Redskins face daunting challenge in Martinsburg
HURRICANE, W.Va. — Hurricane High School football coach Jeremy Taylor already has a game plan for No. 1 Martinsburg, though it might not be entirely legal.
Taylor thought of it as he was making his decision on when to play his team’s first-round playoff game in the Eastern Panhandle.
“We’re going with 1:30 Saturday,” Taylor said, “but I’m saying they can’t start playing until 2 and we will see how big a lead we can get. We’re going to cheat. We’re going to cheat a lot.”
The Redskins (5-5) got the good news Saturday that they had indeed squeezed into a spot in the Class AAA playoffs as the 16th and final seed, but the bad news is that they’re matched up against the No.
1 Bulldogs (10-0), two-time defending state champions who have won a state-record 38 straight games.
The game will be at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Cobourn Field next to Martinsburg High School — with both teams participating.
Hurricane was one of several local teams to qualify for the postseason. In Class AAA, No.
2 Spring Valley entertains No. 15 Spring Mills (5-5) at 7:30 p.m. Friday. No. 10 Cabell Midland (6-4) visits No. 7 Huntington High (7-3) at 7:30 p.m. Friday. In Class AA, No. 5 Poca (9-1) plays host to No. 12 Weir (8-2) at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, No. 10 Wayne (8-2) goes to No. 7 Keyser (8-2) at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, and No. 8 Point Pleasant (8-1) is home to No. 9 Mingo Central (8-2) at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.
Higher-seeded teams in the playoff field get to select an approved site for the game, while the lower seeds choose the date and time.
Certainly, the Redskins face the toughest challenge of that bunch. The Bulldogs have captured six of the last eight AAA championships and since the 2010 season own a 112-7 record. This season, the dominance over the rest of the teams in their area is just as astonishing: Against the five West Virginia teams Martinsburg has faced, it has outscored them 322-3. That includes a 70-0 wipeout of Musselman, which wound up 9-1 and earned the No. 4 seed in the AAA playoff field.
“They’re just a machine,” Taylor said. “I think they’re just that much better than the other teams. You’ve got to look where they’re from in the Panhandle. They get a lot of kids from a growing area. They’re one of the few growing areas in the state. And that’s just how things happen when you’ve got a good program going. It brings the best and the brightest out. Winning produces winning.”
Taylor and his coaching staff have already dug up some daunting numbers on Martinsburg. Out of 246 first-half offensive plays by the Bulldogs, 30 percent of them have gained 15 or more yards. On defense, in all 10 games, they’ve allowed opposing offenses to set up on second down needing 3 or fewer yards just nine times.
“In other words,” Taylor said, “on first down, teams are gaining two yards then throwing an incomplete pass. They’ve given up some first downs, but they get you behind the sticks. Whatever else we do this week, we need to figure something out.”
The Redskins rely a lot on a ball-control attack led by the running of junior tailback Christian Hill, who has gained 1,430 yards and scored 10 touchdowns on the ground, and a defense that has forced 23 turnovers.
Taylor doesn’t think the ’Skins will be unprepared for the talent level they’ll be facing in Martinsburg.
“In the end, it’s funny,” he said. “It’s not like we didn’t play anybody this year. Spring Valley is pretty good, and we were competitive with them, and we played Capital. We know Martinsburg’s a different animal, but it’s not like we’re 9-1 and didn’t play anyone. We’re 5-5 and lost four games where we weren’t favored. That’s why we are where we are.
“I’d be more worried if we won seven games against teams who won a combined four games, then go into Martinsburg or Huntington when we weren’t tested. We’re tested. We’re not going to run into anything we haven’t seen from Capital or Spring Valley. They’re not any bigger than Spring Valley and not any faster than Capital. But they might be both at the same time. We’ll fire everything we have at them and see what happens.”