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Bulldogs' defense likely to be tested

November 22, 2003|by MARK KELLER

keller@herald-mail.com

One of the goals the players on the Martinsburg football team set for themselves at the beginning of this season was to allow no more than 14 points per game.

Through 11 games - 10 in the regular season and last Friday's 53-12 win over Robert C. Byrd in the first round of the West Virginia Class AAA playoffs - the Bulldogs have achieved that goal, but Martinsburg will have its hands full trying to keep that streak alive.

The Bulldogs (11-0), the top seed and the only unbeaten team in Class AAA, host a quarterfinal game today at Cobourn Field against No. 9 seed Huntington, which reeled off 34 straight points last week in a 55-28 win over Nitro.

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Ronnie Smith ran 12 times for 223 yards and three touchdowns to spark the Highlanders' offense last week, but it was Huntington's defense that set the table. The Highlanders (8-3) intercepted five Nitro passes and recovered a fumble in a six-possession stretch last Friday.

The Highlanders know what to expect when they face the Bulldogs - lots of offense.

Martinsburg rolled up 466 yards of offense against Byrd last Saturday, an average day for the No. 1 team in The Herald-Mail poll and the state of West Virginia.

Kennedy Award candidate Nate Sowers threw for 265 yards and five touchdowns, including a playoff-record four scores to reigning Kennedy Award winner Brandon Barrett.

The Bulldogs have scored at least 41 points in nine straight and have topped 50 six times in that span.

Today's game is the first between the schools since the Highlanders beat Martinsburg 19-13 in the first round of the 1998 playoffs - the Bulldogs first of six straight postseason appearances.

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