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Seven wasn't lucky for Martinsburg

December 07, 2003|by MARK KELLER

Seven plays.

Yes, the Martinsburg Bulldogs offense is explosive, but to expect any football team to preserve a lead while running just seven plays in the second half is asking a little much.

Seven plays were all the Bulldogs had after halftime in their West Virginia Class AAA championship game against Parkersburg South at Wheeling Island Stadium on Saturday.

Meanwhile, the Patriots just kept running and running and running.

Three hundred fifty-one yards and three Ben Gum touchdowns later, it was the Patriots who were celebrating their first state football championship after beating the Bulldogs, 26-20.

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The Patriots proved the old clich true: "The best defense is a good offense." The problem was the South defense was pretty good, too.

Muddy field, wet football, swirling wind - you name your excuse. None of them matter.

Martinsburg's numbers in the second half, which began with the Bulldogs leading 20-6, do matter: Seven plays, nine yards, zero first downs, zero points.

Any team that can put the clamps on the Bulldogs offense and sustain long drives to keep that offense on the sidelines is deserving of the state title.

Does the fact that Martinsburg won their first 13 games but lost the 14th diminish their season?

It shouldn't, but right or wrong, it will.

Martinsburg coach David Walker said the biggest difference between this year's team and the one that lost in the 2001 final is that this year's team expected to be in the final, while the 2001 team was more of a surprise.

Suffice it to say that if they expected to be in the final, they expected to win it, too - an attitude not born of cockiness, but one of confidence.

There's nothing wrong with expecting to win. The trouble comes when a team expects to win just by showing up.

Martinsburg showed up, as evidenced by its halftime lead. Parkersburg South, and more specifically Gum, just showed up bigger - much bigger - in the second half.

Despite the loss, this Martinsburg team is still the best I've seen in nine years at The Herald-Mail. It's a shame that the title it ends the season with is one that conjures thoughts of Phil Mickelson: "Best team without a state championship."




To paraphrase Jimmy Buffett, "The weather is here. Wish it were beautiful."

So it was that my seat for the Martinsburg-Parkersburg South game was one not even Bob Uecker would envy.

My seat was in my living room, in my truck and on my porch.

I had doubts that the trip to Wheeling would go off as planned as the snow kept falling Friday night. But I resolved to at least give it a shot.

The roads nearby looked clear Saturday morning and news reports said that the highways were passable, but three words from a Maryland State Trooper in Garrett County brought an end to any travel plans.

The trooper described the roads in far Western Maryland as "worse than treacherous."

Ouch.

The good news is that West Virginia Metro News does an incredible job of producing a live broadcast of the state finals that is aired by radio stations throughout the entire state.

The quality of the play-by-play and the reporting before, during and after the game would lead an unknowing listener to believe he was hearing a college game.

During the regular season, Metro News broadcasts a Friday night scoreboard show that features all of the scores from around the state and phone reports from fans who attended games that evening.

It's not a program that's aired for the sake of getting a kid's name mentioned on the radio because he works hard. It's done because people around the state - and in surrounding states - want to know what's going on in areas outside their own back yards.

It's a novel concept that could work in Maryland if there were someone willing to give it a try.




Mark Keller is sports editor of The Herald-Mail. His column appears every Sunday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2332, or by e-mail at keller@herald-mail.com.

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