Wolves bested in title game
CLASS AAA FOOTBALL
WHEELING — Everything looked as though it was going Spring Valley’s way — even the weather. But looks can be deceiving, and the Martinsburg mirage soon turned into another Martinsburg barrage.
Grant Harman ran for two touch downs and threw 30 yards to Chelo Teneval for another score Saturday afternoon as No. 1 seed Martinsburg continued to make history, marching toward a 31-7 victory for its third straight Class AAA football championship at soggy Wheeling Island Stadium.
Martinsburg (14-0), which extended its state-record winning streak to 42 games, captured its seventh title in nine years and became the first AAA team to ever take three straight crowns with perfect records. Charleston had three unbeaten title teams in a row from 1968-70, but that streak included two ties.
The Bulldogs got a huge assist from their defensive front, which limited Spring Valley’s powerful ground game to a mere 88 yards on 36 carries as the Timberwolves fell for a third consecutive season to Martinsburg in the AAA finals.
“We were undersized and overmatched,″ said Bulldogs senior linebacker Dewayne Grantham, “and we were doubted. Spring Valley thought it was their year, and our linemen stepped up. We also had a great line last year, and they filled in their shoes and did what they had to do. I’m very proud of them.″
Second-seeded Spring Valley (13-1) had the perceived edge along the line of scrimmage — especially in Saturday’s drenching rains — with a huge offensive front that included three potential NCAA Division I recruits to Power 5 schools. However, the Timberwolves never got anything going between the tackles, and their improved passing game managed only 79 yards in the wet conditions.
“I thought we really played well up front defensively,″ said Martinsburg coach Dave Walker. “They really set the tone, and that was a concern because they’re so big and have got all those D1 kids. Our guys were just scrappy and got after it.
“We’ve got athletes in the back half that can play with anybody, so it was a matter of taking control of the line of scrimmage as best we could. Everybody talks about our offense and this and that, but the difference in the last 10 years is what we do defensively. We really feel like we play hard on that side of the ball.″
Graeson Malashevich, the Timberwolves’ multifaceted runner-receiver and a leading Kennedy Award state player of the year candidate, was limited to 44 yards rushing and 32 receiving on 19 total touches. He did throw an 11-yard touchdown pass to David Livingston in the fourth quarter to avert the shutout.
Martinsburg, meanwhile, had a bushel of problems early — failing to cover the opening pooch kickoff, snapping the ball over its punter’s head and throwing an interception — all in the first quarter. But the Bulldogs righted the ship soon after under the steady hand of Harman, who was selected as their MVP in a media vote.
Harman, a two-time first-team all-state defensive back, took over as the main quarterback this season and delivered Saturday just as he’s done all year. He carried 14 times for 126 yards, including touchdown bursts of 20 and 25 yards, and completed 5 of 9 passes for 72 yards, highlighted by the scoring connection with Teneval.
On defense, Harman led Martinsburg with eight total tackles and broke up several passes.
“I’m biased because he plays for me,″ Walker said, “but I think he’s the best player in the state, or one of them anyway. He’s got that Baker Mayfield quality to him and I always tease him because he doesn’t look real flashy, but he’s just got so much heart, and he’s such a good kid, good student.″
Each team had its problems moving the ball in the first 1 1/2 quarters before Martinsburg finally broke through. Harman connected on a deep ball with Teneval for 42 yards to the Spring Valley 20 and scored himself on the next play to break the scoreless tie with 5:28 left in the first half.
Less than two minutes later, the Bulldogs struck again.
Spring Valley punter Zane Porter had his kick blocked by a streaking Ricky Barrett, and Trey Sine scooped up the ball at the Wolves 26 and returned it for a touchdown. Harman ran in the two-point conversion and it was 14-0.
The Wolves, perhaps sensing one of Martinsburg’s patented bursts, went for it on fourthand-2 from their own 32 on the ensuing possession, and didn’t make it. Christopher Catlett cashed in the extra chance for Martinsburg with a 29-yard field goal 31 seconds before halftime for a 17-0 edge.
Spring Valley got the ball to start the second half, but a three-and-out produced a shanked punt and the Bulldogs only needed to move 29 yards for another Harman TD to break it open with a 24-0 lead.
All of those mistakes — first-quarter interception, blocked punt, shanked punt, 10 penalties for 96 yards — put the Timberwolves in tenuous territory.
“We were talking to the kids at halftime,″ said Spring Valley coach Brad Dingess, “and I don’t think we had one series where we didn’t have a penalty. You play against a team like that, and it can’t get like that. If we had scored on that first drive there (after covering the opening kickoff), it might have put (Martinsburg) in an uneasy situation.
“But they’ve won all them games in a row for a reason. They’re a different monster up there, and Coach Walker, he’s the winningest coach in state history and they’ve got the longest winning streak in state history, so we knew it would be a tall task coming in here. We had to play a perfect game, and we didn’t do that. The reason we didn’t play perfect was because of them. They put a lot of pressure on us. I thought our defense played well for the most part, but they made plays in crucial situations when they had to, and we didn’t.″
Spring Valley ended up 3 of 13 on third-down conversions, was 0 of 4 on fourth down and failed on two of its three redzone chances.
Owen Chafin led the Wolves on the ground with 16 carries for 55 yards. Will Adkins hit on 6 of 15 passes for 68 yards and linebacker Isaac Howard had 10 total tackles. Malashevich was selected as his team’s MVP.