High school football: Pioneers to use a mix of pass, run game
WHEELING, W.Va. -- Wayne did not lose much from its 2011 Class AA state championship team.
A total of five seniors were on that club, which routed previously unbeaten Point Pleasant in last year's Super Six at Wheeling Island Stadium.
There is still a noteworthy change between the 2011 Pioneers and the currently unbeaten and top-seeded version.
"Throwing the football, I think, is something that everybody would like to do, including teams that are really good running the football," Wayne Coach Tommy Harmon said. "But it takes a lot of things to pull off a prolific passing attack."
Enter Wayne sophomore Grant Ferguson. A year ago, Pioneers senior starter Tyler Adkins threw for less than 700 yards in 14 games. This season, Ferguson (6-foot-2, 171 pounds) stepped into his new role as starter and has completed 60 of 113 passes for 1,168 yards, 15 touchdowns and just one interception.
It's a departure for Wayne, which still leans heavily on its ability to move the football via the running game. Senior running back Brandon Spurlock is one of the state's leading rushers, with 1,859 yards and 25 touchdowns on 127 carries.
Harmon said he hopes to continue the mix of run and pass tonight when the Pioneers (13-0), seeking their third state championship, face No. 2 seed Keyser (12-1) at 7:30 p.m. at Wheeling Island Stadium.
"I think when you've got kids who can pass protect a little bit, and you've got more than one who can catch and a signal-caller who can handle it and put the ball where it needs to be; if you've got those three factors, why not do it," Harmon said.
"We've been pretty fortunate this year in that we're decent in all three of those areas."
Ferguson can run the ball as well. He's carried 53 times for 455 yards and seven scores.
"It's not like we're able to do anything exclusively," Harmon said. "With Grant being a sophomore, he's a very calm kid.
"With throwing the ball, it's something that you want to be able to do when you want to do it, and not when you need to do it."
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CABELL MIDLAND Coach Luke Salmons spent the first half of the week dodging rumors about his plans for the immediate future. Word began to swirl Monday that the Marshall graduate had interviewed for the Thundering Herd's vacant defensive coordinator's position, an idea he laughed off.
"I would rather be the guy who is leavin' than the guy they wanna get rid of," he wrote in a text, pointing out that while the rumor was false, at least it spoke highly of his capabilities.
The Knights (13-0) are the top-seeded team in the Class AAA playoffs, and will face two-time defending state champion and No. 2 seed Martinsburg (12-1) at noon Saturday.
Wednesday, a new rumor made its way onto Internet message boards and to Salmons' phone: that he was to take over as the next football coach at Ashland (Ky.) Paul Blazer High School.
The second-year Knights coach, who spent considerable time in the past year gathering historical information about past All-State players at Midland as well as from Barboursville and Milton high schools to build a de facto Midland Football Hall of Fame, was less flattered the second time around.
"They must be trying to get our focus away from the game," he wrote Wednesday of the purveyors of the rumors. "It ain't gonna work."
Salmons is 21-4 in two seasons at Midland, and also denied his supposed move to Ashland.
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SO MUCH for reclassification having an impact on championship winners.
The Secondary School Activities Commission reorganized its member schools based on current enrollment prior to the 2012-13 school year, with six schools dropping from Class AAA to Class AA and five dropping from Class AA to Class A. None of the schools that stepped down in class reached the Super Six.
Bridgeport and Robert C. Byrd both dropped from Class AAA to Class AA, and lost in the semifinals. Magnolia dropped from Class AA and was beaten by Wahama in a Class A semifinal last week.
Wahama (13-0) is the No. 3 seed in Class A, and will face No. 4 seed Madonna (12-1) in the Super Six finale at 7 p.m. Saturday.