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'Dogs take show on the road for playoffs

November 09, 2007|By JOHN O'BRIEN / Staff Correspondent

BRIDGEPORT, W.Va. - It's been a long time since Martinsburg entered the Class AAA playoffs on a losing note, but that's the situation the Bulldogs find themselves in tonight.

A week after a 29-6 loss to Jefferson, No. 11 Martinsburg (7-3) will play at No. 6 Bridgeport as the Bulldogs start what they hope will be a trek to their first state championship. They've played in the title game four out of the last six years.

But in the way are the 9-1 Indians, whose only loss came against undefeated Robert C. Byrd. Plus, Martinsburg will have to shake off last week's six-turnover performance and state Supreme Court ruling that upheld a Secondary Schools Activities Commission decision to strip the Bulldogs of their two season-opening wins because of an ineligible player.

"(A loss) happens every once in a while," Martinsburg coach David Walker said. "The kids are all right. They understand they didn't play well. Emotionally, we weren't ready to play.

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"They understand what's at stake."

Martinsburg hasn't lost its final game of the regular season since 2000, when a 35-6 loss to Fort Hill preceded a 30-7 loss to Riverside.

This Martinsburg team isn't Walker's most experienced, with only quarterback Dustin Peters having any significant playoff experience on offense. He had his worst game against Jefferson, completing 7 of 27 passes with four interceptions and a lost fumble.

For the season, he's completed 47 percent of his passes for 1,208 yards and nine touchdowns with eight interceptions. Rushing, he's carried a team-high 153 times for 787 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Ryan Rowland averages more than seven yards a carry, having rushed 118 times for 849 yards and four touchdowns.

Jordan Mason is the Bulldogs' top receiving threat, with 27 catches for 527 yards and five touchdowns. He's also scored on a kick return.

Walker said his defense, led by Mason (four interceptions) and Derek Walker (98 tackles, three fumble recoveries and two forced fumbles) will be tested by the Indians' ball-control offense that features running back Mark Gray.

Gray ranks 16th in the state with 114 points, including 19 touchdowns. In Bridgeport's last game, a 42-7 win that helped keep Fairmont Senior out of the playoffs, he gained 94 yards with two touchdowns.

"They methodically run up and down the field, trying to win the time-of-possession battle," Walker said. "Their best defense is their offense."

Coach Bruce Carey's team is outscoring opponents 395-121, including a 160-27 spread in its last four games, wins against Musselman, Grafton, No. 16 Nicholas County (7-3) and Fairmont. Those wins followed the 20-17 loss to Robert C. Byrd, the only undefeated team in the AAA field. By virtue of a weaker schedule, Byrd is ranked only fourth.

Bridgeport also has beaten No. 8 East Fairmont (8-2).

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