Timberwolves clobber Capital, advance to state title game
HUNTINGTON - The last time Capital played Spring Valley, it was a one-possession game and the Timberwolves had to milk more than seven minutes off the clock at the end to deny the Cougars one last chance to tie it.
On Friday afternoon, no such game-saving tactics were necessary for the unbeaten Wolves.
Will Adkins threw three touchdown passes and Graeson Malashevich accounted for three scores in different ways for the second straight week as No. 2 seed Spring Valley thumped visiting Capital 56-14 in the Class AAA semifinals.
Spring Valley (13-0) takes on two-time defending champion Martinsburg (13-0), the top seed, at noon Dec. 1 at Wheeling Island Stadium in the Super Six finals. Martinsburg is riding a state-record 41-game winning streak.
The Wolves have dropped the last two title games to Martinsburg by scores of 44-16 last year and 49-7 in 2016. Spring Valley led at halftime last year 16-14.
On Friday, Adkins found three different receivers for touchdowns and completed 9 of 14 passes for 144 yards. Owen Chafin ran 18 times for 140 yards, including a 46-yard scoring burst.
Just as important, the Wolves locked down on defense, forcing five turnovers from the No. 3 Cougars (11-2), intercepting Kerry Martin Jr. four times, with David Livingston returning one of the picks 67 yards for a TD. Capital managed just 190 total yards, including minus-6 on 15 rushing plays.
“All-around, we couldn’t have done anything more perfect,″ said Doug Nester, the Timberwolves’ all-state lineman. “We played such a great game. Defensively, we held them, which is really hard to do against that offense. They’re a really good team.″
Spring Valley had to hold on in its regular-season game against Capital, taking a 21-13 win when it chewed up the final 7:13 by running behind its massive offensive line. But after an early 7-7 tie on Friday, the Wolves locked it up by scoring touchdowns on six straight full possessions between the second and third quarters.
“We’ve gotten better,″ said Spring Valley coach Brad Dingess. “And things have just been clicking lately. I think we’ve been playing our best ball. We played well in all three (phases) today, even special teams. Being able to put the ball in the air has helped a lot, too. You’ve got to respect that.″
In the second quarter, Adkins threw a 7-yard scoring pass to Isaac Howard and a 9-yarder to Malashevich as the Wolves gained a 28-7 halftime lead. On their initial drive of the third quarter, it grew to 35-7 as Adkins hit Parker Elmore with a 27-yard TD toss.
Then it was time for Malashevich, the Wolves’ Kennedy Award candidate, to flash his skills.
Following another Livingston interception and 32-yard return, Malashevich was inserted at quarterback in place of Adkins and fired an 18-yard touchdown pass to Tyrus Baumgardner. After Capital’s Martin threw a TD pass to Chance Knox to make it 49-14, Malashevich returned the ensuing kickoff 92 yards to the Capital 1. He ran it into the end zone on the next play.
In last week’s quarterfinal win against Huntington, Malashevich had another triple play catching and running for touchdowns and throwing a scoring pass.
“If Graeson Malashevich ain’t the best football player in the state, I don’t know who is,″ Dingess said. “They tried to account for him, but the guy just finds ways to make plays, and he did today.″
On the season, Malashevich has 14 touchdown receptions, 11 TD runs, four touchdown passes and two more TDs each on kick returns and defensive returns.
Against Capital, he carried six times for 45 yards and caught four passes for 54 yards as the Cougars defense tried to focus on Malashevich the same way it did last week against Hedgesville’s Malakai Brown, the 2017 Kennedy Award winner as the top receiver in West Virginia. Brown managed just two catches for 31 yards.
But the Wolves were able to get contributions from up and down their lineup on Friday, and earned their fifth straight win against Capital and their 22nd in a row at home. They had averaged 50-plus carries for 300-plus yards in those four previous games against the Cougars, but only needed to run for 216 yards Saturday on 41 totes.
“They’re just too big, too physical,″ said Capital coach Jon Carpenter. “Unbelievable. I wish I could have done a better job than that getting our kids ready to play. I guess if you stick around long enough, stuff like that happens some days.″
Martin suffered an arm injury late in the second quarter, but was able to finish the game. He completed 18 of 33 passes for 196 yards, but was intercepted four times and sacked twice, once by the 312-pound Nester.
“Give them all the credit in the world,″ Carpenter said. “They’re physical and fast, and today was their day. I just feel bad for our senior class. I spent too much time and energy fighting other stuff and I didn’t do a good job.″
Martin also had a 17-yard scoring run for Capital. K.J. Figures and Deishawn Harper each caught five passes for the Cougars.