Midland, Martinsburg looking to make history in AAA title game
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Say this for Cabell Midland. When it does something, it does it in a big way.
The Knights bulldozed their way into the Class AAA championship game for the very first time Friday night against one of the state's traditional powers, and now get a shot against a team chasing history.
It should make for great theater this weekend in the Super Six at 10,000-seat Wheeling Island Stadium.
Cabell Midland (13-0), the No. 1 seed and the lone remaining unbeaten team in AAA, seeks its first state title at noon Saturday against two-time defending champion Martinsburg (12-1).
The Knights powered past Morgantown 35-28 in Ona on Friday, rolling up 471 yards on 57 rushing plays, led by their prolific tandem of David Gaydosz (317 yards, one touchdown) and Lowell Farley (102 yards, three TDs).
Morgantown held a large experience factor - it had reached the Super Six field five times since the event moved to Wheeling in 1994.
Interestingly, that's the year Cabell Midland - a consolidation of Barboursville and Milton - opened its doors, but it had never gone to the big show in Wheeling. Three previous trips to the semifinals had come up empty for the Knights in 2000, '03 and '05.
"This is amazing,'' said Gaydosz, who transferred from Winfield last summer. "It's my first year here, and it's just unreal. I can't believe it's happening. It's pretty crazy, but hard work pays off is all I can say.''
Now, the Knights - champions of the Mountain State Athletic Conference - become the eighth different MSAC team to appear in the AAA finals since the Super Six was awarded to Wheeling.
At least one MSAC team has reached the title game 16 times in the last 20 years. In four of those years, the MSAC (which began play in the fall of 1993) has provided both teams in the finals.
But it won't be easy against Martinsburg, the state's reigning power.
The Bulldogs have won 40 of 41 games over the last three years and with a victory on Saturday can become just the second team to ever capture three straight AAA crowns - and the first to do so in 42 years (Charleston High pulled off the feat in 1968-70). The SSAC created a 3-A division for athletics in the fall of 1958.
Martinsburg is also more than a familiar visitor to the Wheeling Super Six. The Bulldogs will be making their seventh trip to Island Stadium for the finals, breaking a tie with Parkersburg, which has appeared in six AAA title games there.
"I know they're really, really good,'' Midland coach Luke Salmons said of the Bulldogs. "But that's what we're there for, to see what they've got. I know they're going to be a good team, and they've been there before. So we're going to enjoy this [semifinal] win one night, then go back to work.''
The Knights must find a way to contend with Martinsburg quarterback Justin "Cookie'' Clinton, who in recent weeks has been picking up support for the Kennedy Award as the state's top player.
Clinton rushed for six touchdowns in Friday's 63-14 thrashing of No. 3 George Washington in the other AAA semifinal. Clinton has run for 23 TDs and thrown for 16 this season.
"It's going to be a tough game,'' Gaydosz said after Friday's game. "They're one of the best teams in the state, and they've got a lot of weapons. We're trying to live this moment now, and tomorrow morning watch film and get ready for Martinsburg.''
Edwards: 'I'm still at GW'
For the past few weeks, rumors have been floating that George Washington coach Steve Edwards Jr. is ready to step down, and perhaps even consider an interest in the vacant position at West Virginia State.
On Saturday night, one day after his Patriots were eliminated from the Class AAA playoffs with a loss at Martinsburg, Edwards struck down those rumors.
"I'm still at GW,'' Edwards said. "I don't have another job. I like GW. It's a good place to be. We had a good season and we've got a good bunch of kids coming back.''
The Patriots had their season squelched Friday during a game in which the two-time defending state champ Bulldogs piled up 448 yards and made use of three GW turnovers.
"We couldn't stop the big play and things got rolling on us,'' Edwards said. "We weren't as healthy as we have been, as we could have been.
"When you get to the final eight, the final four, you've got to have some depth. If you don't have depth, the real good teams are going to get you. You've got to have luck, you've got to have things go right, you've got to have depth and not have serious things happen to you. And you've got to be good.''
Edwards likes the kind of matchup the finals present in Martinsburg's speed and athleticism against Midland's power and precision.
"They're the two best teams left,'' Edwards said.
"Cabell Midland, to go undefeated like they did and play in the conference we play in is just a great feat itself. It's hard to do. We've done it, and it's hard to keep the kids focused and at a high level and [Salmons] has done a great job of it, for them to make the Island. They've done everything they've needed to do.''
GW and Midland weren't scheduled to play this season, but Edwards got to watch a lot of the Knights while scouting other MSAC teams, and of course the Patriots have played Martinsburg now twice in less than a year's time, as they met in last year's finals.
"It's two of the bigger schools in the state playing each other,'' Edwards said. "It's going to come down to matchups.
"[Martinsburg] has good size and good speed. I think Cabell Midland can match them with some power and they've got some size. A lot of times it comes down to speed and execution. People are going to see two good, quality programs. Both teams play with a lot of intensity and a lot of fire and a lot of confidence. None of that's lacking.''
Rematches . . . of sorts
The other two championship games this weekend feature teams from distant parts of the state who met just last year.
In AA, No. 1 Wayne (13-0), one of only three unbeatens left in West Virginia, tackles No. 2 Keyser (12-1) at 7:30 p,m. Friday.
In Class A, it's a pair of teams that pulled road upsets in the semifinals as No. 3 Wahama (13-0) collides with No. 4 Madonna (12-1) at 7 p.m. Saturday.
Wayne met Keyser in last year's playoff quarterfinals, posting a 38-8 victory. Wahama, meanwhile, topped Madonna 33-0 toward the end of the 2011 regular season in a neutral-site game played at Fairmont State.
Both the White Falcons and Blue Dons went against the grain in the Class A semifinals, as visiting teams have won just six of 42 games so far in the postseason.
Wahama edged No. 2 Magnolia 10-7 at New Martinsville on Saturday, getting a 27-yard field goal by Zack Wamsley in the final seconds. Madonna shaded No. 1 Tucker County 20-14 in two overtimes the same afternoon.
Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or firstname.lastname@example.org.