WHEELING, W.Va. - So much for the notion that the last team holding the ball can win a big game and perhaps capture a championship.
That was shot down over the weekend at the 20th Wheeling Super Six as the first two games were tight, wire-to-wire contests won with defensive stops, not offensive surges.
Each of those games provided a bit of history, too, as Martinsburg held off Huntington 9-7 in the Class AAA title game and Bridgeport edged Wayne 14-13 in AA.
Martinsburg became the first team to take four straight AAA trophies since the division began in 1958, while Wayne's winning streak was halted at 36 games, leaving the Pioneers in a tie with Ansted for the state's all-time record.
Madonna, however, wrecked those curves in the Class A game, forging past Greenbrier West 24-14 to earn its second championship, the first coming in 2009.
Exactly how big a part did defense play in the first two games?
Consider that AA champ Bridgeport, in protecting a 14-13 halftime lead, managed just one first down and 40 total yards over the final two quarters. But that was better than AAA Martinsburg, which led 9-0 at halftime, but then produced zero first downs and minus-31 yards in the second half.
The Class AAA game, in fact, was a defensive duel for the ages, as neither team made it to 100 net yards. Huntington ended up at 95 yards (all rushing) and Martinsburg 83.
"They've got a great defensive unit,'' Martinsburg coach Dave Walker said of the Highlanders, "and they played very well. We had a couple of opportunities and didn't take advantage. But hey, we're state champs and glad to be able to come out on top.''
Malique Watkins, Martinsburg's quarterback and a leading contender for the Kennedy Award as the state's top player, said he never imagined nine points would be enough to win a title game.
"Not at all,'' he said, "especially against them. I didn't think nine points would be enough. I thought we'd have to put three, four more touchdowns up there to certify it. But we did what we had to do to get the win.''
For Huntington, appearing in the state finals for the first time as a consolidated school, the journey was a bit longer than most teams, since the Highlanders went 0-10 in coach Billy Seals' first season (2009).
"It all starts with the kids,'' Seals said. "The kids have got to believe in what you're doing as a coaching staff, and our kids did. We played hard for 48 minutes, but came up a little bit short. We're hoping this is a trip we can make again.''
Huntington senior Paden Christian, the game's top rusher (17 carries, 66 yards), was glad to be part of the program's revival.
"For future years to come,'' Christian said, "we can get right back at it. I think this year has turned it around for us. We'll pick it up next year and we'll continue to be a winning program.''
So what's left for Martinsburg to accomplish now that it's done something no one else has?
Charleston High (1968-70) shared the mark for consecutive Class AAA crowns with Martinsburg until Saturday.
"I'm just going to enjoy this one for a while,'' Walker said, "and maybe ride off into the sunset. I'm just happy right now, and we'll worry about next year next year.''
Martinsburg reached .500 in title games the hard way - losing in its first four trips to the Wheeling Super Six before building its current four-game run.
Walker thus matches the four-peat of his former Glenville State teammate and roommate, Alan Fiddler, who took four straight Class A championships at Moorefield (1996-99). Fiddler now coaches at Patrick Henry (Va.).