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It’s Wayne Vs. Point, Part II For AA Crown

Big Blacks play for first title

December 1, 2011

WHEELING - There will be plenty on the line at 7:30 on Friday night when top-ranked Point Pleasant and No. 6 Wayne battle on the turf at Wheeling Island Stadium with the West Virginia Class AA state championship at stake.

Of course there is the coveted trophy that each team in the state begins its season on a quest to attain. But there is even more as two Cardinal Conference squads bring the latest installment of their rivalry to the Northern Panhandle.

For Coach Dave Darst and his 13-0 Big Blacks there will be the school's first Super-Six appearance, on the heels of the team's initial unbeaten season and the most victories in a single season. The other thing for Point Pleasant is verification, as they already own a 16-14 victory against the Pioneers earlier this season.

Meanwhile, Tom Harmon's Wayne club will be looking for redemption from that game, one in which the Pioneers were stopped on a late goal-line stand that could have given the 11-2 team a victory, and the Cardinal Conference title.

''It was just a real good, classic football game when we played them at our place earlier this season,'' Darst said. ''We ended up holding them late to win the game, but we also lost our best running back.

''Our quarterback struggled throwing the ball because he injured his shoulder and we had to pop it back into place. But it was just an exceptional game.

''Over the last five years we are 3-2 against them, but this current group of seniors (is) 3-1. But each and every one of those games have been hard-fought and the score has been within seven points in all of them.''

Harmon agreed, but also admitted he believed the better team won.

''It was a tough game, but I don't think the final score was any indication of how things went,'' Harmon said. ''I just do not believe that they were only two points better than us at that time. But that game also seems like it was a lifetime ago.''

This will be the fifth trip to Wheeling and the Super Six for Wayne since the 2000 season. The Pioneers defeated Tolsia, 33-6, for their only state title in 2006. But they lost to Bridgeport in 2000 and Bluefield in both 2004 and 2009 in the finals.

Both teams have rolled through the postseason with the Big Blacks having downed Ritchie County (41-0) Oak Glen (66-40) and Chapmanville, another conference rival, 33-14 in last week's state semifinals.

Wayne has ousted Grafton (56-14), Keyser (38-8), and No. 2 Shady Spring, in a surprisingly easy 52-9 affair to earn its ticket to the Friendly City.

''Early on in that game last week we ran into some tough situations,'' Harmon said. ''But we fought through them and when we got the ball rolling and got a little momentum we never slowed down. It just seemed like it was a close game and then you look up at the scoreboard and it just kept lighting up.

''Honestly, we have been playing very well and working real hard recently.''

The two will both bring explosive offenses into the fray, but both defenses did an outstanding job of holding down the other in their Week-6 meeting.

Point Pleasant has scored a 609 points in 13 games, but the Pioneers are just behind them at 600 for the season. Against the other six conference opponents both were also very successful, having racked up 325 and 312 points in six games, respectively.

Along with losing to the Big Blacks, Wayne also dropped a hard-fought 14-8 decision to Chesapeake, Ohio, in Week 2. Chesapeake advanced to the Ohio Division IV playoffs, but was eliminated in a tough battle with St. Clairsville in the first round.

If there is any major difference between the two squads it has to be Point Pleasant's ability to both run and throw the football, while the Pioneers are a little more one-dimensional with a high-powered running attack that produced 466 yards a week ago.

''We like to think that running the football is a very consistent and safe way to move it,'' Harmon said. ''But we still hope that we are successful when we try to throw the football.

''I believe that explosive plays can come in many shapes and sizes and a 60-yard run off-tackle can be just as exciting as a long pass play. And I know it is just as exciting for our fans.''

Senior running back Brandon Spurlock, who picked up 110 yards and four touchdowns on 14 touches in the semis, leads the way for Wayne. For the year he is near 1,600 yards and close to 30 rushing touchdowns.

Quarterback Tyler Adkins is an interesting story, and has thrown for nearly 1,000 yards with limited chances. Adkins actually started at quarterback as a freshman, was moved around in an injury-filled sophomore campaign and was the team's top split end as a junior before returning back under center this season.

While the offense was spectacular again against Shady Springs, piling up 505 yards, the defense forced four first-half turnovers, including a trio of interceptions to jump to a 36-3 lead.

That came against a Shady Spring team that had scored 50 or more points in eight of 12 games coming in, and no less than 28 in any game.

Senior quarterback Eric Roberts, who had a huge quarterfinal game against Oak Glen, threw for only 73 yards last week, but as Darst has pointed out has been an amazing leader for the Blacks.

The running game has been handed over to sophomore Teran Barnitz, who has been amazing filling in for injured senior standout Anthony Darst, the coach's son. Darst was hurt early in the season, but actually returned last week, only to get injured again and will not play this week.

Barnitz rushed for 132 and a pair of scores in the semifinal victory against Chapmanville.

''We have been able to get both the passing and running games going and that is a good thing,'' Darst added. ''And one of the biggest reasons for that is that our play-action the second half of the season has really been clicking.''

Point Pleasant has only given up more than 18 points in a game once all season long, that came against the Golden Bears in the quarterfinals in which Oak Glen scored 21 points in the first quarter alone.

As for the atmosphere, Wayne has been to this point before, but the Big Blacks are also no strangers to huge crowds.

''I am sure the kids will be a little nervous, but I also think that playing against a team that they know may help a little bit,'' Darst said. ''But for atmosphere, the Wayne game at our place was the biggest crowd of the year.

''There was not room anywhere, in the stands or standing along the fence and it was an absolute madhouse. And I expect nothing less this time around. I think the whole experience will just be amazing.''

Harmon agreed, and had a very interesting, if not funny response.

''I really believe that the Mothman (of Point Pleasant lore) will have the run of things down there Friday night, because there will be no people at all left in Point Pleasant.

''And the crowd overall should be something to see because we also travel very well.''

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