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Rematch looms for Patriots

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- George Washington is explosive enough on offense with Kennedy Award winner Ryan Switzer. But when opponents chip in a few mistakes against the Patriots, it only adds fuel to the fire.

Switzer ran for 174 yards and four touchdowns on 18 carries and returned an interception 68 yards for a fifth score Friday night, leading the No. 3 Patriots to a 41-14 conquest of No. 11 Lewis County in a Class AAA quarterfinal game at Steve Edwards Sr. Field in South Hills.

GW's victory sets up a rematch with Martinsburg in next weekend's semifinals in the Eastern Panhandle. The time and date of that game will be determined Sunday.

The Patriots fell to the Bulldogs 35-27 in last year's championship game in Wheeling.

The Patriots (10-2) scored Friday not only on Switzer's pick six, but also on a 90-yard fumble return by Jacob Jackson in the second quarter. GW's Jacob Whitlock also blocked a punt that allowed his team to take over at the Minuteman 8-yard line, setting up another TD.

"It's huge anytime your defense can score,'' said GW coach Steve Edwards Jr. "We got a pick, we got a fumble recovery and we blocked a punt. When we can do things like that, it gives us an opportunity to make breaks for ourselves. We didn't take advantage of enough of them, but we took advantage of some of them and were able to get a lead and hold onto it a little bit.''

Lewis County (9-3), playing in the quarterfinals for the first time, lost three fumbles and had the blocked punt in the first half while falling behind 20-0.

In the second half, Switzer intercepted a deep pass and weaved his way back downfield 68 yards for a score that helped make it 34-7.

"I was unhappy with our execution and protecting the ball,'' said Minuteman coach Eddie Vincent. "We made it tough on ourselves. They're a good team - a really good team. We didn't protect the ball, and it killed us. We gave them the short field, and it came down to that.''

Switzer, playing in his final home game, scored on runs of 1, 4, 53 and 11 yards. His final touchdown with 6:27 remaining boosted his career total to 99 TDs.

"This is a credit to our seniors and how hard they worked, and the young guys stepping up,'' Switzer said while fighting back tears following the game.

"We get what we wanted. We get another shot at [Martinsburg], regardless of whether it's the state championship or not. It's going to be a great challenge, and we're looking forward to it.''

Lewis County, operating out of a wing-T formation, kept the game scoreless into the second quarter by utilizing a ground game that featured a pair of 1,000-yard rushers on the season in Mark Metzgar and Caleb Butcher.

Metzgar was able to chew up yardage between the tackles Friday and finished with 121 yards on 23 carries. Butcher was held largely in check (35 yards on 15 carries) but did score twice on runs of 1 and 2 yards.

The Minutemen's first touchdown came after Switzer had the ball poked out of his grasp as he was running out of bounds at his own 25. The ball hit the ground at the 20 and Wilson Harvey scooped it up and returned it to the 9 for Lewis. Butcher scored two plays later to make it 27-7.

After Switzer's pick six, Lewis got a 52-yard kickoff return from Butcher to the GW 35, putting the Minutemen in place for Butcher's second TD run.

GW bunched three touchdowns into less than five minutes in the second quarter to break up a scoreless game.

After Switzer's first TD run capped a 64-yard drive, the Patriots were ready to force a three-and-out on defense when Lewis punter Chris Santalucia dropped the snap, picked it up and had his boot blocked by Whitlock. The ball was recovered in a scrum and went out of bounds at the 8, setting up Switzer's second TD.

"He's done a nice job since we were able to put him in,'' Edwards said of Whitlock. "He's got a big motor and he just loves to play football. When you've got kids like that, it's a joy to coach [because] they make plays.''

Lewis looked like it might make a game of it after GW went up 14-0, getting a 38-yard kickoff runback from Dustin Martin and driving inside the Patriots' 10. However, Jackson swiped the ball out of Metzgar's hands on third-and-4 from the 9 and sprinted 90 yards the other way for a score.

GW also turned in three fourth-quarter sacks to go along with its two defensive scores. Switzer's interception came after Lewis quarterback Braden Montgomery had twice burned the Patriots on a pair of deep balls to Skylar Carlton.

"It gets the intensity up on both sides of the ball,'' said linebacker Trevon Johnson of GW's opportunistic defense. "Ryan scoring on that interception just helped the offense pick up the intensity and their level.''

With the Lewis defense keying on Switzer, Johnson and Jackson picked up huge chunks of yardage for GW.

Johnson rambled 45 yards on just four carries and caught two passes for 41 yards. Jackson added 32 yards on three rushing attempts as GW led on the ground 245-187.

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

 


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