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Bulldogs back in state final

November 26, 2006|by MARK KELLER

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - No Josh Twyman?

No problem.

As Twyman, Martinsburg's top running back, stood on the sideline nursing a sore ankle, the Bulldogs still found a way to take the football to the house Saturday - by giving it to Zach Newhouse.

Newhouse, who saw his first significant playing time in a month after an ankle injury of his own, carried 17 times for 124 yards and four touchdowns and the Martinsburg defense shut down Fairmont Senior's potent offense in a 40-0 Class AAA semifinal victory at Cobourn Field to send the Bulldogs to their fourth state championship game in six years.

The Bulldogs (12-1), the No. 2 seed in the playoffs and winners of 10 straight games, will play top-seeded Parkersburg (13-0) in the state championship game at noon Saturday at Wheeling Island Stadium.

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Newhouse had just two carries in the first quarter as Twyman and Marcus Scott shouldered the load early on. But Twyman tweaked his ankle during a 46-yard run on a fourth-and-one play and never took the field again.

That opened the door for Newhouse, who saw his workload increase after scoring his first touchdown, a 3-yard run in the second quarter from the Bulldogs' "Thunder" package, a modified fullhouse backfield formation.

"I knew when Josh was hurt that I was going to need to pick up some of the slack for him," Newhouse said. "The line had a real good push on that and that's what got me in."

Scott did his part in picking up the slack, too. He picked up more than half of his 166 rushing yards on one play in the second quarter, a run up the middle that he broke open with jukes, head fakes and a stiff arm for a 78-yard gain to the Fairmont 6. Newhouse finished the drive on the next play with his second touchdown run for a 19-0 Martinsburg lead.

"Zach and Marcus took all the reps in practice this week. Josh didn't do much because of his ankle," Martinsburg coach David Walker said. "I thought maybe Josh was going to be OK today, and he probably still could have come back in. But we plugged those other guys in and they did a fantastic job."

The Martinsburg defense did more than its fair share of the work, shutting out a Polar Bears team that was averaging more than 33 points per game coming into the semifinals.

The Bulldogs flustered Fairmont quarterback Kyle Allard all day with tight coverage in the secondary and heavy pressure from the front line. Allard, a Kennedy Award candidate who threw for more than 2,600 yards and 33 touchdowns prior to Saturday, was 9-for-25 for 126 yards and was intercepted twice - both times by Xavier Peters. The Bullldogs also sacked Allard four times.

Fairmont gained 268 yards on offense, but came up empty on both of their trips inside the red zone. Scott Stump blocked a field goal early in the second quarter and Laquila Posely stuffed Allard on back-to-back runs as the Polar Bears (10-3) were stopped at the Martinsburg 3 with 1.4 seconds left in the first half.

"Those were huge. Those were momentum killers, there," Walker said. "If they score there before the half, then come out and get the ball in the second half, they've got an opportunity to put something together. That made the goal-line stand even bigger."

Peters intercepted his second pass on the third play of the third quarter and it took the Bulldogs just four plays to take a commanding 26-0 lead. A 16-yard run by Dustin Peters on third-and-one preceded Peters' 21-yard touchdown pass to Cameron Shelton.

The cushion also allowed Walker to keep Twyman on the sideline to rest his ankle for next week's final.

"We're going to need Josh near full strength next week, because Parkersburg is just a phenomenal team," Walker said. "We got to that point and I just told him, 'Relax and watch the game.'"

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