NITRO, W.Va. -- Considering it was the Battle of the Bridge, there was no other way for one of the two first-year head coaches to get his first career victory than in a game that came down to a defensive stand at the 2-yard line.
The Nitro defense stopped St. Albans running back Drew Kirby on a second-and-goal at the 2 as the clock expired to give Coach Derek Midkiff his first varsity win and end an 18-game losing streak with a 17-14 victory at Underwood Field on Friday night.
"It couldn't be any sweeter," said Midkiff, a former quarterback at Nitro and 2003 graduate. "Not so bad coming against St. Albans. I was in this rivalry, I played in it and it means a lot to me. The kids knew it, and they came out and played their (butts) off."
There was a combined three scores until midway through the fourth period. With Nitro (1-3) clinging to a 10-6 lead -- St. Albans scored first but missed the extra point -- the Red Dragons' Drew Kirby took a handoff, went toward the visiting sideline, broke some tackles and sprinted to the end zone for a 40-yard score. It was one of two scores for Kirby, who also had a 33-yard catch and run for the game's first TD.
The Wildcats returned the favor just 2:52 later with senior Ethan Clark taking a handoff and cutting back against the St. Albans defense for a 39-yard touchdown. It capped an eight-play, 78-yard drive that gave Nitro a 17-14 advantage.
Clark also assisted in the stop on Kirby from his free safety position.
"St. Albans did a really good job covering me, they had two guys on me the whole time," said Clark, who had three receptions for 32 yards on the same drive that he capped with his game-winning scoring run. "Finally, coach started putting me in motion, I took a handoff and that's when I broke that big run and scored."
St. Albans tried to answer, starting at its own 15 and using 16 plays to reach the Nitro 2 with 4 seconds remaining. Each team called a timeout and St. Albans handed the ball to its workhorse, Kirby, who was stopped at the line of scrimmage, resulting in Nitro's first win since Sept. 24, 2010 (17-3 at Ripley).
Kirby carried the ball 27 times for a game-high 137 yards, and St. Albans sophomore quarterback Noah Reed matched that production with 137 yards on 10-of-17 passing.
However, he also was plagued by two dropped passes and had to scramble out of trouble most of the night. He took a sack on a blindside hit from Mason Blake that sent him to the sidelines for much of the second half, but returned to engineer St. Albans' late drive.
His backup, junior Taylor Clark, had a 20-yard option run on his first play, but that drive stalled at midfield.
Nitro's workhorse was freshman running back Brayden Underwood, who had his second career 100-yard game with 107 yards on 22 carries.
St. Albans was beset with penalties, finishing with 12 for 115 yards, compared to just five penalties for 40 yards for the Wildcats.
Nitro will try for its second consecutive win when it travels to Hamlin to face Lincoln County on Friday. The Red Dragons and first-year Coach Steve Stoffel Jr. will return home on Friday to face Parkersburg.
NITRO 17, ST. ALBANS 14
St. Albans 0 6 0 8 -- 14
Nitro 0 7 3 7 -- 17
First downs 17 15