WHEELING, W.Va. -- Martinsburg has brought a lot of great skill-position players to the Super Six in recent years, but the Bulldogs took an entirely different route on Saturday afternoon.
This time, they won a championship with defense.
Martinsburg held top-ranked Huntington to 95 yards of total offense and turned aside a late scoring chance by the Highlanders to secure a 9-7 victory in the Class AAA title game at sunny but chilly Wheeling Island Stadium.
It marked the fourth straight crown for the Bulldogs (13-1), a first for the AAA division that began in 1958.
Huntington ended the regular season with the state's top defense as far as fewest points allowed, and put on another defensive show Saturday. But Martinsburg upstaged the previously unbeaten Highlanders on the state's biggest stage, holding them to a single first down in the first half and making 12 tackles for losses.
The No. 2 Bulldogs also blocked a second-quarter punt out of the end zone for a safety for the game's first points.
"We tried to give it away there at the end,'' said Martinsburg coach Dave Walker, "but it was No. 1 and No. 2 and it came down to the wire. I'm just very happy and very blessed we were able to come out on top.''
Huntington (13-1) used two major penalties against the Bulldogs to cap an 80-yard drive for its only touchdown, a 2-yard Paden Christian run with 5:51 left in the game, making it 9-7.
The next time the Highlanders had the ball, they punted it away, but Eric Mitchell muffed the return for Martinsburg and Johnathan Spence recovered, giving Huntington possession at the Bulldogs 42 with 2:51 remaining.
However, just as it had nearly all day long, Martinsburg rose up and denied Huntington with its defense.
Tanner Lewis made a superb tackle on shifty Nick Tubbs in the open field on a reverse, resulting in a 7-yard loss. On third-and-13, Malik Cobb sacked Clark Wilson for minus-12 yards and Eric Mitchell batted down Wilson's desperation fourth-down pass to seal it in the final minute.
Many of Martinsburg's players took notice of Huntington's reputation as the state's No. 1 defense and apparently wanted to set the record straight.
"We took that,'' said senior lineman Eric Davis. "We just took it from them. We showed them today that we're the No. 1 defense in the state. We got tired about hearing Huntington was the No. 1 defense in the state, and we just took it. No, we earned it -- we didn't take it.''
Over the last three seasons, Martinsburg claimed state titles largely because of a potent offense, one that averaged 34.3 points in its Super Six wins from 2010-12. But on Saturday, defense reigned on both sides.
The Bulldogs intercepted one Wilson pass and nearly picked off two others, holding Huntington to an 0-of-7 effort through the air and 95 yards on 50 rushing plays.
That was fortuitous, because Martinsburg didn't supply much offense itself after taking a 9-0 halftime lead.
The Bulldogs didn't register a single first down on their four second-half possessions, the first three of which were three-and-outs and the last resulted in three kneel-downs by Malique Watkins to run out the clock.
In fact, Martinsburg had minus-32 yards of offense following halftime.