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Bulldogs show bite in opener

August 30, 2003|by MARK KELLER

keller@herald-mail.com

HEDGESVILLE, W.Va. - Football fans crowded the bleachers at Mumaw Stadium on Friday expecting to see the Martinsburg Bulldogs' vaunted air assault.

What they saw instead was nearly a perfect balance of running and passing from the No. 1 team in West Virginia as the Bulldogs won their 13th straight regular season game, beating Hedgesville 56-14 in a Cumberland Valley Athletic League game and the season opener for both teams.

Senior tailback Brannon Hamilton ran for 143 yards and three touchdowns to lead Martinsburg's 221-yard ground attack.

Nate Sowers took care of the other half of the equation, throwing for 221 yards and three touchdowns - two to Brandon Barrett. Sowers also ran for a touchdown.

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"We want to take what the defense gives us and we felt like we had an opportunity to run the ball tonight," said Martinsburg coach David Walker. "Brannon suits the offense pretty well. He has great vision and can cut back well. I think he's just going to get better."

Hamilton credited his offensive line - as most good running backs do - for opening holes for him. However, Hamilton showed some sweet moves of his own once he was through the line, making several sharp cuts to make Hedgesville tacklers miss and pick up extra yardage.

"If I can get through the line without anyone getting a hand on me, I can outrun a lot of linebackers," Hamilton said. "And that's where I like to work, out there in the open field."

It took Hamilton just three carries to reach the 50-yard plateau, and half of that total came on his first touchdown run late in the first quarter.

With the Bulldogs leading 14-0, he took the handoff from Sowers and went through the right side of the line for five yards before cutting hard to the left and down the sideline for the score.

"We really never watched him. We said all week, 'He's not Jesse Keyser,'" said Hedgesville coach Dave Lopez, referring to Martinsburg's tailback last season. "He proved us wrong."

The Martinsburg front line manhandled the Eagles from the first snap of the game. Carl Redman sacked Hedgesville quarterback Matt Yurish on two of the first three plays from scrimmage, setting up a long night for the Eagles.

Still, they caught a break when Sowers tossed a pass right into the hands of Hedgesville lineman Josh Largent on Martinsburg's first play from scrimmage.

"I'm there on the sideline thinking, 'What a way to start the season, with an interception,'" Walker said. "But (Sowers) certainly made up for it. He doesn't throw many interceptions, so he got his out of the way early."

With the ball in Martinsburg territory, the Eagles were unable to take advantage of the turnover, coming up short on a fourth-and-2 play.

"You have to capitalize on evey mistake they make, because they don't make many," Lopez said. "We just couldn't do that."

Chad Grant ran for 69 yards, including a 43-yard touchdown, for the Eagles.

Barrett had eight catches for 83 yards.

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