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Sowers, Barrett catch on for 'Dogs

November 16, 2003|by MARK KELLER

keller@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The play on which Brandon Barrett set yet another state record Saturday could only be considered remotely routine for those who have watched the Martinsburg Bulldogs play on a regular basis.

A throw under extreme pressure, a diving grab in the end zone - ho-hum. They've seen it all before.

Barrett caught four touchdown passes from Nate Sowers and made two interceptions as the Bulldogs rolled to a 53-12 win over Robert C. Byrd in the first round of the West Virginia Class AAA playoffs at Cobourn Field.

But it was Barrett's fourth TD, the one that gave him the state record for TD receptions in a playoff game, that was so special - both for him and for those who saw it.

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"For me, it's more of a team record than an individual record, because they allow me to do what I do," Barrett said. "Without the rest of the team, I couldn't accomplish these things."

On second-and-goal at the Eagles 3, Sowers threw to Barrett in the left flat, but he was quickly hit and stopped for a loss of two yards.

"We didn't give any thought to the record before, but at halftime we knew he had three," Martinsburg coach David Walker said. "We thought if we had the opportunity for him to get it, we would. We tried to get it one play earlier, but they stopped him."

The Eagles (7-4) nearly stopped Martinsburg on third down, too. Sowers dropped back out of the shotgun under pressure. He avoided one tackle and was wrapped up by another defender when he let the ball fly.

"I didn't know it was him. All I could see was a black jersey," said Sowers, who threw for 265 yards and five touchdowns. "I knew if I threw it (to the corner), only he'd be able to get it or it would go incomplete."

Barrett was the only player in position to make the catch, but even he had to lay out completely for the ball, which he hauled in for the final score of the game.

"I thought Nate was going to take the sack," Barrett said. "I just broke off my route and looked for the ball."

Barrett and Sowers made their presence felt right from the start. The Eagles squibbed the opening kickoff to avoid putting the ball in their hands.

Soon enough, though, the duo took over. On third-and-9, Barrett won a jump ball over two defenders to put Martinsburg (11-0) on the scoreboard first.

Six plays into Byrd's first drive, Barrett picked off a pass from Nick Alex, setting up a 12-play, 77-yard drive for the Bulldogs' second score. Carl Redman capped the drive with a 1-yard run.

Martinsburg kept adding as the second quarter began. Jere Johnson hit a 36-yard field goal. Donyea Bennett blocked a punt that rolled out of the end zone for a safety. Sowers hit Barrett for a 55-yard touchdown and the rout was on.

"They expect to win and they know if they don't show up to play, they can get beat," Walker said. "It's going to take a good team to beat us, but there are some good ones out there."

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