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Bulldogs ride defensive wave into state championship game

November 27, 2006|by MARK KELLER

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - If the clich that defense wins championships holds true, the Martinsburg football team could be well on its way to hoisting its first state title trophy.

The Bulldogs continued their late-season defensive stand Saturday, putting the clamps on Fairmont Senior quarterback Kyle Allard in a 40-0 Class AAA semifinal rout that earned them a trip to Wheeling Island Stadium for this weekend's state final against Parkersburg.

Martinsburg (12-1), a team that has made its name as an offensive juggernaut over the last half-dozen years, still shows a penchant for scoring points, as evidenced by its 102 points in three playoff games this year.

But it's the defense that has been most impressive this postseason, allowing just nine points in those three wins. The victory over Fairmont Senior was the first postseason shutout in Martinsburg history.

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"I'll be honest with you, I'm really surprised that we were able to shut them out, because they do execute well," Martinsburg coach David Walker said after the Fairmont victory. "In the films we saw and the things we heard about them, they run a good system. But we've got some kids who can run and who can really play defensively and that enabled us to do some things."

Among the things the Bulldogs did was containing Allard, a leading candidate for the Kennedy Award, which is given to the state's top player. In the three games prior to Saturday's semifinal, Allard completed 70 percent (61 of 87) of his passes for 859 yards and 12 touchdowns and ran for three scores himself.

Against the Bulldogs, Allard completed just 36 percent of his passes (9 of 25) for 126 yards and rushed for 27 yards on 11 carries. He was sacked four times and had to bail out of the pocket on numerous occasions because of a relentless pass rush by the Martinsburg defensive line.

"Our front three are pretty good, especially Bryce Hobbs, who's real quick in there," Walker said. "They were making him reset his feet and move around, and any time you can move a quarterback around and make him think about his feet, it's hard for him to make the big throws."

The Bulldogs have made it hard for anyone to make a big play against them. The only points scored against them in this postseason came on a trick play - a halfback pass to the quarterback in a first-round win over Brooke - and a blocked punt for a safety in a quarterfinal win over South Charleston.

But there is still one more step to take before Martinsburg wins any trophy, and Walker is well aware that it will be the team's biggest test of the year.

"Playing Parkersburg's going to be a little different monster, because they're more of a smash-mouth, run-right-at-you team and we haven't seen a whole lot of that this year," Walker said. "It's going to be a lot bigger challenge for us."

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