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Dogs enter playoffs on a roll

November 14, 2008|By JOHN O'BRIEN / Staff Correspondent

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- With a pair of 1,000-yard rushers and a seven-game winning streak, Martinsburg rolls into the playoffs as one of the hottest teams in West Virginia's Class AAA -- something that's not unusual for the Bulldogs.

Tonight, coach David Walker's squad will begin what it hopes is a run to the school's elusive first state championship when the No. 9 Bulldogs (8-2) travel to Ona, W.Va., to face No. 8 Cabell Midland (8-2), a team that rebounded from a 4-6 campaign a year ago.

It will be the second time Walker has faced Chip McMillian's Knights. Martinsburg claimed a 28-14 win that put the Bulldogs in the 2003 state championship game, where they fell to Parkersburg South.

That game, a 26-20 loss to the Patriots on an extra-muddy field at Wheeling Island Stadium, is one of four times Walker has led the Bulldogs to the title game but lost.

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Sophomore quarterback Kam Puller and senior running back Ryan Rowland headline an offense that has met little resistance this year. The two have combined for more than 2,400 yards.

Puller also put together two consecutive career-high games in passing yardage to end the regular season. He threw for four touchdowns in a 56-14 win over Eastern View, Va., last week while rushing for 150 yards.

The first-year starter has gained more than 1,200 yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground, while Rowland, who scored three touchdowns last week, has more than 1,100 yards and 20 touchdowns this season.

While the Knights' running game doesn't have a duo with those kinds of numbers, the team still averaged 235 yards on the ground per game.

Senior Brad Jenkins led the team with 1,097 yards and 15 touchdowns on 176 carries. He had five games with multiple touchdowns, including last week's 217-yard, three-TD performance against St. Albans.

He ended the regular season as strongly as he started it. Jenkins rushed for 233 yards and three scores in a season-opening win over perennial power Parkersburg, which went on to experience a rare down year.

Quarterback Tyler Bartley has gained his share of yards in the Knights' power-I set. The senior rushed 124 times for 515 yards and 13 touchdowns while passing for 569 yards.

His best game of the season came against Class AA school Lincoln County, when he rushed for 122 yards and three touchdowns in a 36-29 win.

Also carrying the ball for the Knights is fullback Bryce Paul (6-foot-3, 225 pounds). He has 430 yards this season.

Much of the Knights' yards were made possible by Cole Bowers, a senior offensive lineman who is headed to West Virginia University.

Martinsburg and Cabell Midland have one thing in common this season -- the teams they lost to did not lose very much.

The Knights' only losses came against No. 1 South Charleston (10-0) and No. 5 Capital (9-1). However, Cabell Midland beat only one Class AAA playoff team this year -- Spring Valley.

Martinsburg's two losses came to 7-3 Urbana (a one-point game won on a 2-point conversion) and Potomac Falls, a playoff team in Virginia.

Teams with winning records that the Bulldogs defeated included Musselman, Turner Ashby, Va., and Eastern View, Va. Friendship Collegiate Academy of Washington, D.C., went 5-5.

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