CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Lewis County made its name through the 2012 football season as a team that thrived on special teams and capitalizing on turnovers.
Irony of Shakespearean levels befell the Minutemen (9-3) on Friday night. Class AAA No. 3 seed George Washington (10-2) recovered three of four Lewis County fumbles, blocked a punt and returned two turnovers for touchdowns in a 41-14 playoff quarterfinal rout at Steve Edwards Sr. Field.
"I'm happy about it. The kids are happy about it. We didn't get laid off, so we're still working," GW Coach Steve Edwards Jr. said. "We're in good shape."
The Patriots will move on to next week's semifinals, where they will face No. 2 seed Martinsburg (11-1), the two-time defending state champion, who beat 10th-seeded Musselman 50-7 in another quarterfinal Friday. The Bulldogs beat GW in the 2011 state championship game in Wheeling.
On Friday, the Patriots' tried and true formula of adding new offensive wrinkles each time out to maximize the effectiveness of senior running back Ryan Switzer paid dividends in the 2011 Kennedy Award winner's 18-carry, 180-yard performance. Quarterback Trevor Bell operated exclusively out of the shotgun in the win, with GW using various backs and receiver in motion on each snap to disguise ball carriers.
But it wasn't until early in the second quarter that Switzer broke a scoreless tie with a 1-yard run to put GW up 6-0.
Quick scores soon followed. After the Pats forced a 3-and-out on Lewis County's ensuing drive, the snap to talented Minutemen punter Chris Santalucia hit the ground and though he fielded it cleanly, the delay enabled GW senior Jacob Whitlock to block the punt, giving GW the ball at the Lewis 8-yard line.
Switzer scored from the 4 three plays later on the second of his five touchdowns in the win.
When Lewis got the ball again, the Minutemen drove to the GW 10, keyed by a 26-yard pass from quarterback Braden Montgomery to Skylar Carlton. However, Mark Metzgar was stripped a third-and-5 call by GW junior cornerback Jacob Jackson, who returned the fumble 90 yards for a touchdown that gave the hosts a 20-0 lead.
The three scores came within 4:53 of each other, and Lewis never threatened again.
"We've got a great defense with all the speed we've got on the outside especially," Switzer said. "It was really cold tonight, which actually bothered me a little bit. My toes were numb the whole game so it was hard to get a feel for the ground, probably for a lot of guys.
"That probably gave us an even bigger advantage."
Switzer added an exclamation point midway through the third quarter, when he made an over-the-shoulder grab to intercept a pass, then reversed his momentum and danced 65 yards through a crowd for a touchdown. It was his third interception return for a score this season.
Lewis entered the game with a pair of 1,000-yard rushers in tailback Caleb Butcher and fullback Mark Metzgar. While Metzgar plowed his was to 118 yards on 23 carries, plays designed to get Butcher outside the tackles struggled. Though he scored a pair of second-half touchdowns, he was held to 35 yards on 14 carries.
"We gave them too many opportunities. We made too many mistakes," Lewis Coach Eddie Vincent said. "Goodness, we hadn't done that all year except for Week 1."
The Minutemen lost to University in their opener 35-7. In the first round of the playoffs Lewis exacted revenge for that loss, handing the Hawks a 24-23 defeat while getting a pair of scores on turnover returns.
"We couldn't get outside on them. They just have too much speed all over the place," Vincent said.
George Washington has four time options to choose from in planning its trip to Martinsburg. The Patriots could play at 1:30 p.m. Friday, 7:30 p.m. Friday, and at the same times on Saturday. The 1:30 p.m. Friday option is available to visiting playoff teams in the semifinal round because there is no school in the state the day after Thanksgiving.
GEORGE WASHINGTON 41, LEWIS COUNTY 14
First downs 11 14