CLARKSBURG — The Robert C. Byrd football defense stole any momentum that may have been gained by its opponent’s late first-half score, slamming the door in the second half en route to a 45-28 victory over ninth-ranked Scott on Friday in the opening round of the Class AA playoffs.
Leading by 12 points to open the half, the eighth-ranked Flying Eagles fumbled on their opening possession of the second half, setting up Scott to start a drive on the RCB side of the field.
But the Flying Eagles stood their ground and flipped the momentum back to their side.
After Jeremiah King picked up 11 yards on his initial carry of the drive, he took the ball on the very next play and plowed into a pile of Scott defenders, only to have his green jersey slowly emerge from the wall of white before he broke free and completed a 56-yard touchdown run that began the Byrd dominance.
The scoring scamper would be the final time the senior would touch the football, having run for 240 yards and three touchdowns already.
“We made some adjustments up front that helped our running game,” RCB coach Josh Gorrell said.
RCB began removing all doubts as to the outcome of the contest on its next possession. With its top running back sitting on the sidelines, quarterback Nicholas George took matters into his own hands — or rather his own legs and his right arm.
George carried the ball seven times for 33 yards on the march toward pay dirt and threw the ball another two times to Nathaniel Junkins for 14 yards. The latter connection with Junkins resulted in a touchdown when George lofted the ball into the back left corner of the end zone, and Junkins came down with the football and on top of the Scott defender.
“Nicholas made some good reads, and Nathaniel Junkins was huge in the passing game,” Gorrell said. “We are progressing in the passing game, and it paid off tonight.”
Leading 38-12 just minutes into the final quarter, the Flying Eagles’ defense again showed it was boss. The pass rush forced Scott quarterback Matthew Frye to scramble deep in his own backfield, as the football hit the turf as he slipped trying to avoid the rush. RCB recovered the loose ball, setting up its final score of the evening when Aidan Morris started, then stopped briefly to find a seam that allowed him to score from the 2-yard line.
“They just played better than us,” said Scott coach Jeremy Dolin. “They’re a power football team, and we didn’t make the plays when we needed to.”
With the outcome of the game practically determined, Scott did come alive in the final seven minutes as the Skyhawks rode the back of senior running back Cooper Martin, who carried the ball on 10 of 11 plays that ended with his six-yard touchdown tote. He added the two-point conversion for good measure. A successful onside kick gave Scott the football on the enemy side of the turf with less than two minutes remaining in the contest. Frye picked up a low snap, scrambled to his left and flung the ball toward the end zone, where Carson Brinegar came up with the catch in a crowd with just three ticks left on the clock.
“We played a little harder at the end, dug a little bit deeper,” Dolin said of the late surge.
That surge was the same type of effort the Skyhawks had shown toward the end of the first half. RCB had raced out to a quick 17-0 lead on two touchdown runs by King and a 30-yard field goal by Cameron Clark.
Frye cut into the deficit with a 10-yard run for a score with 6:31 left on the first-half clock. RCB added a score on George’s five-yard touchdown run. But with just 38 seconds left before intermission, RCB came up with a defensive stand that thwarted a Skyhawk drive.
But instead of just running the ball to wind down the clock, the Flying Eagles opted to go for the jugular with a deep pass play.
Scott defensive back David Fennessy picked off the throw and returned it to the RCB 26-yard line. With five seconds left, Frye scrambled long enough to buy some time, then connected with Brinegar in the end zone to bring the score to 24-12 at the half.
“That’s my fault,” Gorrell said. “I knew to run the ball to get out of the half, but I second-guessed myself. That play is all on me.”
RCB, 6-3, will await the winner of Saturday’s game in Charleston pitting No. 1 Herbert Hoover against No. 16 Fairmont Senior.
Scott finished its season at 7-4.