WHEELING, W.Va. - By the time Wayne sophomore Mason Hodge lowered his shoulder into a Keyser defender to drive him into the turf at Wheeling Island Stadium while gaining a fresh set of downs in the third quarter Friday night, the Pioneers were well on their way to their second consecutive Class AA football state championship.
It was Hodge's aggressive move, however, that best captured the essence of Wayne's 35-0 win: quick, decisive and even a bit brutal.
"We come out every week and play as physical as we can," said Hodge, who also starred for the Pioneers at linebacker.
"Our defense is where it's all at. Three shutouts to end the playoffs and end it in the state championship. You can't ask for anything better."
The win extended Wayne opponents' scoreless streak to 12 quarters. The Pioneers shut out Nicholas County in the playoff quarterfinals, then beat Robert C. Byrd in the semifinals, 18-0, last week.
In their third Super Six appearance in four years, the Pioneers looked every bit the battle-tested group, allowing just 31 Golden Tornado yards in the first half. It was more than 14 minutes into the game before Keyser picked up a first down.
"I can't think of a better tribute to our program than the way our defense played tonight," Wayne Coach Tommy Harmon said after winning his third state championship at the school.
"Those kids, how they were banged up and fought through a little bit of adversity, and how the other kids picked up their game, especially up front. I thought we controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the football.
"But, hey, hat's off to Keyser. That's a good football team. They play physical football. They just ran into a little bit of a buzzsaw here tonight."
Hodge and Wayne senior running back Brandon Spurlock entered the game still nursing injuries suffered in their quarterfinal win Nov. 16. Sprulock broke free for a run of more than 30 yards on his first carry but was limping noticeably by the time he was brought down. He spent most of the night on an exercise bike on the Wayne sideline, and did not play defense.
It did not keep him from putting up statistics true to his form. Spurlock scored on two runs of 4 yards each and again on a 13-yarder in the fourth quarter, finished with 144 yards on 13 carries, and was named Wayne's Most Valuable Player for the game.
Keyser, which like Wayne runs the wing-T offense, found it next to impossible to get anything going on offense. Wayne's speed on the perimeter kept most misdirection plays from developing into anything positive.
The Golden Tornado (12-2) ran 33 times for 65 yards, and finished the game with just 92 total yards.
"They did a good job (cutting off the perimeter). They were fast to the edges," Keyser Coach Sean Biser said. "We got some cutbacks on them, but it wasn't consistent. We'd get it then wouldn't get it, and they were consistently able to make some plays out there on the edge that kept 5-yard gains from becoming a 15-yard gain or something more."
Keyser entered the game - its first title game appearance since 1969 - averaging 38.7 points per game and averaged 52 points in their three preliminary round playoff wins.
Wayne finishes the season on a 23-game win streak dating to mid-2011. It is the longest active streak of any team in West Virginia.
WAYNE 35, KEYSER 0
First downs 7 20
Rushes-yards 33-65 48-389
Passing yards 27 43