Bulldogs turn back Patriots as Sowers, Barrett answer call

November 25, 2002|by DAN KAUFFMAN

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Nate Sowers and Brandon Barrett teamed up to break several regular-season state and team records for Martinsburg. Now, the duo is leading the Bulldogs in another deep run through the playoffs.

Sowers threw for 250 yards and two touchdowns, ran for a third and caught a fourth on a fake-punt pass from Barrett, who also caught 10 passes for 137 yards and two touchdowns and added an interception as Martinsburg erased a 14-12 first-half deficit and advanced to Friday's West Virginia Class AAA semifinals with a 36-14 victory over George Washington Saturday afternoon at Cobourn Field.

"We knew it was gonna be a ballgame, and it was close at the half," Barrett said. "Coach said we'd find out who was the better team in the second half, and we came out and made plays."


Jesse Keyser ran for 143 yards - 81 coming on his first carry of the game - and Blaine Durst had two catches for 68 yards for the Bulldogs.

Martinsburg, the No. 2 seed, will host No. 6 Parkersburg South on Friday night.

For one half Saturday, the Patriots (9-3) did their best to make an upset over the Bulldogs (12-0) seem possible.

The Patriots used a 12-play, 98-yard drive to score first, as the rushing duo of Cortez Lacy (16 carries, 96 yards) and John Hardison (10 carries, 72 yards) put the Bulldogs' defense on its heels. Doug Foster found Hardison with a 5-yard scoring pass 17 seconds into the second quarter for a 7-0 lead.

Sowers and Barrett went to work on the next drive, hooking up for gains of 17 and 18 yards and a touchdown strike of 16 yards as Martinsburg cut the lead to one. The extra-point attempt was blocked.

With 3:20 left in the first half, Barrett lined up in punt formation on fourth-and-5 from the Patriots' 36. Barrett took the snap and waited, then ran right to elude two defenders before firing a strike over the middle to Sowers, who took the pass at the 20, broke two tackles and ran right for the touchdown and a 12-7 lead.

"Watching them on tape, they had a couple blocked punts, so Coach, since we got one (blocked) last week, he made a great call," Barrett said. "The play is designed for (Sowers) to shoot out over the middle. I wanted to give him time to make sure he got open."

"Brandon did a nice job scrambling and buying time to make the throw," Sowers said. "We had a couple good blocks downfield to spring me."

But with 1:25 remaining in the half, Foster threw deep to a wide-open Jamie Adkins, who beat Durst down the right sideline for a stunning 61-yard touchdown catch and a 14-12 lead for George Washington, momentarily hushing the Martinsburg faithful as the teams went into halftime.

"We didn't say a whole lot to them, they knew what was at stake," Bulldogs coach Dave Walker said. "We told them they had another half ... and to pick it up a notch, and they did."

Martinsburg took the opening drive of the second half 62 yards in seven plays down to the Patriots 7, but settled for Aaron Smith's 25-yard field goal and a 15-14 lead.

George Washington answered by moving the ball 58 yards in seven plays to the Martinsburg 15 - but on first-and-10, Hardison fumbled the ball on a run up the middle. Martinsburg recovered with 5:28 left in the third quarter, and the Bulldogs took their newfound momentum and started pulling away.

"That's football," Walker said. "Football sometimes comes down ... to mistakes, and they made the mistake. We were fortunate."

The Bulldogs took over at their own 8 and went 92 yards in 13 plays, with Sowers scoring on a 1-yard sneak for a 22-14 lead early in the fourth quarter. Earlier in the drive, Sowers hit Durst down the left sideline with a 34-yard bomb before finding Barrett over the middle to the Patriots' 8 on fourth-and-14 from the 25.

Barrett's interception later in the quarter set up a seven-play, 46-yard drive with fullback Nick Houpt scoring from the 1. Durst got his own interception on the Patriots' next drive, leading to Barrett's 5-yard touchdown catch with 2:29 left for the final score.

"We knew they were going to throw the ball (in the fourth quarter), and that's what we want," Durst said. "We know if we force teams to throw, we're in pretty good shape."

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