ONA, W.Va. - Any time rivals Cabell Midland and Spring Valley clash on the football field, the anticipation is always high.
Case in point was the fact that 7,800 people attended the regular season match-up between the two schools in Week 1 on Aug. 24.
Flash forward 12 weeks later, and when the teams got paired against each other in the Class AAA playoffs in the quarterfinals, the rivalry stepped up a few notches more.
With a berth in the semifinals on the line, a standing-room crowd estimated close to 8,000 at Knight Stadium looked on as both teams slugged it out for four quarters.
In what seemed like a heavyweight fight, No. 1 Cabell Midland outslugged Spring Valley, escaping with a 28-26 victory over the Timberwolves.
"This win was huge," said Midland standout tailback David Gaydosz, who led an effective Knight ground game with 177 yards on 18 carries. 140 of his yards came in the second half, including two dazzling runs of 49 and 57 yards.
With the win, the Knights (12-0) will stay at home to play No. 5 Morgantown in the semifinals next weekend. The Mohigans knocked off No. 4 Huntington and will return to Cabell County at a day and time to be determined Sunday.
"it was awesome for the community and team. Nothing else was on our minds but this. Our goal is to get to the state championship and they stood in our way. And we got past them," Gaydosz said.
Cabell Midland Coach Luke Salmons knew his team had been through a intense battle against Spring Valley.
"This game was a freaking war," Salmons said. "They have a good team with good players and coaches. It was what you expect in a game like this. It's what you want from this whole area. High school football is good around here."
It was a back-and forth game all night long, with no more than eight points separating either team. The game featured four lead changes and three ties.
With the game tied at 14-14 at halftime, Spring Valley took the second half kickoff and marched right down field for a touchdown capped off by an Elijah Wellman five-yard TD run. However, the extra point was blocked, which proved crucial down the stretch.
Midland responded, marching 68 yards on seven plays for a touchdown with 5:05 left in the third quarter. The last play of the drive was a dazzling run by Gaydosz, who scampered 49 yards for the score, making several elusive moves against Timberwolves defenders.
The critical extra point was converted by Knight kicker Chris Molina, giving Midland a 21-20 lead. After a defensive stop, the Knights drove down field again, scoring another touchdown on a Lowell Farley one-yard run to give them a 28-20 lead with 9:30 left in the game.
Spring Valley, though, responded yet again, driving 65-yards on just six plays, highlighted by a Wellman 42-yard run on fourth and five from their own 40-yard line. He later added a 17-yard TD run with 6:48 left to cut the Midland lead to just 28-26.
Needing a two-point conversion to tie, Timberwolves Coach Brad Dingess elected to hand off to Wellman, who had gashed Midland to the tune of 147 yards on 29 carries and three touchdowns. However, he was stuffed at the line of scrimmage by the Knight defense.
"He was going to get the ball," Dingess said. "We had ran that play all the way down the field. We had it set up the way we wanted but we just missed a couple blocks. If I had to call that play 10 times, I'd put it in 28's (Wellman) hands 10 times."
To go along with Wellman's big night, fellow running back Ryan George also was successful against MIdland, rushing for 156 yards on 15 carries, including one touchdown. As a team, Spring Valley rushed for 310 yards on 51 carries.
The Midland defense gave up big chunks of yards to the Timberwolves, especially in the second half, but much like the two-point conversion attempt, they stepped up when they needed to the most.
Spring Valley had an opportunity to win the game with a touchdown or even a field goal, but after taking over from their 32-yard line with 4:12 remaining, the Timberwolves couldn't even get a first down, turning the ball over on downs.
"We made a couple stops when they had to the most at the end of the game and on the two point conversion," Salmons said. "I told the guys to just stay with it and that Spring Valley had good players and were going to make some plays."
Both teams combined to rush for 650 yards on 93 carries. Spring Valley attemped five passes on the night, and the Knights only threw one time. They didnt need to, especially with Gaydosz, and Farley (18 rushes, 150 yards, three touchdowns).
"You could see our kids wanted it," Salmons said. "We have good backs who run hard and the line blocked good. The line gave us a spark, and when David gets the second level, he was electric."
CABELL MIDLAND 28, SPRING VALLEY 26