CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Happiness is infectious, and coverage of Friday night's Class AA state championship game can stand as Exhibit A to prove that argument.
Bridgeport's 14-13 win over top-seeded and two-time defending state champion Wayne was a classic in its own right. For Indians senior Anthony Bonamico to knock down the potential game-winning pass as time expired while Wayne's Mason Hodge waited helplessly in the end zone for a ball that never reached him to be the lasting impression of the game was more than fitting. Bonamico and Hodge were the focal points for each team as they marched toward the Super Six this season. In a sense it was perfect poetry.
Then again, so was much of the remainder of this year's installment of the Super Six. The 20th anniversary of its move to Wheeling from Charleston provided arguably the best series of title games the event has seen since its inception in 1979.
The Class AAA game that saw Martinsburg break Charleston High School's record of three consecutive big-school titles was the most competitive of any of the Bulldogs' four straight championships.
Though Martinsburg dominated the first half by smothering Huntington's offense and benefiting from a blocked punt for a safety, the Highlanders' ability to get the ball back with less than 5 minutes left had everyone at Wheeling Island Stadium that was familiar with Huntington believing that the game could ironically be sealed by a special teams play in the Highlanders' favor. After all, senior kicker Zach Stevens had been sure-footed from 40 yards and in all season.
Yet another key stop by Martinsburg's defense put an end to that thinking pretty quickly, however, and the game ended with a 9-7 final score.
The finale - for those who braved the frigid temperatures Saturday night - wasn't as close as the first two games. However, for every slick move made by Madonna senior quarterback Ross Comis, his opposite number at Greenbrier West - senior Malik Boatwright - seemed to have a hard-nosed, brute-force answer. That is until a key touchdown-producing drive by the Blue Dons in the second half was aided by a series of personal foul calls against West that tipped the scales irreversibly in Madonna's favor.
The games by themselves were enough to push this year's Super Six into the category among the best ever. For this writer, however, it was the atmosphere of Friday night's game that pushed it above all others in memory. It set such a positive tone for the rest of the weekend that it would have taken something monumentally bad to turn the tide in a negative direction.