Prep football: Minimizing mistakes key for Martinsburg
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Martinsburg Coach Dave Walker said it will serve his team well if the three-time defending Class AAA state champion Bulldogs keep it simple against Capital on Saturday.
"You just have to be fundamentally sound," Walker said. "I know it's kind of a cliche and a generic answer but you try not to make a lot of mistakes."
Overplaying on defense, or the use of subpar tackling techniques could lead to big plays for both teams, he added.
"You've got to play well up front. They're team that you can't miss tackles because they can score from anywhere on the field," he said. "You just can't miss, and you've got to play as mistake-free as possible.
"Some of the teams we've played that are similar, that's all we did. We just made less mistakes than they did."
Martinsburg (11-1) is the No. 2 seed and hosts third-seeded Capital (11-1) at 1:30 p.m. Saturday. The Bulldogs have won a Class AAA-record 14 consecutive playoff games, and have not lost to an in-state opponent on their home field since Hurricane upset them in the first round of the 2005 playoffs.
Senior linebacker Tyler Miller (5-foot-10, 175 pounds) leads the Bulldogs with 119 total tackles. Martinsburg's all-senior defensive front that includes defensive end Troy Walker (6-4, 235), Duncan Scott (6-0, 225), Cody Jenkins (6-1, 240) and 6-3, 440-pound behemoth A.J. Petry has combined for 220 1/2 total tackles and 28 tackles for loss.
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CAPITAL JUNIOR Kashuan Haley pushed his season rushing total to 1,565 yards and 20 touchdowns during the Cougars' 65-14 win over University in the quarterfinals.
While Haley has become a hot name in Kennedy Award conversations in recent weeks, he said that he would gladly forego the award if it meant Capital winning its first state title since 1995.
"I'd do anything for my QB. I love my QB and he's my family," Haley said, referring to sophomore quarterback Tyrhee Pratt and the way Haley's own rushing success has enabled Pratt to be more productive when on keeper plays.
Pratt ran for 72 yards and a pair of touchdowns against the Hawks.
"Anything he says, I'll do it for him to get him into the end zone. I'm not going to be selfish. Let's let him get his carries, let's let Rich (senior James Richmond) get his carries," Haley said. "Basically, what it means to me is us getting this win."
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HUNTINGTON'S PARENT schools - Huntington High and Huntington East - combined for five playoff wins in their histories. Coach Billy Seals' top-seeded Highlanders (12-0) have won more playoff games this season than the Huntington Pony Express did in its entire existence.
If Huntington closes the season with wins in the semifinals against No. 5 seed Wheeling Park (11-1) on Saturday night and then in the Super Six next week, it would tie Huntington East's all-time playoff win total in one postseason run.
Huntington High School opened in 1996 as a consolidation of the two older schools.
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WHEELING PARK sophomore running back Savion Johnson (5-10, 205) has rocketed up the list of Class AAA rushing leaders in the first two rounds of the playoffs.
After starting the season as the Patriots' No. 2 back behind Bryce Ingram, Johnson has 1,440 rushing yards on 203 carries and has scored 19 touchdowns. His yardage total ranks eighth among all Class AAA backs this season.
Meanwhile, Park senior quarterback Zach Phillips (6-2, 175) has also emerged among his statewide peers. Phillips, who entered the playoffs as Class AAA's top-rated passer using the NCAA passer efficiency formula, has completed 105-of-168 passes for 1,843 yards, 21 touchdowns and just two interceptions. His passing yardage total is the fifth-highest among Class AAA quarterbacks.
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SHOULD CAPITAL and Huntington win this weekend, it would set up the fifth all-Mountain State Athletic Conference championship game, and the first since South Charleston beat George Washington to claim the 2008 title in Wheeling.
Other All-MSAC meetings in the Super Six include Parkersburg's 22-15 win over St. Albans in 2007, Parkersburg's 31-28 over Riverside in 1999 and DuPont's 29-3 win over Capital in 1993.
Contact Preps Editor Derek Taylor at email@example.com or 304-348-5170. Follow him on Twitter @ItsreallyDT.