Blue Eagles Fall in Semis
By DAVE MORRISON
FAIRLEA – Greenbrier West’s Garrett Smith had two catches coming into Saturday afternoon’s West Virginia Class A semifinal with Magnolia at Spartans Stadium.
Now he has three.
The 5-foot-11 senior receiver caught an 18-yard touchdown reception with :38.3 remaining to give No. 7 Greenbrier West (12-1) and 21-14 victory against No. 14 Magnolia (8-5).
”My heart stopped,” Smith said of hearing the play call with a trip to Wheeling Islland Stadium and a date with Madonna hanging in the balance. ”I knew I had to catch it but it all happened so fast. I’m still stunned. I’m speechless.”
Smith got behind the Magnolia defense, caught the ball and turned into the right corner of the end zone to break a 14-14 deadlock in the battle that resembled to heavyweights going toe-to-toe.
Cavaliers coach Lewis McClung laughed at the comments by his receiver, but said he had full confidence in both Smith and the play call.
”Coach (Jeremy) Tincher works on that play all the time in practice,” McClung said. ”It wasn’t something we just drew up. He thought it was a good call and it turned out to be a great one. You know, that might just be the greatest catch in the history of Greenbrier West High School right there.”
It was set up by two key situations prior, one a stop by the Greenbrier West defense, the other a pass interference call on fourth-and-10 two plays before the touchdown.
First, West held Magnolia and forced a punt deep in its own territory and started the drive on the Magnolia 45.
”That was huge,” McClung said. ”We had been playing for field position the whole second half and when we held then there that was going to be our chance to punch it in there. They are a very dangerous team, and they had hurt us a couple times in the first half and (Drew) Keller is a load. That stop was key.”
So was the interference call on fourth down that kept the West drive alive. It was the blow that staggered the Blue Eagles before Smith?s knockout blow.
”That’s just the way it goes,” Magnolia coach Mark Batton said. ”We faced a good Greenbrier West team and we left it all on the field. There were a couple of plays that hurt us but I give Greenbrier West the credit. I have a lot of respect for coach McClung. He does a great job. We never could get in a rhythm in the second half and that is all due to them. We shot ourselves in the foot a couple of times. But that is how it goes. I’m proud of my guys and I am proud of these seniors.”
”It was big, but I thought the Magnolia defender came over our kids back, but it was close, and if I’m only the other side that’s tough,” McClung said. ”We’ve knocked on the door so many times in the past, I’m just excited that were finally able to knock that door down.”
The two teams exchanged blows in the first half, West striking first when quarterback Malik Boatwright got loose up the middle and raced 66 yards for the touchdown.
It was one of two long runs he had in the game, the other a 55-yard run deep into Magnolia territory on a drive in the third that ended in no points. He finished with 166 yards in the game. West had 264 yards on the ground.
Magnolia’s Drew Keller answered with an 18-yard run early in the second quarter before Boatwright gave the Cavalier’s the lead back with a 20-yard strike to Cory Cox. On the play, Boatwright scrambled to his right and found Cox at the 10, and the running back did the rest of the work.
Keller scored on a 4-yard run right before the half to tie the score at 14-14. Keller, a senior, finished with 144 yards on 38 carries.
”They did a pretty good job keying on him, but we did get our yards,” Batton said. ”We had our chances to win the game, we were in position to win the game, but it is what it is. That is a good football team and West and we battled. I’ve been telling our kids since Week 8 that people we counting them out and here we were today, playing in the semifinals.”
Magnolia’s Jacob Brill completed 6 of 9 passing for 99 yards.
Boatwright was 3 of 5 through the air for 35 yards.
”I know a lot of people don’t think we can throw the ball and it surprises them when we do it,” Boatwright said. ”Sometimes you just have to take a chance and I knew when we called that play to (Garrett) Smith he was going to get the job done. You take a chance and see what happens and it worked out good.”
”I don’t even know what to think,” Smith said. ”AlI I was thinking when that ball was in the air was make the catch for the school and the community.”
McClung said it made up for a close play at the end of the third when Dustin Yoakum made a diving receptions that was ruled out of the side of the end zone on fourth down.
It was the final 18 yards, and Smith’s third reception of the season, that was the biggest for West, going to its first state championship game since 1994 when it was a Class AA team.
Magnolia had defeated West in two previous semifinals, the last time in 2010 when Magnolia went on to win the Class AA championship.