MARTINSBURG , W.Va. - Host and three-time defending state champion Martinsburg kept Capital's offense at bay through the first half of the Bulldogs' 35-21 win Saturday in the Class AAA playoff semifinals.
Martinsburg (12-1) led 21-7 at half, the same 14-point spread as its margin of victory. Between the start of the third quarter and the final 90 seconds of the game, however, the Capital offense took a significant step forward in its ongoing development thanks to sophomore quarterback Tyrhee Pratt.
"We practiced in Morgantown [Friday] night, and I told them that these big games are kind of like going to one of these bars when you're in college. There's going to be a bully who punches one of you," Capital coach Jon Carpenter said after Pratt was tackled short of the goal line as time expired. "We're going to look up to whoever stands up to fight first. [Pratt] stood up and fought first. There's no doubt. He took that role for us."
Capital (11-2) had five first downs and 88 total yards in the first half. The Cougars finished with 21 first downs, and Pratt ran 25 times for 81 yards and a touchdown to lead a comeback bid that never quite got over the top.
The sophomore completed 12 of 16 passes for 154 yards and a touchdown, outperforming Martinsburg quarterback and Kennedy Award candidate Malique Watkins with 235 total yards to Watkins' 186.
"We have to come out ready to play," Pratt said after Capital spotted the Bulldogs a 14-0 lead less than 3 minutes into the game and before he had taken a snap on offense.
Eric Mitchell opened the game with a kickoff return that set up the Bulldogs at the Capital 22-yard line. Watkins scored quickly afterward on a 5-yard run, and one play after Martinsburg successfully covered a pooch kick on the ensuing kickoff, Watkins hit Lindsay with a 38-yard touchdown pass that left many on the Capital sideline in shock.
"I don't know what happened at the start, I just tried to come out and lead my team. We fell short," Pratt said.