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GW pulls away from Hurricane 35-10

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- For much of the night, it was the type of game that no one expected. But the eventual outcome was basically what everyone expected.

Ryan Switzer scored four second-half touchdowns - two rushing and two receiving - as George Washington broke away from a scoreless first half for a 35-10 victory over Hurricane Friday night in the first round of the Class AAA playoffs at Steve Edwards Sr. Field in South Hills.

"Tick, tick, tick. They're a ticking time bomb over there,'' said Hurricane coach Jeremy Taylor. "We couldn't hold them forever.''

The victory sends the No. 3 seeded Patriots (9-2) into next weekend's quarterfinals at home against upstart Lewis County, the No. 11 seed who knocked off No. 6 University 24-23 on Friday. The date and time for the GW-Lewis game will be determined Sunday.

Switzer, last year's Kennedy Award winner, finished with 109 yards on 15 carries and 96 more yards on six catches. But he didn't break off his trademark long runs or returns against a Redskins defense that sold out to stop him.

He had only one run longer than 13 yards and two catches longer than 12 yards. The Patriots split him out wide much of the second half and relied just as much on quarterback Trevor Bell (13 of 17 for 185 yards and two TDs) and fullbacks Trevon Johnson (nine carries, 54 yards, one TD) and Zack Malone (two catches, 49 yards).

After the teams played to a surprising 0-0 draw in the first half, GW scored touchdowns on all five of its second-half possessions - four of them in the fourth quarter.

"They stacked the box,'' Switzer said of the Redskins' defense, "and had nine, 10 guys in the box every play. They had a good game plan, but good game plans don't always turn out good. So we opened it up and Trevor showed a lot of poise in the pocket.

"I'm capable of [playing wideout]. That's probably what I'll play next year in college. I'm real hard to guard one-on-one or one-on-two.''

Switzer didn't carry the ball in the second half until just 9:40 remained in the game.

Hurricane (6-5), the No. 14 seed, was playing GW for the fourth time in the last two seasons - twice in the regular season and twice in the playoffs. This time, the Redskins' normally wide-open attack played it close to the vest and its defense attacked the line of scrimmage.

"I told [assistant coach Reggie] Billups that we kind of switched roles,'' Taylor said. "He was real aggressive with play-calling and I was real conservative. We wanted to try and get to the fourth quarter and stayed close and pull it out.''

Hurricane nearly did just that, staying in the game until the final period.

GW's first two plays of the third quarter were Bell passes over the middle - one to Switzer for a 26-yard gain (and a nifty one-handed snag) and the other to Malone for 33 yards. Later on third down from the 12, Bell found Switzer on a post-corner route for the TD.

The Redskins nearly caught back up. On their only possession of the third quarter, Austin Hensley led them on a 12-play drive that twice reached the end zone - only to have a penalty negate both TDs.

A 38-yard hookup from Hensley to running back Zach Pate put the ball at the 2. Hensley scored from there, but Hurricane was called for illegally assisting the runner. Three plays later, Hensley had a 1-yard sneak for a score, but the Redskins were cited for a false start in their hurry-up offense. They settled for a 21-yard Michael Molina field goal to make it 7-3 with 2:54 left in the third period.

GW then bunched three TDs into the first 4:39 of the fourth quarter - a 5-yard Johnson run, a 13-yarder by Switzer (who leaped into the end zone from the 3) and a 39-yard pass from Bell to Switzer.

Hurricane hardly had the ball in that stretch. Three plays into its first drive of the fourth quarter, Pate lost a fumble at his own 34. After GW turned that into a TD and a 21-3 edge, Switzer recovered his own onside kickoff at the 50. Two plays later, he caught a TD toss from Bell.

"We did a lot of good things in the second half,'' said GW coach Steve Edwards Jr. "It wasn't making major changes. We told our kids they were playing hard. They just had to play harder. We got the football to start the second half, and we told them we have to make a statement and get a little momentum going.

"[The revised] offense was effective, and it's got to be effective. To make that work, other kids have to step forward and make those plays work. Trevon Johnson made plays. Trevor Bell made plays. We had guys make plays, and that's what makes those things work. There's no great wizardry on our part.''

When Switzer caught the 39-yard TD pass with 7:21 left in the game, the dam had finally burst all over Hurricane.

The disheartened Redskins were hit with eight second-half penalties, including lining up offside three times. They also had two players ejected in the final minutes, which led to the teams not shaking hands at game's end.

"Nothing good was going to come out of it if we shook hands,'' Taylor said. "I told our athletic director and their athletic director that. It was no disrespect to them or their school.''

Hensley finished 5 of 10 for a season-low 44 yards. His fewest previous total was 143 yards in a loss to Spring Valley. However, he did lead Hurricane on the ground with 51 yards on nine carries. Pate added 49 on 12 attempts, including a late 9-yard TD run.

"I knew going in we had to play a darn-near perfect game,'' Taylor said, "and they'd have to give us a cheap one. Things go a little bit here and a little bit there, and it's a different ballgame. In the end, they just overwhelmed us eventually. You can only hold players like that back for so long. That's why they're No. 3 in the state.''

Hurricane was content to play a conservative offense in the first half, and came up with several defensive stops that kept the game scoreless at the break.

All four of GW's possessions in the first half reached into Hurricane territory, but the first three ended with punts and the final one resulted in a fourth-down hook-and-lateral play that was snuffed out for a 2-yard gain to the Redskins 36 with 34 seconds left before halftime.

Hurricane's Hensley, who led the MSAC in passing with 2,156 yards in the regular season, was 2 of 5 for 10 yards at the half.

The Redskins did employ several different formations, lining up in the full house, double wing, stick-I and four wide. However, they managed just three first downs and 28 net yards at the break. They ran it 17 times out of 22 snaps.

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

 


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