First goal: check for Sissonville
Since December, Sissonville's No. 1 goal has been to beat Chapmanville. After eight months of anticipation, coach Eddie Smolder and his Indians can put a check mark beside that goal.
Senior running back Trent Stowers rushed for 187 yards on 19 carries and two touchdowns as the host Indians rallied from a 21-14 halftime deficit to defeat Chapmanville 40-21 Friday night in a Class AA season opener.
"Chapmanville beat us last year on the first play of the game," Smolder said. "They ran a trick play and they roped us. I never forgot that. I hung that newspaper article on my mirror, in my bathroom and in my classroom. Good things happen to people who work hard. Our kids are just hungry right now and they wanted to win."
For the last six years, the Indians have opened up with Chapmanville. Before Friday, they had not won that opener since back-to-back victories in 2006-07. Last year, Chapmanville thumped Sissonville 47-7 on its way to the AA playoff semifinals.
"We were just really focused for this game," Stowers said. "It has been forever since we have won our first game. It feels good to get this win. I hope that we can take this momentum in against Liberty Raleigh next week and beat them."
"This is the best feeling in the world,'' quarterback Austin Crawford added. "I have to give all the credit to the offensive line and defense. The line blocked excellent tonight. The defense stepped up in the second half after coach [Henry] Lanham came in and said a few choice words. It really pumped us up."
Crawford finished with 101 yards passing and 98 yards rushing. He also connected with Nathan Miller for a 22-yard touchdown and scored on a 1-yard run.
"Since December, we have been in the gym," Crawford said. "Our work ethic is really different this year. Coach Smolder has just pushed us to be great. We got faster and stronger. I'm just on Cloud 9 right now."
After the Tigers fumbled just two plays into the game, Jarrett Mowrer scored on a 14-yard run to give the Indians the early 7-0 lead. On the Tigers' next possession, Houston Hill intercepted a Max Spradin pass resulting in two turnovers in Chapmanville's first two possessions.
"We had a lot of turnovers," coach George Barker said. "They made a couple of plays. We have a young team and we got down."
The Tigers finished with four turnovers, three interceptions and a fumble.
The Tigers bounced back to take a 21-14 halftime lead on a Devin Wiley 15-yard run, a 38-yard touchdown pass from Spradin and a 4-yard run by Dustin Smith. Stowers added a 51-yard run for Sissonville.
After amassing 254 yards of total offense in the first half, the Tigers finished with 302 yards, just 48 total yards in the second half.
The Indians ran off 26 unanswered points in the second half on 22-yard pass reception by Miller, Stowers' 7-yard run, Crawford's 1-yard run, and Mowrer's 2-yard run, his second of the night.
"I just want to thank God for putting me in a situation to coach these young men," an overjoyed Smolder said. "I have a great group of kids. We are working hard and trying to do the right thing. It's just a blessing to be here in Sissonville."
The Tigers were led by Smith, who rushed for 80 yards and a touchdown, and Wiley rushed for 37 yards and had 43 yards receiving with a touchdown.
When asked about the eligibility of running back DeShawn Alexander, son of former WVU and NFL running back Robert Alexander, Barker said, "We get to find out Monday. Unfortunately, he will have to do his 14 practices, so he wouldn't be ready until midseason."
Alexander appeared in six games last year after transferring from St. Albans and had a 125-yard rushing performance in the playoffs.