o paraphrase an old saying, those who live by the two-point conversion also die by the two-point conversion.
Or, in Independence’s case, the other way around.
After losing a pair of early-season games on two-point conversions — 16-14 to Greenbrier West and 22-20 to Sherman in overtime — and another 6-0 in the rain to Midland Trail, the Patriots turned the tide.
Independence has since won three games on two-point conversions during a 5-0 run that has the Patriots thinking playoffs. The Patriots are No. 14 in Class AA this week. Indy has beaten Westside and Summers County 16-14 and Shady Spring 8-6.
“The kids just never quit,” coach Scotty Cuthbert said. “Our fourth game was against county rival Shady Spring, and when we were able to beat them, I think that was the catalyst that got us turned around. It’s been that kind of year. Everybody talks about how we could be 8-0, but we could have been 1-7 just as easily.”
Cuthbert said this year’s team has the feel of the 1990 team that started 1-3, but reeled off six straight wins behind quarterback Timmy Justice. That team made the playoffs, losing to Class AA state runner-up Greenbrier West in the playoffs.
Independence has a chance to make the playoffs with wins at PikeView and home against Wyoming East the following week.
It will be teacher versus pupil Friday when Greenbrier East hosts Riverside. East coach Andy Grogg will be taking on his mentor and longtime friend Dick Whitman of Riverside.
“We do a lot of the same things,” Grogg said. “From our off-season workout to the way we travel, all of that came from things I learned while I coached with Dick.”
While it is Grogg’s first go-around with his former boss as a head coach, he has coached against Whitman while serving as an assistant at Stonewall Jackson and Herbert Hoover. He also coached with Whitman at DuPont in 1979 and again during the late 1990s and five years at Riverside before taking the job at East in 2004.
Sometimes the ball bounces your way. Other times it doesn’t. And often the outcome determines who plays in the postseason and who doesn’t.
Take Greenbrier West, for instance.
“Last year we were 5-5, and I thought if the ball had bounced the other way we could have been 8-2 or 7-3,” coach Lewis McClung said. “This year, instead of bouncing against us, the ball has bounced for us.”
And the result has been a stellar 8-0 start and a No. 2 rating in Class A.
Of course, a stout defense that has given up just 11.8 points per game and an offense that has the area’s leading rusher (Trent Walker with 1,354 yards) has something to do with that start as well. Sometimes you have to make your luck.
Woodrow Wilson coach John H. Lilly calls this week’s game with Huntington “scary.”
For two reasons.
One, Huntington matches up well with the Class AAA No. 1 Flying Eagles (7-0) as far as speed goes.
“This is the first team we’ve faced that is equal to us in team speed,” Lilly said. “Capital was there, too, but they run a different system. Any time you play a team that can bust one on you at any moment, it’s a concern.”
Then, too, there is next week’s opponent — Nitro.
“Everybody’s talking about it,” Lilly said. “Everywhere I go, people are talking about that game. But the beauty of this team is that it’s been outstanding at lining up the games and taking them one at a time.”
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Believe it or not, Woodrow Wilson has used five different quarterbacks this year. Ian McCulloch is the clear-cut starter. But Lilly has also used Marcus Manns and Wess Walker at different times as well as freshmen Ryan Stafford and Kevin Starkey in mop-up roles.
Princeton coach Ted Spadaro would like to see what would happen with a healthy William Gardner and Marcus Hayes. He hasn’t had that since the third week of the season.
“I’d like to have them both at full tilt, but I don’t think it’s going to happen,” Spadaro said. “Their performance hasn’t been at 100 percent because they both suffered injuries.”
Both have played and well at times.
Gardner has 706 yards rushing and 14 touchdowns. Hayes, who has missed more tine, has 353 yards and six touchdowns.
Chris Yambrick is in a unique situation.
After all, not many athletes can say they’re playing on two top-ranked teams simultaneously.
Not just that, but both teams are undefeated.
He is a kicker on the Woodrow Wilson football team, 7-0 and No. 1 in the Class AAA ratings for the sixth straight week. The Eagles travel to Huntington Friday.
He is also a stopper on Woodrow Wilson’s 17-0-2 soccer team that recently ascended to the top spot in the soccer poll.
“It’s special and nice that both teams are where they are right now, especially since it’s my senior year,” Yambrick said. “I doesn’t mean as much as winning the championship. Rankings are nice but all that matters is where you are at the end of the season.”
And to think, it almost wasn’t to be.
Yambrick gave up both sports prior to beginning his varsity career.
“I started playing soccer when I was five up through eighth grade,” Yambrick said. “I guess I got a little burnt out on it there for a while. I really like soccer a lot and I realized that I had been missing a lot. I’m a senior, I want to do everything I can.”
Which includes a return to the gridiron.
“I kicked in ninth grade at Park,” Yambrick said. “I asked coach Lilly if I could I could come and kick and play soccer and he said that would be fine.”
Yambrick’s typical day begins with an hour at football practice after school followed by soccer practice later in the evening or a game. On non-game days he gets home at 7 p.m. On some of the MSAC trips he doesn’t get home until midnight or later.
Of course, his double life is a constant source of levity for his teammates.
“The guys on the soccer team, they’re always telling me that they can kick it farther than I can,” Yambrick said. “It’s all in fun. I thought I’d get a lot of beef from the football guys. But they more or less ask me how things are going in soccer. A lot of the guys never played. They’ll ask questions.”
One thing they don’t question is his toughness. Yambrick isn’t the typical kicker; he doesn’t trot near the sideline. He’s looking to bring the leather after sending the ball down field.
“I play soccer that way, too,” Yambrick said. “I like the physical game. I play basketball and the more physical the game, the better I like it. I’d go out and play defense if they’d put me in.”
“We have an understanding,” football coach John H. Lilly said. “Chris kicks and other guys play defense and offense.”
Lilly does respect what Yambrick brings to the table.
“He’s averaged one or two tackles on special teams,” Lilly said. “He’s not afraid to get in there. A lot of people don’t know it but he suffered a severely twisted ankle prior to the Capital game (it
happened during a soccer match with Nitro the day before) and still kicked for us. He’s a tough kid.”
He also made his lone field goal in that game, a 32-yard kick that wasn’t exactly aesthetically pleasing but never-the-less got the job done. It was Woodrow Wilson’s first field goal since the 2000 season.He also has 16 PATs.
“Yeah, that field goal wasn’t one of my better kicks,” Yambrick said of the kick which was made on a bum ankle. “But I’ve worked on it. My field goals are a lot better than they were earlier in the season.”
“In fairness, we don’t try a lot of field goals because our attitude has always been if it’s fourth-and-3 we can get those three yards, so he doesn’t get a lot of chances,” Lilly said. “I have confidence in Chris that he can make it if we need him to do it.”
Yambrick is also a starting stopper on the soccer team, meaning that, much to his liking, he is a defensive-type player.
“I feel like it’s soccer where I may have lost something not playing those years,” Yambrick said. “Some of those guys are magicians with the ball.”
Yambrick was also the seventh or eighth man on Woodrow Wilson’s state runner-up basketball squad, a role he hopes to increase this winter.
For now, his focus is on the present.
“I’m really glad I played both sports,” Yambrick said. “I’ve got a lot of friends on both teams. I think if I would have just played one, I would have been missing out. I’m glad I’ve got my equal balance.”
If it came down to picking one or the other?
“Tough choice,” Yambrick said. “I guess I’d have to go with which game was most important ... I’m hoping it doesn’t come down to that.”
It was a game that the two schools had been waiting for from the moment the final extra point was kicked in last year’s quarterfinal round thriller, won by Martinsburg, 35-34. From that moment forward, the Jefferson Cougars had dedicated themselves to one singular goal - knock Martinsburg off its perch.
For the Cougars, the wait was worth it, as they slammed the Bulldogs 32-0 on Friday night at Martinsburg’s Cobourn Field, thereby ending Martinsburg’s 26-game home winning streak. It was also the first time since 1997 that Martinsburg had been shut out, a streak of 103 games. In addition, it was the first time since 1997 that Jefferson had won at Martinsburg, and the first time since 1998 that Jefferson had defeated Martinsburg.
The win propelled Jefferson, 8-0, into a tie for second in the latest WVSSAC rankings. Martinsburg, 7-1, dropped to seventh.
Each team played on a short week, though Martinsburg’s was much shorter. Jefferson was coming off a Saturday night win at Fort Hill while Martinsburg had just played Monday night against Potomac Falls.
The lines to enter the stadium stretched three across and a block and a half long a full hour and a half before kickoff.
Neither team began crisply, as Martinsburg had a three and out on there first possession and Jefferson returned the favor. A short punt following another Martinsburg three and out set Jefferson up at midfield. Seven plays and 49 yards later it was 6-0 Cougars, as Josh Brown made a spectacular effort in the deep corner of the end zone to pull in a 25-yard scoring pass from Patrick Burns for the game’s first score. Brown drew a pass interference penalty on the play, as he had a Bulldog corner draped all over him. Though the Cougars would miss the extra point, it would be all of the offense that they would need for the night. The Cougar defense so thoroughly dominated Martinsburg that the Dogs could not run, and they could not pass from their usual shotgun spread formation. Martinsburg had a little success going to a power formation but not enough to score. Josh Twyman, who’d gained 1,000 yards through his first seven games, was held to just 54 yards on 18 carries. Quarterback Cam Shelton was limited to just four completions in 22 attempts which netted 26 yards. The Dogs running game produced 104 yards on 38 attempts. The Cougar defense forced six turnovers and never allowed Martinsburg to get comfortable.
Jefferson tailback Ryland Newman finished the night with 92 yards on 16 rushes and also scored from 27, 12 and seven yards. Most of his yardage came in the first half before he aggravated a muscle in his lower back. Josh Brown closed out the scoring in the fourth quarter with a 51-yard return of a fumble. It was Brown’s eighth touchdown of 51 yards or better this season. Jefferson will host 3-5 Hedgesville this week while Martinsburg will visit Fort Hill.
In another local rivalry game, Hedgesville shut down Musselman 7-0 at Hedgesville. Tailback Rocky Lane provided the points for the Eagles with an 80-yard touchdown run. Lane finished with 148 yards on 15 carries. Chad Dutrow and Daniel Kershner combined for another 84 yards on the ground for Hedgesville, and Michael Lopez was five of 10 passing for 38 yards. Musselman threatened in the fourth quarter but quarterback Ethan French was intercepted in the end zone and Musselman’s drive died at the 10. Rusty Riner lead Musselman with 53 yards on 13 carries, while Shon Jackson added 50 on nine rushes. Ethan French finished three of nine throwing for 33 yards. Michael Marsh caught one of his passes for 14 yards and one of Michael Lopez’s too. Lopez returned the favor by intercepting French twice. Kyle Leonard also picked off a pass for the Eagle defense. Both teams are now 3-5 on the year. Musselman will visit Hampshire this weekend.
Hampshire (3-5) lost to Fort Hill 34-20. Justin Rhodes knotted the score at six early with a 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, but the Trojans could not overcome six turnovers. The Trojan ground attack was led by Rome Johnson’s 92 yards and two touchdowns. Danny Nicholson chipped in with another 81 and Ryan Combs added a two-point conversion.
In Class AA, Keyser lost to Loyola’s Don of Towson, Maryland (near Baltimore), 31-12. Tyrell Clay scored for Keyser on a five-yard pass from Chris Szafran. The score was set up by a 70-yard run by freshman Jeremy Green. Dylan Anderson scored on a one-yard run for Keyser. Elsewhere in AA, Berkeley Springs’ playoff hopes took a hit when Mick Lantz’s Frankfort Falcons drubbed them, 35-13. Petersburg lost a tough one to Southern, 30-22.
The two local Class A teams met and East Hardy got past winless Moorefield, 27-14. Alex Foltz led the way with 221 rushing yards and three touchdowns (23, one & 68). Foltz is up to 921 yards on the season. Nathan Hahn scored the other EH touchdown on a nine-yard quarterback draw. Dakota Hoover lead the EH receiving corps with three catches for 55 yards. Eric Nelson had an interception for the Cougars, while Justin Earle forced and recovered a fumble. EH is now 4-3 and in the hunt for a playoff spot.