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Martinsburg put to get attention

November 23, 2001|By GREG MILLER / Staff Correspondent

Martinsburg put to get attention



Before the 2001 season started, the Martinsburg football team knew it had something special, even if the rest of the state didn't.

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It didn't take long for the state to sit up and take notice, even if it didn't last.

In the Bulldogs' first scrimmage this season, they scorched the defending state champion Morgantown Mohigans 41-14 on their homefield and, in the process, opened some eyes outside the Eastern Panhandle.

"Their hometown paper ate that up," said senior quarterback Joey Yurish. "Morgantown upset by Martinsburg. Those guys have that up in their locker room now and it's eating at them."

Martinsburg (11-1) will get another chance to open some eyes tonight when they travel back to Pony Lewis Field in Morgantown to battle the top-seeded Mohigans in the West Virginia Class AAA semifinals.

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Martinsburg comes in as the No. 4-seeded team in the playoffs, but like all Panhandle teams, the Bulldogs are again forced to prove they belong.

"We want to represent the Panhandle," said Martinsburg coach Dave Walker. "I don't know if it's we don't get respect, we don't get the recognition. We're kind of the unknown."

"It's hard to accept the fact that nobody knows about you," added Yurish. "It builds up inside you and makes you just want to explode, but I kind of like people thinking, 'What do they have?'"

What they have is one of the most potent offenses in the state, averaging 36 points per game. Yurish leads that charge with 1,719 yards passing and 23 touchdowns. His favorite target, sophomore Brandon Barrett, is regarded as one of the state's best with 15 touchdown catches.

The Bulldogs run the ball too. Steve Weatherholtz has pounded teams for over 1,500 yards while Justin Walther and Jesse Keyser provide strong support to the running attack.

"The great thing about our team is that if one kid is being taken away, we've got someone else to go to," said Walker. "It makes us harder to defend."

Like Morgantown, Martinsburg's defense will have their hands full defending a balanced offense that features one of the state's best backs in Geremy Rodamer.

The junior tailback has rushed for over 1,400 yards and finished third in the state in scoring with 30 touchdowns during the regular season.

"It's definitely a big challenge for us," said Walker. "When we scrimmaged, he ran wild on us. He's got great speed and great awareness and catches the ball out of the backfield, making him a double threat."

The Mohigans balance Rodamer's running with a strong passing game led by the Fogarty brothers.

Quarterback Shane has thrown for 1662 yards this season while his brother Seth has caught 63 passes for 1026 yards.

"We know they're going to get some yards because they've got great athletes," said Walker, "We need to stop them from hitting the homerun."

Another battle the Bulldogs will face tonight is one with history. Martinsburg has never been this far in the playoffs, winning just one playoff game before the 2001 playoffs.

On the other hand, Morgantown is one of the state's premier programs advancing to two of the last three state title games, winning last year.

"They know what it feels like (to win)," said Yurish. "Maybe they'll be thinking Martinsburg's going to come in here nervous, but our guys have been saying all year long, this is where we want to be."

"Everybody knew coming in we had something special and what we had isn't going to come around very often. So we knew we had to take advantage of it."

To this point, the Bulldogs have. With a win tonight, Martinsburg will advance to their first Super Six in Wheeling.

That will be something the rest of the state will have to recognize ... and respect.

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