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Bulldogs' defense takes bite out of South Charleston

November 19, 2006|by TIM KOELBLE

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The after-game buzz around Cobourn Field on Saturday afternoon focused on what many thought was Martinsburg's finest defensive performance in years.

The Bulldogs' offensive unit won't argue that sentiment, even though it put enough points on the scoreboard to diffuse South Charleston 13-2 in the quarterfinals of the West Virginia Class AAA playoffs.

Martinsburg (11-1) will get one more game on its home turf, either Friday or Saturday, against Fairmont Senior, a 35-28 victor over Nitro.

Martinsburg threw down the gauntlet and stymied the pass-happy Black Eagles and star all-purpose back Deion Spurlock. South Charleston (8-4) gained only 128 total yards and Spurlock was limited to 28 yards rushing on eight carries and four receptions for a paltry 29 as the swarming Bulldogs defense was never caught off guard.

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"We pretty much did what we've tried to do all year," said Martinsburg defensive coordinator Brian Sine. "When we watched film of them, we saw some tendencies they favor. We thought we had to play them well on first and second down."

The defense kept Martinsburg in the game through a scoreless first half. The Bulldogs moved the football but squandered an opportunity when a handoff from quarterback Dustin Peters to Josh Twyman disconnected at the Black Eagles' 6-yard line late in the first quarter.

Cameron Shelton missed a 25-yard field goal as the first half ended that would have capped a 71-yard drive.

"We should have scored a couple of times, but there are some times when you hit some bumps," said Martinsburg coach David Walker. "The defense played so well. (South Charleston) has some great athletes, but our defense covered them."

After a quick three-and-out by the Black Eagles, Martinsburg's offense went to work in earnest and made every bit of its efforts count, covering 80 yards in four plays and a timely 1:34.

Marcus Scott went 20 yards up the middle and 18 over right tackle before Peters went 16 yards, dragging three would-be tacklers to the 26.

Then, Peters moved to his left on an option and in a split-second decision optioned to Shelton, positioned as a wideout. Shelton had nothing but paydirt ahead of himself, and he added the PAT for a 7-0 lead.

"The coaches saw some things in their defense, and overall, we moved the ball well," said Peters.

Another defensive stop forced a punt by the Black Eagles, but Martinsburg's Jordan Mason fumbled it at the Bulldogs 25 and South Charleston's Jacob Skinner picked it up and advanced it to the 5.

The turning point of the game was supplied by - you guessed it - the Martinsburg defense.

After two plays gained nothing, quarterback Ricky Dunham tried to sweep left and around the Martinsburg defense, but Shelton took Dunham out of his stride at the 3. South Charleston's fourth-down pass then failed.

However, Martinsburg failed to get out potential trouble offensively deep in their own end, and on fourth-and-nine, Shelton's punt was blocked out of the end zone by Aaron Slusher for a safety.

After a free kick, South Charleston moved 20 yards to the Bulldogs 35. On fourth-and-one from the 26, Dunham was crunched in the backfield for a 9-yard loss by Xavier Peters and Jordan Fields.

Needing a score to gain some breathing room, Martinsburg's offense began a march with 9:47 to play from its own 22. Peters connected on a 19-yard pass to Shelton on third-and-six. On the next set of downs, Peters ran for 4 yards on fourth-and-inches before the big-play got the Bulldogs their nosestrips.

Scott hit the line on a quick handoff, quickly spotted an opening and bolted 39 yards for a score with 4:53 remaining.

South Charleston's next possession fittingly ended when Fields sacked Dunham for a 10-yard loss.

"I'm proud of the hard work the defense has put in," said Sine. "We showed them new wrinkles, were able to hide cover assignments at times and then go to 2 and 3 covers."

Martinsburg rolled up 279 yards rushing. Scott had 123 yards on 12 carries, Twyman was held to 70 yards on 24 carries and Peters added 59 clutch yards. Peters was also 6-of-14 passing for another 99 yards.

"Peters did a fine job and he made a big difference today," said Walker. "Shelton and Scott made some big plays."

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