Second-half explosion propels St. Marys to second round

JOE ALBRIGHT The Marietta Times Doddridge County’s Seth Davis and St. Marys’ Matt Eichhorn battle for a ball in the end zone Saturday during a Class A first-round playoff match. Davis came down with the ball for a touchdown to tie the game at 6-6 in the closing seconds of the second quarter.

ST. MARYS, W.Va. — West Virginia’s Class A high school football playoff matchup between No. 12 Doddridge County and No. 5 St. Marys was close for a half before the final outcome was decided.

Tied 6-6 coming out of the locker room, the defending state champion Blue Devils exploded for 38 second-half points on the way to a 44-14 win over the Bulldogs Saturday afternoon inside Bill Hanlin Stadium.

“We’ve seen them on film, watched them, and had a great amount of respect for Doddridge,” said St. Marys defensive coordinator Jay Powell. “We knew they would be ready to play. We knew they would come here with a mission to win a playoff game and certainly we as coaches realized what was at stake.”

Senior tailback Matt Eichhorn played a big part in making sure the Blue Devils season didn’t come to an end. Not only did he get the ball rolling early by scoring on the first play from scrimmage on a wildcat formation, a direct snap 55-yard run, he added two more long scores (36 and 17 yards respectively) to ice the game away in the final period.

Eichhorn tallied 140 yards on the ground on just nine carries for an eventful day. He also intercepted Doddridge County’s Tanner Lett late in the first to set up the Blue Devils with good field position.

“It feels good,” said Eichhorn when asked about the Blue Devils season extending an additional week. “We talked at halftime and came together and executed. The o-line toughened up and opened up holes. I have to give it all to the blockers.

“He said we have to be ready,” continued Eichhorn on head coach Jodi Mote’s halftime speech. “He gave us things to look for and told us to come out and play with everything we have. We had 24 minutes left for the seniors and we toughened up and don’t want it to be over yet. We kept fighting.”

Lett helped get his team on the board when he found Seth Davis in the end zone from 28 yards out to knot things up at 6 all. However, a Doddridge County unsportsmanlike call on the touchdown pushed the point after back 15 stripes leading to DJ Devinney coming up short on the try.

St. Marys had a chance to head into the locker room up 14-6 late in the first quarter after the offense drove 81 yards to the DC 1, but Doddridge County held on three straight plays and forced a field goal attempt. A false start penalty moved the ball back to the 6-yard line before Robbie Gonzalez’ low kick was blocked by Doddridge County’s William Howell, who broke through the line quickly after the snap.

“When you have the backs we have you have to get it in,” said Powell. “You are on the six-inch line first and goal you have to get it in. We have got to make that happen if we want to be successful in the weeks to come. Certainly that was disappointing and truthfully it has to be all eleven guys executing down there but unfortunately we didn’t get it done. Then we let them have that one right before the half and it put us in a bad situation.”

It was a tale of two halves for the St. Marys’ lines. Doddridge County’s trench units, averaging around 250 pounds, were able to push the Blue Devils around in the first half and upset what St. Marys was trying to do on offense, while allowing their offense to keep the clock running.

Things changed in the second half though. Blue Devil blockers, who allowed their backs to pick up 79 yards on 14 carries in the first half, paved a way for the running backs to average 10 yards per rush on 17 totes for 171 yards.

Jaiden Smith’s 1-yard plunge gave St. Marys the lead for good shortly into the third quarter after Doddridge County went three-and-out to start the opening drive.

Curtis James pulled Doddridge within 14 after his 13-yard scoring plunge, but things started going wrong for the visitors shortly afterward.

Turnovers hurt the Bulldogs, unlike in the first half.

St. Marys scored 10 points off two Bulldog fumbles on Gonzalez’ 32-yard field goal with 5:48 left and Eichhorn’s final score of the night on a 17-yard rush.

“Hats off to coah Mote and his team,” said ‘Dog head coach Bobby Burnside. “They took advantage in the second half of the mistakes that we made and cashed in. I am proud of our boys, but too many mistakes tonight to win this game is just the truth of it.”

Doddridge County ends the year at 8-3, while St. Marys (9-1) awaits the winner of No. 13 Pocahontas County and No. 4 Tug Valley.