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Prep football: Wayne, Robert C. Byrd match up well

No one knows just how good the Wayne and Robert C. Byrd football teams are better than coaches Fred Simon of Bluefield and Gene Morris of Nicholas County.

Their football teams were two of the three to face both Class AA semifinalists this season. The other was Scott.

The collective record for the Beavers, Grizzlies and Skyhawks against the Pioneers and Eagles was 0-6 record by a 227-47 combined score.

With that in mind, who better to weigh in on tonight's matchup between No. 1 Wayne (12-0) and No. 4 Robert C. Byrd (11-1) at Pioneer Field?

"Both teams match up pretty well," said Morris, whose team lost 31-7 to Robert C. Byrd on Sept. 28 and 47-0 to Wayne on Nov. 16. "Both teams have a lot of team speed. Comparing both teams is kind of tough. Both defenses are very efficient at stopping the run. That is what they were able to do against us; they were able to make us one-dimensional.

"Both teams are pretty daggone good offensively. The speed is a big factor. I think Wayne may have the edge there. Both teams are very well coached. I think it will come down to who can move the ball. Wayne seems to be a run-first team. That is where it is going to be (decided)."

Simon agreed.

"Wayne has as good of a team as they have ever had," said Simon, whose team lost 45-14 to Wayne on Nov. 2 and 34-20 to Robert C. Byrd on Nov. 16.

"Defensively, they get to the ball well. They are probably as quick as they have ever been. All of their guys can run. To me, it is one of the better defenses Wayne has had since we started playing them. Offensively, they execute as good as I have ever seen them execute.

"Robert C. Byrd, they are as good as any team we faced. They have good speed and in a lot of places. Their passing game was better than I anticipated. Robert C. Byrd has as good of a defense as we have seen. Wayne is used to getting 5, 10 and 50 yards per carry. They might have to fight for their yardage this time."

Asked for his players to watch, Morris said Wayne senior tailback Brandon Spurlock and Robert C. Byrd senior middle linebacker Jermodd Garrett.

"Spurlock is a very good running back," Morris said. "He is just a good, solid running back. He doesn't go down on first contact very often.

"Garrett is a very good linebacker. He is very physical. He is a hard guy to get blocked. He has a great nose for the football."

Simon said the difference maker for the Pioneers could be their offensive and defensive lines, anchored by senior Anthony Bryant. He picked the duo of senior quarterback Aaron Taylor and senior receiver Iziah Hill for the Eagles.

"(Bryant) is pretty daggone tough," Simon said. "(Hill and Taylor) did a good job catching and throwing the ball against us. I don't know how good Wayne's pass defense is. It's hard for me to tell because we didn't throw the ball and I don't know if they have been tested. I do know Wayne gets to the ball well and gang tackles; they get after it."

This will be the first meeting between the Pioneers and the Eagles, who dropped from Class AAA to Class AA this season.

The Pioneers have won a school-record and state-best 21 consecutive games. Wayne has not trailed since the first minute of the fourth quarter of a 50-20 victory versus Scott on Oct. 7, 2011 - a span of 971 minutes.

Spurlock has rushed 127 times for a school-record 1,859 yards and 25 touchdowns this year, and has only 14 second-half carries this season.

Other rushing weapons for Wayne include sophomore Mason Hodge (26 carries for 676 yards and 12 touchdowns), senior James Egnor (58-384-6) and sophomore Grant Ferguson (41-344-6).

Ferguson is the Pioneers' starting quarterback. He has completed 58-of-107 passes (54.2 percent) for 1,119 yards and 15 touchdowns with one interception.

Ferguson's top targets are senior Zach Cassidy (19 catches for 299 yards and five touchdowns), senior Austin Pyles (13-289-3), junior Kurt Langdon-Arthur (10-271-3) and Hodge (12-269-4).

The Pioneers average 53.8 points and allow 12.8 points per game.

Taylor has completed 62-of-115 passes (53.9 percent) for 1,212 yards and 18 touchdowns with three interceptions. His top targets are Hill (24 catches for 526 yards and 12 scores) and senior Mason Compton (27-545-5).

The Eagles have two 1,000-yard rushers in sophomore Ben D'Annunzio (148 carries for 1,421 yards and 14 touchdowns) and senior Tre Cox (143-1,119-18).

Garrett finished the regular season with 119 tackles, 31 tackles for loss and 13 sacks.

The Eagles average 41.3 points and allow 12.6 points per game.

Morris and Simon politely declined to offer predictions on the outcome.

"Absolutely not," Morris said. "It is the semifinals. Both are good programs and good teams. Both will be well prepared and well coached. I wouldn't want to make any predictions. It could come down to who gets a break or something of that nature because you are looking at two teams who have been very good defensively and offensively."

Simon said, "I have an idea who is going to win, but I'm not going to say it. I think it will be a heck of a game either way. May the best team win. I wish them both the best of luck. They both play good, hard-nosed football. I respect both coaches and programs."

Scott Coach Shane Griffith, whose team lost 47-6 to Wayne on Oct. 5 and 23-0 to Robert C. Byrd on Oct. 26, could not be reached for comment.


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