High school football: Martinsburg looks to join rare company
PARKERSBURG, W.Va. -- Its 63-14 win over No. 3 seed George Washington in the Class AAA playoff semifinals put second-seeded Martinsburg in rarely navigated waters.
The Bulldogs (12-1) will be just the second Class AAA team to play in three consecutive state championship games during the current, 16-team playoff era when they take on top-seeded Cabell Midland (13-0) at noon Saturday.
The two-time defending champions will be the first team to play for a third-straight crown since North Marion fell to GW in the 1982 title game after winning championships the previous two years. Parkersburg (1999-2001) is the only team to play in three straight title games since the Secondary School Activities Commission doubled the size of the playoff field in 1991.
"It says a lot about our kids," Martinsburg Coach Dave Walker said Sunday at the SSAC offices. "I haven't had much time to look at things like that because we're always getting ready for the next one, but it's good company to be in."
Martinsburg will make its seventh appearance in the Super Six since 2001. Walker attributes the program's continued success in part to extra practice time gained by staying alive in the postseason.
In other words, success breeds success.
"It helps a lot, especially for our younger kids," Walker said. "For instance, you've got our sophomores who don't get to play any and every day is like their game. They get to work on their skills and stuff, so it's probably help breed the success that we've had."
In the last four years, Martinsburg has practiced football for 70 weeks. The standard season for a non-playoff team ends after 14 weeks and a team that goes four years without a playoff berth will have practiced 56 weeks, more than three full months less than Martinsburg's current group of seniors in the same number of years.
The Bulldogs will attempt to become just the second Class AAA team to win three consecutive state championships. The Charleston High School teams from 1968-70 each won titles.
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LIKE MARTINSBURG, defending Class AA state champ Wayne (13-0) has enjoyed 70 weeks of practice in the last four years. The top-seeded Pioneers make their third Super Six appearance in the last four seasons Friday night, when they face No. 2 seed Keyser (12-1).
A year ago, Wayne entered Wheeling Island Stadium with a young team facing undefeated Point Pleasant for the Class AA title. The Big Blacks, who were making the first Super Six appearance in school history, were overwhelmed by halftime and Wayne won 34-7.
Pioneers Coach Tommy Harmon said that although Keyser has not played in a title game since winning the Class AAA championship in 1969, he does not believe his team has an advantage due to its being used playing on a big stage.
"I think that's the kind of thing that people like to talk about, and prognosticators love that stuff but once the game starts, it's a game," Harmon said. "You've got to go out there and execute and for the most part, I think kids put it out of their minds once things get going."
The biggest concern for many Wayne fans is likely the health of senior running back Brandon Spurlock. Having already rushed for 1,859 yards and 25 touchdowns, Spurlock did not play in the Pioneers' 18-0 win over Robert C. Byrd (11-2) in the semifinals.
"I don't want this to sound like coachspeak or gamesmanship or anything but, really, he's day to day," Harmon said. "He's better today than he was yesterday, and we hope that continues to be the case."
Spurlock injured his thigh in Wayne's quarterfinal win over Nicholas County (8-4) on Nov. 16.
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CABELL MIDLAND will make its first state championship game appearance when it faces Martinsburg. Senior running back David Gaydosz's stat line has shot off the charts since the start of the playoffs to propel the Knights to within a game of the school's first football title.
Gaydosz had 317 rushing yards and a touchdown on 22 carries in Midland's 35-28 win over Morgantown (10-3) in the semifinals. In three playoff games, Gaydosz has 55 carries for 748 yards and five touchdowns.
Gaydosz transferred to Midland from Winfield during the summer.
Midland second-year Coach Luke Salmons said that much of the senior's meteoric performance of late can be attributed to his growing comfort in the Knights offense.
"Since about the third week of the season, he's just taken off," Salmons said. "You could see it in practice and then in games, when he became comfortable.
"When he did, he just took off. He wants to win so badly, and he's fed off everybody else's desire to win and just exploded."
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WAHAMA's 10-7 win over Magnolia in the Class A semifinals put the third-seeded White Falcons (13-0) in the Super Six for the second time in three years. Wahama lost to Wheeling Central in the 2010 title game, 28-14.
Wahama plays No. 4 seed Madonna (12-1) in the Super Six finale, at 7 p.m. Saturday.
White Falcons Coach Ed Cromley said that although the teams played during the 2011 regular season, there isn't much either team knows about their opponent's current identity.
"I know they wear blue," Cromley said with a laugh. "I know that they're the fourth team we'll play in the playoffs, and that all of them have worn blue."
Wahama has beaten Buffalo, Greenbrier West and Magnolia in successive order to reach the Super Six.
Zack Wamsley's 26-yard field goal with 25 seconds left in regulation gave the Falcons their semifinal win.
It was just the fifth time in 30 home playoff games since 1981 that a visitor had won at Alumni Field in New Martinsville.