By Stephen Smoot
The road trip to Pocahontas County High School took the football squad and coaches through brilliant colorful fall foliage. But the leaves on the trees flanking West Virginia Route 28 were not nearly as beautiful as the victory earned on the field last Friday night, spoiling the Warriors’ homecoming.
Pendleton County scored in dramatic fashion the first time they touched the ball, with Josiah Kimble taking the opening kickoff approximately 80 yards up the left sideline. This season, Kimble has increasingly shown game breaking speed.
After a kickoff that Pocahontas County took to their own 25, they executed a flea flicker trick play that opened up a receiver at the Wildcat 35. He took the ball into the endzone and, with the two-point conversion, the Warriors took an 8 to 6 lead.
Pocahontas County brought speed at the skilled positions and a tough interior line. They tried for much of the game to grind out yards on run plays up the middle and also tried the flea flicker multiple times, but never seeing the results earned on their first use of that play.
The third kickoff of the game took place with only 40 seconds gone in the first quarter. From the Warrior 48, James Vincell passed the ball to the right, hitting Kimble for six yards. Next, Kimble ran the ball left for four. Four straight Dillon Smith runs took the ball to the 12. From there, a fourth down pass from Vincell to Dusty Smith put Pendleton County ahead again. The kick made it 13 to 8.
Pocahontas County’s second drive lasted only 30 seconds, with a Wildcat defender snagging an interception on the second play. From the Warrior 44 Vincell, who showed incredible accuracy on the night, found Chase Owens at the 25. Pocahontas County failed to chase Chase down as he accelerated to the goal line. The Gabe Harvey kick put the score at 20 to 8.
The Warriors took the next kickoff to the 25. They advanced the ball to the Pendleton County 38 on a series of mostly running plays out of full backfield formations. Many Potomac Highlands regional offenses look like Rich Rodriguez formations and plays. The Warriors better resembled late 80s Don Nehlen, using wishbone and I formations to challenge the Wildcat middle.
Pocahontas County effectively ran the ball as they executed a 16 play, 80-yard drive that took nearly seven minutes off the clock. They scored on an 18-yard run up the middle to bring their team within six with a 20 to 14 score.
The Wildcats once again launched their air and ground assault. Dillon Smith opened the drive with a nine-yard run, followed by a 12-yard effort. From the Pocahontas County 36, Vincell found Kimble at the 10. There, he outfought the defender, took the ball, and dove into the endzone. The kick made the score 27 to 14.
Pocahontas County got good field position after a failed onside kick, but could do next to nothing. With eight minutes left in the first half, they punted and pinned Pendleton County back at the 15. After two runs improved field position to the Wildcat 40, Corbin Dove took a pass, made one man miss, and streaked up the sideline until he was pushed out of bounds at the Warrior 45. Four plays later, Vincell found Kimble at the two, which he ran in for another Pendleton County touchdown, putting the score at 34 to 14.
Pocahontas County took the ball down 20 with 5:44 in the half. They moved the ball from their own 35 to the Wildcat 33, then stalled out and turned the ball over on downs. One of the key plays came when Dove and Kimble combined to break up yet another flea flicker play at the 15.
The Wildcats efficiently moved the ball up the field. On the sixth play of the drive from the Warrior 43 with 47 seconds left in the half, Dusty Smith took a pass, then used a big block by Nick Rhodes to make his way to the 24. Two plays later, Vincell rolled right and hit Owens at the five. After an incompletion, the offensive line opened up a huge hole off left tackle for Dillon Smith to score. Harvey put the score at 41 to 14.
Coming out of the halftime break, Pocahontas County tried to use their ground and pound game to regain some traction. They took the ball to the Wildcat 46. Jasper Tingle snuffed out a run for a one-yard gain, then the defense earned a sack that took the ball back to the Warrior 46. On fourth and extremely long, Pocahontas County punted. The Wildcat returner fumbled and appeared to recover the ball himself, but it was ruled Warrior ball on the 25.
A holding call pushed them back to the Wildcat 45. On third and 22, Tucker Smith dragged down the runner from behind, forcing fourth and long. The Warriors punted into the endzone after 16 plays that ran off more than six minutes, but was full of sound and fury and signified nothing.
Vincell wasted no time. From his own 20, he dumped the ball to Dillon Smith, who streaked up the left sideline to midfield. Owens then took a pass to the Pocahontas County 31. On third and six from the Warrior 22, Dillon Smith showed the fatigue of the Warriors by breaking three arm tackles to get to the 12. Three plays later, a one-yard dive extended the lead, with a Harvey kick, to 48 to 14.
The Warriors went three and out, with the punt putting Pendleton County on its own 32. On second and 10, with the final seconds ticking off in the third, Dillon Smith broke four arm tackles to advance the ball to the Warrior 37. On second and eight, behind a block from his quarterback, Dillon Smith rocketed to the endzone, extending the lead to 54 to 14.
Against the second unit, the Warriors moved the ball. That said, the backups made Pocahontas County earn it. Their scoring drive took 11 plays and lasted more than seven minutes. The score ended 54 to 22.
With it appearing more and more likely that the Southern game will be counted a win by forfeit, the Moorefield game in two weeks will take on added importance. The Yellow Jackets, after their loss to East Hardy, stand at 4-4. Add in the Southern forfeit, and the Wildcats have the same record.
Only winning the rest of their games would come close to guaranteeing Pendleton County a playoff berth. The Moorefield game, however, would keep the winner in the conversation and keep the loser out for certain. With the Wildcats coming off of a week’s rest and healthier than they have been all season, the rivalry game carries enormous significance and gives the program an opportunity to take a big step forward, regardless of what happens concerning the post season.