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High school football: Aggressive running game was key at Super Six

WHEELING, W.Va. -- It should come as no surprise that the three football teams that won state championships at the Super Six all ran the ball aggressively.

It is not a matter of how frequently Martinsburg, Wayne and Wahama called running plays in respective wins over Cabell Midland, Keyser and Madonna.

It is the style with which players from the winning teams ran with the ball in their hands.

Class AA champion Wayne (14-0) threw the ball with greater efficiency and for more yardage in 2012 than in most of Coach Tom Harmon's career at the school. Still, the Pioneers handled Keyser (12-2) with all the finesse of a junkyard dog in a 35-0 rout.

What stood out most about the way Wayne backs ran was the fact that both senior running back Brandon Spurlock and sophomore wingback Mason Hodge were nursing significant injuries that kept Hodge out of the team's offensive lineup and Spurlock out of the game entirely a week earlier in the semifinals.

Instead of accepting roles of the afflicted, they instead played as the inflictors.

"I think this team embodies a lot of things that a lot of our previous teams had, especially with heart," Harmon said. "We've had a lot of teams at Wayne whose kids have had the hearts the size of a lion. I think this team embodied that.

"We don't compare teams, but I know this is one you wouldn't mind going to battle with."

The win gave Wayne its third state championship since 2006, and marked the first time the school won consecutive titles. It was the first Class AA repeat since Poca won three in a row from 2001-2003.

Wayne ran the ball 48 times for 389 yards and 8.1 yards per carry against the Golden Tornado, one of the top-ranked defenses in the state. Spurlock led Wayne with 144 yards on 13 carries, while quarterback Grant Ferguson (61 yards), James Egnor (59), Nathan Spurlock (57) and Hodge (55) also made significant contributions.

Every one of them - including Ferguson - initiated contact in attempt to win more ground.

"Anything it is, winning a state championship will make it feel better," said Hodge, who played with his right ankle heavily taped.

"We come out every week and play as physical as we can."

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CLASS AAA Martinsburg does not operate out of a wing-T offense or any that would - by looking at the set - give the impression the Bulldogs were a hard-nosed running team. Seeing the team in action proves otherwise.

So do the stats. Midland entered the game with a pair of 1,000-yard rushers and one - senior David Gaydosz - who surpassed the 2,000-yard mark this season. Still, Martinsburg outgained the Knights 289-225 on the ground, and averaged 8.7 yards per carry to Midland's 4.3.

Sophomore Tre Boyd picked up 83 of his game-high 193 rushing yards in one second-quarter run that put the Bulldogs up 21-0. Most of his other yardage came via hard-charging runs between the hashmarks.

The Bulldogs earned a 38-14 win over the Knights.

"He moved in from Florida, and we welcomed him in like family," Martinsburg quarterback Justin Clinton said of Boyd. "He picked it up real quick that we work hard. He worked hard all year, he ran hard all year, and he definitely did today."

*  *  *

THE HARDEST yards to get are often those last few in front of the goal line. Fittingly, Wahama quarterback Trenton Gibbs' push into the end zone on a two-point conversion in double overtime to win the Class A state title was the last play of the 2012 Super Six.

Wahama beat Madonna 43-42. The game was tied at 35-35 at the end of regulation, and Madonna quarterback Ross Comis scores on a 2-yard run on the Blue Dons' first possession of overtime. Madonna successfully kicked the extra point, giving Wahama the ball with a chance to win the game.

After Zach Wamsley scored on a 1-yard run, Wahama Coach Ed Cromley opted to go for the win, and Gibbs gave the school its first state championship in any team sport.

Keeping in form with the previous two games, Wahama outgained Madonna on the ground, 334-299. Kane Roush (168 yards) and Wamsley (112) each went over the 100-yard mark in the title game.

Contact Preps Editor Derek Taylor at derek.taylor@dailymail.com or 304-348-5170.


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