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No. 1 Midland holds off Capital

Kenny Kemp
Cabell Midland's Kasey Thomas beats Capital defender Cliff Pratt and turns it into a 66-yard touchdown catch.

It seemed to take Cabell Midland forever - well, more than three quarters - to get one of its 1,000-yard rushers into the open field, but when the Knights finally did, they sure knew what to do with it.

A pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns, including a closing 77-yard burst by David Gaydosz, rescued top-ranked Midland from its first defeat Friday night and the Knights held on for a 21-13 victory over Capital at chilly Laidley Field.

Midland (8-0), the No. 1 team in the Class AAA playoff ratings, had trailed 13-7 from the opening quarter all the way until the final period before its late push.

"I knew it was going to be this way,'' said Knights coach Luke Salmons. "Capital is very good, and I felt like this game would be the toughest because of who they are. They're very explosive.

"We didn't play our best. We had a lot of turnovers and we didn't execute at times, so it's just one of those things you fight through. I'm happy for the kids. They responded in the second half.''

Fullback Lowell Farley and tailback Gaydosz, each of whom has run for more than 1,000 yards this season, finally broke into the open field in the fourth quarter to help Midland wipe out its deficit against an inspired Capital defense.

From the Capital 35 early in the third quarter, Farley shook off a tackle at the line of scrimmage and barreled down the right sideline. He appeared to make it all the way into the end zone, but was ruled to have stepped out at the 3-yard line. On the next play, Stephen Matthews carried it in for the touchdown.

Chris Molina's extra point handed the lead to Midland for the first time at 14-13 with 11:29 left in the game.

"I made a move, and I was glad to get in the open field,'' Farley said.

"Capital . . . we took them for granted, and we shouldn't have. They were a lot better than we thought they were.''

Capital (4-3), the No. 12 team in AAA, converted a fake punt on its next possession when Kashaun Haley (one of two 100-yard rushers on the night for the Cougars) ran for 10 yards, but soon after punted it back. It didn't take Midland long to break off another long one.

On Midland's next offensive play, Gaydosz turned the corner around right tackle and outran the Cougars defenders for his 77-yard score to bump the lead to 21-13.

Capital still had a chance to send it into overtime with a TD and 2-point conversion, and got one more drive going late in the game.

A 17-yard pass from Tyhree Pratt to James Richmond put the ball on the Midland 44 and the Cougars soon faced a fourth-and-1 from the 35 with about four minutes left.

Pratt, operating out of shotgun formation, took the snap and thought he saw an opening on the left side of the line and darted for that spot. He lunged for the 34-yard line and appeared as if he'd make it, but a solid hit by a pair of Midland defenders immediately knocked him backward and the spot came up a half-yard short.

The Knights, who ran for 344 yards on 59 carries, got one more first down to run the remaining time off the clock. They came into the game averaging nearly 42 points and 400 rushing yards.

It was a disappointing finish for Capital, which could have used the valuable victory in its quest to earn a playoff berth, especially with games left against contenders George Washington (6-1), Woodrow Wilson (5-3) and Huntington (6-1).

"We're too young to overcome too many costly penalties,'' said Capital coach Jon Carpenter. "We get a score and get it wiped off. When we do move it, we don't finish [the drive].

"I didn't do a very good job in the second half and we had too many injuries and a hard time getting people lined up out there, it looked like. I'm proud that we played hard and had a chance to win. We should have. We just didn't do it.''

Capital was hit with five of its eight penalties in the second half, and lost a 31-yard TD run by Haley in the second quarter when it was flagged for holding.

Richmond ended up with 114 yards on 12 carries, including a 48-yard TD sprint in the first quarter. Haley had 101 yards on 11 attempts, highlighted by a 75-yard scoring scamper.

Midland didn't play crisply at times, either, and was whistled for four first-half penalties in falling behind. The Knights, who had lost just six fumbles in their first seven games, put in on the ground six times Friday and lost three of them. Farley fumbled it away at the Capital 12 with 1:25 left in the first half to squelch a promising drive.

"They brought their 'A' game tonight,'' Gaydosz said of the Cougars. "Their defense did. We made some adjustments in the second half. In the first half, they came out with some things we didn't think they were going to, and it kind of surprised us with some of their blitzes. We made some adjustments and we knew we were going to break one. [The coaches] just kept telling us [we would], and we did.''

Gaydosz, who had scored six TDs in each of his last two games, was held to 57 yards at halftime, but ended with 172 yards on 21 carries. Farley added 94 on 17 totes. Midland only tried three passes and completed one, but it was a 66-yard scoring strike from Coy Pettit to Kasey Thomas.

Capital safety Davon Tyson covered two of Midland's three lost fumbles, but was one of three Cougars (including Haley and Richmond) to leave the game for short stretches because of injuries.

Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or rickryan@wvgazette.com.

 


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