Yurish, Bulldogs grow up

November 23, 2001|By GREG MILLER / Staff Correspondent

Yurish, Bulldogs grow up

In November of 1999, the Martinsburg football team put its playoff hopes in the hands of an unproven sophomore quarterback by the name of Joey Yurish.

Filling in for an injured Raymond Snow, Yurish started his first-ever game against Riverside in the first round of the Class AAA playoffs - and lost, 59-22.

"When I saw them that first time, they were enormous," Yurish says remembering that painful loss.

Two years and a 19-3 starting record later, that inexperienced sophomore turned into a polished senior who has his Bulldogs deeper into the West Virginia state playoffs than any previous Martinsburg team.

Friday, Yurish and the Bulldogs will try to knock off top-seeded Morgantown (11-1) in the AAA semifinals at Pony Lewis Field in Morgantown and gain a berth to the Super Six on Wheeling Island.


"It's really enjoyable," Yurish said. "It's something I've dreamed about ever since I started playing football when I was five years old."

It seems like forever for Yurish; it's only a blip on the Martinsburg radar.

Before this season, the Bulldogs had won just one playoff game in the school's 117-year history. Behind Yurish, they doubled that in two weeks.

Martinsburg (11-1) buried Philip Barbour in the first round 47-6 before beating Parkersburg South 43-21 last week. In that game, Yurish set a state record for completion percentage at 92.9: 13-for-14 for 272 yards and three touchdowns. On the year, Yurish has thrown for 1,719 yards, 23 touchdowns and five interceptions.

"We probably wouldn't be where we are without Joey," said Martinsburg head coach Dave Walker.

"But there are probably five or six other guys I could name, that if you took them away, it would be tough for us to be in this situation," Walker said.

Yurish agrees.

On this Thanksgiving Day, the senior quarterback is very thankful for his supporting cast; it includes what he calls three of the best running backs in the state - 1,500-yard rusher Steve Weatherholtz, fullback Justin Walther and the speedy Jesse Keyser.

"Back in the preseason, I was asked who's the best back in the state," said Yurish. "I flat-out said Steve Weatherholtz, and I think he still is."

"At only 195 pounds, (Walther) runs like he's 250 pounds and Jesse, once he sees a hole, he's gone."

Yurish also has a talented group of receivers making him look good, led by sophomore Brandon Barrett.

"Brandon is something special that doesn't come around very often," Yurish said. "But at the same time, I love all my receivers and I trust all of them with the ball."

What Yurish is most grateful for is the six men up-front that have kept him safe all season long - his offensive line.

"Without them, none of this would be possible. We would never have gotten this far," Yurish said. "They work so hard and we all feel that we need to work just as hard for them."

All of that hard work has paid off so far, but Yurish and the 'Dogs know their job isn't done.

"We've all worked so hard and we know we've put so much into this," said Yurish, "We're 11-1, so why let it end now? We can do something that has never been done here before."

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