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'Dogs return to Wheeling

December 01, 2006|by MARK KELLER

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The Martinsburg Bulldogs are becoming a fixture in the West Virginia Class AAA championship game.

For the fourth time in six years, the Bulldogs will take the field at Wheeling Island Stadium on the first weekend of December to play for the state championship.

And for the fourth time in six years, the Bulldogs (12-1) will be looking to take home their first state title when they square off with top-seeded and unbeaten Parkersburg at noon Saturday.

"If we get there enough, eventually we'll have to win one," Martinsburg coach David Walker said following the Bulldogs' semifinal win over Fairmont Senior last weekend.

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Walker has admitted that in Martinsburg's three championship losses - to Parkersburg in 2001, Parkersburg South in 2003 and Morgantown in 2004 - the Bulldogs were beaten by the better team twice.

"When you go out there and play hard and lose to a team that's just better than you, you can't ask for anything more," Walker said. "All you can ask for is their best effort, and our kids have been giving effort all season."

Walker also admitted that it will take his team's best effort to beat Parkersburg (13-0), which is playing for its 10th state title.

The Big Reds have been dominant all year. They averaged just less than 30 points per game and did not allow more than seven points in a game in the regular season. They beat two-time defending champion Morgantown 42-14 last Friday to reach the final.

Parkersburg boasts an outstanding one-two punch of running backs in Matt Lindamood and Charlie Taylor. Lindamood topped the 1,000-yard mark in the regular season and ran for 193 yards and two touchdowns against Morgantown despite playing with an injured shoulder.

Taylor scored a momentum-turning touchdown, fighting off several tackles on a third-down screen pass for a 42-yard score that pulled the Big Reds into a 7-7 tie with Morgantown in the first quarter.

Quarterback Andy Thomas threw for 101 yards and a touchdown on 6 of 9 passing and ran for two touchdowns.

But the Big Reds are catching the Bulldogs at a time when they are playing their best defense in years. Martinsburg has allowed just nine points in its three playoff games and an average of 6.6 points per game in the 10 games - all wins - since a 30-7 loss to Urbana in mid-September.

"We're playing really well defensively right now," Walker said. "Nobody really outshines anybody else on defense, but they've bought into the team concept. They believe in it and they believe in each other."

Martinsburg can do some damage with a pretty good one-two punch of its own in the offensive backfield. Josh Twyman has rushed for 1,849 yards and 22 touchdowns, while Marcus Scott has added 995 yards and 11 touchdowns while averaging 11 yards per carry.

The Bulldogs' third and fourth options - running back Zach Newhouse and quarterback Dustin Peters - have proven to be perfect complements.

With Twyman nursing a sore ankle last week against Fairmont, Newhouse ran for 127 yards and four touchdowns in his place. Peters - who at 6-foot-2, 225 pounds is built more like a fullback than a high school quarterback - ran for 63 yards and a touchdown.

"Dustin is a load to bring down when he gets going," Walker said. "And Zach is just tough. He keeps coming at you."

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