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Nicholas County reward? No. 1 Wayne

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Nicholas County made history last week with its first-ever playoff victory. The Grizzlies' reward is a Class AA quarterfinal matchup against No. 1 seed and undefeated Wayne, which is looking to make a little history itself.

The Pioneers (11-0) will be in search of their 21st straight win tonight when Nicholas County (7-3) visits for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff.

Wayne's current streak is already the longest in school history and the longest active streak in the state. The Pioneers are slowly creeping up on Ansted's all-time mark of 36 straight wins, but coach Tom Harmon says his team's focus is squarely on Nicholas County.

"Sometimes you get so caught up in the process of what it takes to win games that you forget about how many you've won," said Harmon. "You just try to do what your kids are capable of doing. Part of keeping the program together is knowing what that is and what it's not."

The Pioneers have been as dominant as any team in any class this season, with an offense that averages 54.4 points per game and a defense that has scored seven touchdowns while allowing only two by the starting unit. Wayne wastes little time in jumping on the opposition, averaging 41.1 points in the first half alone.

That fact certainly hasn't been lost on Nicholas coach Gene Morris.

"It's going to be our job to try and keep the ball, limit turnovers and make first downs," said Morris. "They're a very opportunistic team defensively, that's for sure. We have to play error-free football to stay in it. We understand that."

Senior Brandon Spurlock has rushed for 1,687 yards and 24 touchdowns on 113 carries and needs 165 yards to set the Pioneers' single-season rushing record. Quarterback Grant Ferguson is completing 53 percent of his passes and has tossed 14 TDs against only one interception. Ferguson also averages nearly 9 yards per carry and has run for six scores.

"There's no magic bullet or anything you can use," said Morris. "We have to try to win some matchups on the line of scrimmage, win some of the inside battles so we can move the football. We're going to try to keep them off balance. You can't let them make you one-dimensional."

The Grizzlies' offense has been anything but one-dimensional this season.

Operating from multiple sets, Nicholas is comfortable with either the run or pass. Tailback Wil Mayes led the team with 750 yards and 12 touchdowns on 114 carries while quarterback Tyler Sagraves has thrown for 10 TDs and run for nine more.

Sagraves has completed 70 of 166 passes for 953 yards with just three interceptions. His top targets are Joe Amendola (25 catches, 332 yards, three TDs) and Drew Moore (15 catches, 232 yards, three TDs).

"They're the ultimate headache, offensively," said Harmon. "They're a balanced team that runs from a lot of different sets and they capitalize on getting you out of position. Lord knows they have a lot of ways to hurt you."

The winner of tonight's game advances to next week's semifinals against either No. 4 Robert C. Byrd or No. 5 Bluefield.

Reach Jeff Rider at 304-348-5122 or jrider@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/gazette_gamer.

 


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