WHEELING, W.Va. - The wildly different cast of characters didn't stand in Martinsburg's path to history.
The Bulldogs (13-1) clinched their third consecutive Class AAA football state championship Saturday with a 38-14 win over top-seeded Cabell Midland (13-1) at Wheeling Island Stadium.
Martinsburg, which had lost 18 starters from its 2011 state title to graduation, won their 12th consecutive playoff game on the strength of sophomore running back Tre Boyd's 193 rushing yards, and senior quarterback Justin "Cookie" Clinton's performance that saw him finish with 220 total yards in an Most Valuable Player-winning day.
"We had a tremendous season. I give credit to the coaches. Back in the summer they worked us hard in 7-on-7 and two-a-days. I guess that leads to a state championship game," said Clinton, who finished with 93 rushing yards on 14 carries and was 8 of 14 through the air for 127 yards, a pair of touchdowns and an interception.
The Bulldogs took advantage of good field position early, getting a 7-yard touchdown pass from Clinton to senior receiver and Ohio University commitment Cedric Brown with 7:27 left in the opening quarter. Martinsburg went up 14-0 on its next possession when Clinton found Brown for a 30-yard score.
Martinsburg Coach Dave Walker said he was pleasantly surprised the Knights, who won the opening coin toss, decided to take the ball first. A quick stop on Midland's opening drive allowed the Martinsburg offense to take its first snap of the game from the Midland 38-yard line.
"If we'd have won the toss I was going to defer, so I was actually kind of pleased," Walker said. "Once the game settles in it doesn't really matter, but it worked out the way we wanted."
Midland, which was playing in its first state championship game, didn't get on the board until after Boyd had ripped off an 83-yard touchdown run on a 2nd-and-23 call with 10:31 left in the second quarter.
Knights senior fullback Lowell Farley ripped off a 60-yard but was chased down at the Martinsburg 1 on Midland's ensuing possession. After a pair of stops by Martinsburg's supremely athletic defensive front, David Gaydosz scored the first of his two touchdowns to make it 21-7.
It was as close as the Knights would get the remainder of the game. Boyd scored again before halftime, and Martinsburg led by no fewer than 21 points until game's end.
"I'm proud of our seniors. We worked so hard in the summer and off-season. We're really just a bunch of hicks playing against a bunch of D-1 athletes," said Farley, who finished with 120 yards on 17 carries. Gaydosz led the Knights with 131 yards on 25 carries, and was named the team's Most Valuable Player.
A key element of Midland's inability to get back in the game was the lack of a passing attack. Knights quarterback Coy Pettit was 0 for 6 passing, and Gaydosz completed 1 of 2 passes for 22 yards while operating the offense out of the wildcat formation.
Midland's defense also suffered a blow in the first quarter, when senior defensive tackle Gage Gould left the game on Martinsburg's second point-after attempt with what appeared to be a broken right ankle.
Martinsburg becomes the second school to win three consecutive Class AAA titles. Charleston High School won three straight from 1968-70 under Coach Frank Vincent, who later coached Walker at Glenville State College in the mid-1980s.
Unlike Martinsburg, Charleston won its titles in the pre-playoff era. Only two teams were chosen to play in the championship game prior to 1972. The Bulldogs, on the other hand, have won 12 consecutive playoff games since a 2009 quarterfinal loss to South Charleston.
Contact Preps Editor Derek Taylor at derek.tay...@dailymail.com or 304-348-5170.
MARTINSBURG 38, CABELL MIDLAND 14
First downs 14 12
Rushes-yards 33-289 52-225
Passing yards 127 22
Total yards 416 247
Comp-Att-Int 8-14-1 1-8-0