Grizzlies had come up empty inside the Roane 10 for the second time on the evening. The first time Nicholas failed to capitalize deep inside the red zone occurred on its final drive of the opening half, when the hosts couldn't convert a fourth-and-goal at the 6, in the process squandering an interception on the previous Roane County march by Ralph Hamrick.

"We didn't get any points off either one of those," Morris lamented of the two potential game-altering drives. "When you lose points inside the 10, it usually comes back to bite you, and it did.

"We just didn't execute very well."

"They were just flying around, good football play on their part," he said. "We had what we wanted and we thought it was a good, solid call. We didn't get the ball over the top on one of the passes, and then we ran out of room on the boundary with the little bubble play that we ran."

Clark ran for 108 yards and caught 60 yards in passes for the Grizzlies, who were outgained 301-245.

"All year long, our defense has been really, really tough against the run, and we proved that again here tonight," said Burdette. "We were able to shut them down twice inside the 10-yard line, which was huge."

"All week long, we told them it was just about being 1-0, and that's what we talked about all year long," Burdette continued. "We knew Nicholas County had a really good ball team, but we also knew we were pretty good and we just needed to come in and play a good, solid game and limit turnovers, and we did that, and just play tough, and it worked out pretty well."

The win was Roane County's first football playoff triumph since 2010 over Point Pleasant, and only the second in school history. The Raiders (9-2) will play at No. 2 Independence at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 19. The Patriots swamped Shady Spring 73-7 Friday night.

"They're a good ball team, pretty versatile," Burdette said of Independence. "They can throw and run, they've got some weapons, and they played really good defense against Nicholas."

The Raiders will have to "see what we can do defensively to try to shut down what they like to do, and see what we can take advantage of on the offensive side."

"I'm very proud of them," Morris said of his players. "They came from 3-6 last season to 8-2 and a playoff berth and a home playoff game.

"Couldn't be any more proud of them with their effort in the offseason and their efforts out here. Very proud of them and of the community support and the way they rallied around this football team. It was a tremendous atmosphere to play in."

Email: skeenan@register-herald.com or follow on Twitter @gb_scribe

Roane County 18, Nicholas County 15

RC (9-2): 0 6 6 6 — 18

NC (8-3): 0 7 0 8 — 15

Second quarter

RC: Briar Begler 4 run (pass failed), 6-0, 10:26

NC: Kaleb Clark 9 run (Brayden Short kick), 7-6, 8:28

Third quarter

RC: Shadraq Greathouse 63 rush (run failed), 12-7, 3:45

Fourth quarter

RC: Shawn Conrad 6 pass from Begler (pass failed), 18-7, 5:01

NC: Clark 38 pass from Brycen Morriston (Eden Addair pass from Morriston), 18-15, 2:57

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING — RC: Briar Begler 31-167-1, Shadraq Greathouse 7-89-1, Skyler Delk 9-22, Colton Paxton 3-17. NC: Kaleb Clark 19-108-1, Brycen Morriston 7-28, Alex Pritt 6-20, Wesley Hill 2-12, J.P. Girod 3-10, Eden Addair 2-(-3)

PASSING — RC: Begler 1-1-0-6-1, Greathouse 0-2-0-0-1. NC: Morriston 4-7-0-70-1.

RECEIVING — RC: Conrad 1-6-1. NC: Clark 2-60-1, Hill 2-10-0.

TAKEAWAYS — RC: Colton Albright (FR). NC: Ralph Hamrick (INT).

Also last week:

Doddridge County 40

Midland Trail 21

Class A No. 2 Doddridge County withstood a second-half rally attempt by No. 15 Midland Trail Friday to advance with a 40-21 victory at Cline Stansberry Stadium in West Union.

The Patriots fought back to within three points after being down 24-7 on touchdown runs by Griffin Boggs and Robert Ruffner to make it 24-21 with 10:23 left in the fourth quarter.

Doddridge County (10-1) didn't allow the Patriots' offense to take the field again until 48 seconds remained in the contest.

The Bulldogs capped a 15-play, 67-yard drive with a Jared Jones 1-yard sneak, recovered a Trail fumble on the ensuing kickoff and ran Dylan Knight three times for another — a 23-yard romp — to put the game away.

The Bulldogs' Seth Richards ran for 116 yards and a TD on eight carries, caught a 5-yard scoring pass and picked off a Patriots' pass on defense.

Knight added 79 yards and two TDs on 21 rushes and had two receptions for 45 yards, while Jones ran for 46 yards and two scores on 16 carries and threw for 57 yards on 4-of-4 passing.

Ruffner ran for 47 yards and a six-pointer on 15 carries for Midland Trail (6-5). Boggs added a 3-yard TD run, and Josh Dickerson went 12-of-16 passing for 166 yards and a TD with one interception.

Doddridge County advances to host No. 7 James Monroe at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 20.

East Hardy 45

Meadow Bridge 6

The Class A No. 3 Cougars thrashed the No. 14 Wildcats in the first round of the state playoffs, pouncing for a 26-0 halftime lead en route to a 45-6 victory in Baker on Saturday.

East Hardy (10-1) started the game with an all-ground attack for the first touchdown, with the series capped off on a 4-yard keeper by Mason Miller, then the hosts unleashed three aerial strikes to the end zone to bolster the first half advantage.

Miller connected with Dawson Price on a slant pattern which could have been just 8 yards, but was transformed into a 63-yard touchdown with elusive footwork to go up 13-0 with 5:01 remaining in the opening frame.

East Hardy's Noah Lang made two acrobatic leaps in the corner of the end zone for a pair of touchdowns in the second quarter, covering distances of 27 and 19 yards, respectively, as the Cougars went up 26-0 at the break.

The Cougars' defense stifled Meadow Bridge (6-5) by allowing just one first down in the first half with constant pressure, including sacks and interceptions, to wreak havoc.

East Hardy's Mario Combs ended the first half with an interception and added another one early in the third quarter which set up a touchdown.

Special teams played a factor as an onside kickoff to commence the second half from East Hardy caught the Wildcats off-guard, and Price made the recovery which led to a 1-yard touchdown run by Damian Iman at 10:40.

The interception by Combs set up a 7-yard touchdown keeper by Miller as the Cougars took a 39-0 lead.

Meadow Bridge fumbled in the red zone in the third quarter, but East Hardy coughed up the ball six seconds later; however, East Hardy denied a score with an interception by Brayden Gregory with a huge return.

A fourth quarter sack by East Hardy's Justin Parker and Wyatt Hockman created a turnover on downs and would lead to a 37-yard touchdown run by backup quarterback Damien Dellinger.

The lone score for Meadow Bridge came on the ensuing possession with 6:46 remaining as James McClure made a 47-yard touchdown catch for the final score of 45-6.

Miller threw 7-of-10 passes for 165 yards with three touchdowns in addition to adding a team-best 74 rushing yards on 13 carries with two more touchdowns.

Iman recorded 16 carries for 64 yards with one touchdown and fumble.

Lang led the Cougars in receiving with four catches for 86 yards and two touchdowns.

Price was targeted for three receptions for 79 yards and one touchdown.

East Hardy hosts No. 6 Williamstown in the quarterfinals this Friday at 7:30 p.m.

(Additional reporting was provided by Randall Jett of The Doddridge Independent and Carl Holcomb of the Moorefield Examiner.)

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