WHEELING - Cabell Midland may have entered the West Virginia Class AAA championship game with a perfect 13-0 record and the top seed. But Martinsburg was the two-time defending champion and Saturday at Wheeling Island Stadium, it showed why.
Martinsburg moved the ball with ease, scoring on four of its five first-half possessions en route to a dominating 38-14 victory against Cabell Midland.
After years of coming up short, the Bulldogs have won the past three championships, becoming the second program in West Virginia history to do so, and first since Charleston High did from 1968-70.
Martinsburg’s Trey Boyd carries the ball during Saturday’s game.
Photo by Scott McCloskey
''I am kind of speechless,'' Martinsburg coach Dave Walker said. ''The way the season has been, the way they worked and pulled together. I am very proud of them.
''They all have their own special place. They are all special and all the kids have been great. As long as they continue to work, they are gonna be successful. This group worked so hard and didn't want to have any drop off.''
There was definitely no drop off at the quarterback position where Justin ''Cookie'' Clinton moved from receiver to quarterback, replacing Brandon Ashenfelter. Clinton was named the Bulldogs' Samuel A. Mumley Player of the Game, throwing for 127 yards and two touchdowns, connecting with Cedric Brown twice in the first quarter.
He also rushed for 106 yards and a score.
''It means a lot, especially to our community,'' Clinton said. ''It all starts back in the summer when we worked and we knew there were a lot of shoes we had to fill. We just worked hard every day.
''Every game I felt like we got better and better. Our last game here (Saturday), I thought we played perfect everywhere. Front line, D-line, everywhere.''
After a three-and-out, Clinton drove the team down the field in five plays, hitting Brown from 7 yards out for a 7-0 lead.
On the next possession, with Nicholas Boone in his face, Clinton lofted a perfect pass toward the pylon that Brown caught at the 5 and walked in.
''It was a big start and the motivation was nice,'' Clinton said. ''We knew we couldn't give up though because we are a four-quarter team. We knew Cabell Midland wasn't giving up.
''(On the second TD pass), I saw the D-end off the edge and I knew what the play was. I knew I had to throw it quick so I led him toward the end zone for a touchdown.''
Cabell Midland didn't go away but had to turn the ball over on downs deep in Martinsburg territory.
Add a couple of penalties and the field position finally swung to the way of the Knights - almost.
On a second-and-23 from the 17-yard line, Trey Boyd found a hole and was gone down the sideline as the Bulldogs took a commanding 21-0 lead. It was the longest run from scrimmage in Class AAA history, breaking the previous mark of 80 set by Morgantown's Thomas Porchia in 1998.
''That was a huge play,'' Walker said. ''I felt like if we got our kids out in space, we would be all right. That was one of those cases where Trey was able to break loose and make some yardage.''
Added Cabell Midland coach Luke Salmons: ''It was hard and you have to play almost as close to perfect against these guys. That is why they are three-time state champs. We missed some opportunities and you can't do that in big games.''
Cabell Midland got on the scoreboard on its next possession as Knights Mumley winner David Gaydosz scored on a 1-yard run. He finished with 133 yards and two scores. Teammate Lowell Farley added 123 yards.
Boyd scored again before the half to send the Bulldogs into the locker room up 28-7. The 5-foot-10 sophomore rushed for 193 yards.
Martinsburg put the game out of reach as it drove 80 yards on seven plays to open the second half, finishing with a Clinton 3-yard rushing score.
Bulldogs kicker Tyler DeHaven kicked a 48-yard field in the fourth quarter, the longest kick made in the state this season.