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Rough ending for Sowers, Bulldogs

December 05, 2004|by MARK KELLER

keller@herald-mail.com

WHEELING, W.Va. - The Martinsburg Bulldogs walked off the field at Wheeling Island Stadium with a trophy.

So did Nate Sowers.

Neither the team nor the quarterback got the one piece of hardware they were after.

For the third time in four years, the Bulldogs reached the Class AAA championship game only to head back to the Eastern Panhandle with the runner-up trophy, losing Saturday to top-seeded and unbeaten Morgantown, 38-12.

It was an uncharacteristic game for the Bulldogs, who hadn't lost a game by more than 11 points in four years, that featured an uncharacteristic performance by Sowers.

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Sowers was intercepted five times and sacked twice by the Mohigans, sending the state's Gatorade Player of the Year off to West Virginia University, where he's already committed to play next year, without a state title.

"It was a mixture of things. They forced me into some bad decisions, but I threw a couple of bad balls today, too," Sowers said. "I've rarely had trouble with that all year, but they had a great scheme today and great speed."

Sowers did enough - rushed for 75 yards and a touchdown and threw for 120 yards - to earn the Samuel A. Mumley Memorial Award, given to the most valuable player on each team.

Given the choice, he'd rather have the team championship trophy the Mohigans were proudly hauling around.

"I appreciate getting it, but I'd much rather have the state championship," Sowers said.

The Mohigans (14-0) did exactly what Martinsburg expected them to do: Hand the ball to Spencer Farley and let him run.

And run Farley did. The Morgantown senior, who had scored 51 touchdowns coming into the game, carried 27 times for 173 yards and three scores to pick up the Mumley award on the winning side.

"They didn't do anything that we didn't prepare for," Martinsburg coach David Walker said. "But when a team is bigger, stronger and faster that you are, you're not going to beat them unless you play a perfect game and we didn't do that."

The Bulldogs (12-2) committed six turnovers in all and struggled to find a way to shut down Farley and fullback Maxwell Anderson, who ran for 72 yards as a change-of-pace runner for the Mohigans.

"I thought they struggled with our scheme, but more than that, we have good players and great kids," Morgantown coach John Bowers said. "The scheme is solid, but the kids are better."

The biggest factor in the first half was the ability of the Mohigans to take advantage of Martinsburg's mistakes. The Bulldogs turned the ball over four times in the first half and Morgantown converted three of them into scores.

The most damaging was the fourth, which turned an apparent defensive stop by the Bulldogs into a momentum shift for the Mohigans.

Leading 14-6 with time running out in the first half, Morgantown went into a hurry-up offense in an effort to add to its lead before the break.

Three straight runs by Anderson moved the Mohigans to midfield. Two plays later, the Bulldogs caught a break when Morgantown was flagged for an ineligible man downfield, negating a touchdown pass from Charles Russell to Jordan Pinto with just 18 seconds remaining.

D.J. Porter broke up another long pass - this one intended for Migel Lockett - to force a Morgantown punt.

But on the kick, Martinsburg's Shaun Dozier was blocked into the ball as it rolled down the field, allowing the Mohigans to recover at the 20 to set up Patrick Shadle's 37-yard field goal as time expired in the period.

"That was big, and it was stuff like that that we haven't done all year that we did today," Walker said. "It was one of those things."

It also put Morgantown in position to take total control as the second half began. Farley returned the kickoff 38 yards to the Mohigans 44, then broke free on the sixth play of the drive for a 32-yard touchdown and a 24-6 advantage.

"The first time we didn't stop them in the second half, you could feel the momentum shift," Martinsburg's Adam Kee said. "I knew something better change, because the score wasn't going to."

After the teams traded punts, the Bulldogs went on the move, with Josh Twyman busting through the line for a 7-yard gain to midfield.

But Farley sacked Sowers for a 9-yard loss before Tony Giambrone picked off Sowers on the next play - getting his hand up to trap a bullet pass against the side of his helmet - and rumbled 45 yards for a Morgantown touchdown and a commanding 31-6 lead.

"At that point, that second touchdown in the second half, I knew we dug ourselves too deep," Walker said. "I didn't think we'd be able to climb out."

The Bulldogs did close the gap to 31-12, using a short passing game and the running of D.J. Adams to get into scoring range. Sowers closed the drive with a 5-yard touchdown run.

But the Mohigans answered quickly and emphatically after recovering an onside kick attempt. Farley carried five times for 47 yards in a six-play drive, capping it with a 9-yard touchdown run to complete the scoring.

"We didn't stop Farley as well as we should have or needed to today," Sowers said. "They have the best team, and they were definitely the better team today."

Lockett caught a 23-yard touchdown pass from Russell late in the first quarter to get the Mohigans on the scoreboard first, that coming after Sowers' second interception.

His third pick, which was tipped at the line of scrimmage, led to Farley's first touchdown, a 2-yard burst through the line.

Martinsburg cut the deficit to 14-6 on Twyman's 1-yard run, set up by a scramble and throw by Sowers for 38 yards to D.J. Porter.

"We moved the football today, we just couldn't get it in the end zone," Walker said. "I think we gave them the toughest run they've had all year, it just wasn't enough.

"This one's a little easier than the others, at least for me, because we just got beat by a better team. The kids played hard and didn't quit. I hate to lose, but the sun's going to come up tomorrow."

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