Making a point

Extra point gives Bulldogs a CVAL win over Fort Hill

Extra point gives Bulldogs a CVAL win over Fort Hill

October 23, 2004|by MARK KELLER

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A couple of dropped passes wasn't going to scare off Martinsburg quarterback Nate Sowers. Given the Bulldogs' situation, he couldn't afford to let something like that bother him.

As he's done so often as the No. 1 Bulldogs' signal caller, Sowers kept his cool and rallied his team, converting a fourth-and-long that led to the winning touchdown Friday in a 7-6 victory over Fort Hill on a muddy, slippery Cobourn Field.

Facing fourth-and-14 at the Fort Hill 25-yard line, Sowers connected with Aaron Stokes on the left sideline for an 18-yard gain, keeping alive Martinsburg's only scoring drive of the game.


"We ran the play from a formation they hadn't seen," said Sowers, who had plenty of time to find an open receiver. "They rushed five guys, but the line did a great job blocking and Aaron ran a good route."

One play earlier, Sowers lofted a pass into the end zone for Stokes, who had the ball in his hands but couldn't hold onto it.

"We had three or four crucial mistakes tonight, some dropped passes, but the guys did what they had to do to win," Martinsburg coach David Walker said. "Those mistakes could have really hurt us."

The Bulldogs (8-1, 4-0 Cumberland Valley Athletic League) took advantage of Stokes' second-chance effort as Josh Twyman scored from 2 yards out three plays later to tie the score. Jeremiah Johnson converted the point-after to give Martinsburg a 7-6 lead with 6 minutes, 34 seconds remaining in the game.

Known so much for its offensive firepower the last four years, the Bulldogs fell back on what won them the previous three meetings against Fort Hill: Defense.

Starting from their own 20, the Sentinels (7-1, 4-1) tried to mix in an aerial attack with what had been an effective running game. Runs by Kevin Page and Josh Root sandwiched an incomplete pass by Branden Giffin and left Fort Hill with a fourth-and-1.

Root, who rumbled for 116 yards on 21 carries, went off tackle to pick up 10 yards and a first down, pulling a desperately-hanging-on Sowers the final four yards until three other Bulldogs defenders arrived to stop him.

"(Root) is a pretty big guy, a low center of gravity for as big as he is. It looked like another Ben Gum situation to me," said linebacker Adam Kee, referring to the running back who led Parkersburg South past Martinsburg on a muddy field in the state final last season.

Root carried again on first down, picking up a yard before another Giffin incompletion. On third down, Giffin scrambled out of the pocket and was sacked for a 12-yard loss by Kee, forcing the Sentinels to punt the ball away with just under 3 minutes left to play.

"I just hoped I could get to him," Kee said. "He hit me with a stiff arm and i thought I might slip off him. It worked out, though."

On Martinsburg's first play, Twyman broke through the middle of the line for a 27-yard gain. More importantly, he moved the ball deep into Fort Hill territory to give the Sentinels a much longer field to work with.

After the Bulldogs turned the ball over on downs with 46 seconds left, Giffin completed two passes to get the ball near midfield. But on the final play of the game, Giffin was sacked by Jeremiah Seeley and fumbled.

"Our defense has taken a lot of criticism this year and the past couple of years, really" Walker said. "But they played strong when they had to, and I'm really proud of the way they played tonight."

The Bulldogs managed just 82 yards in the first half, had a touchdown run by Twyman on the first drive of the night negated by a penalty and turned the ball over twice - one a fumble by Sowers, the other an interception.

Still, they trailed just 6-0 at halftime. Root carried eight times on a 10-play, 66-yard drive, capping it with a 1-yard plunge into the end zone midway through the second quarter. But Ron Mallow's point-after sailed wide, a miss that loomed large as the Bulldogs drove the length of the field in the fourth quarter.

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