Wayne saves perfect season with comeback
BLUEFIELD, W.Va. — Trailing 20-13 in the third quarter after giving up a fumble return for a touchdown, Wayne needed to make big plays Friday night to beat Bluefield.
The Pioneers did just that, answering each Bluefield challenge and holding on late to beat the Class AA No. 1 ranked Beavers, 29-27, in a thrilling contest at Mitchell Stadium.
No. 2 Wayne (10-0) completed a perfect regular season for the eighth time since 2000.
“Having to overcome adversity reveals your character,” Wayne coach Tom Harmon said. “Our guys showed character when things didn’t go our way.”
Following the miscue that gave Bluefield the lead, the Pioneers responded with an 11-play, 55-yard drive capped off by junior Steven Perry’s bruising 4-yard touchdown run. Perry then forced his way in for the two-point conversion to give Wayne the lead for good, 21-20, with 5:01 left in the third period.
The Pioneers piled up 410 yards rushing but had to survive two critical turnovers and 11 penalties to pick up their 33rd straight win.
Even when Wayne scored a touchdown and two-point conversion with 2:38 left to go up by 9, the Beavers did not quit, scoring on a touchdown pass just 28 seconds later to cut the lead to two.
Bluefield’s last chance was squashed when Brody Lunsford stepped in front of an R. J. Bourne pass to seal the victory. Chris Darby also picked off Bourne in the third quarter.
“My heart wants to bust when I see guys who have worked diligently for six years make plays in front of thousands (of people),” Harmon said of his two senior defenders. “Proud of the guys hearts.”
On a night filled with big plays, it was the backfield combination of Mason Hodge and Grant Ferguson who cashed in for Wayne. Hodge, a junior tailback, ran for 227 yards and two scores on 24 carries, while Ferguson, a junior quarterback, tallied 123 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries.
Hodge had runs of 33, 64 and 44 yards, often running through a hole created by the line before fighting off the Bluefield linebackers for big gains.
Also impressive, the Pioneer defense held a Bluefield offense averaging more than 50 points per game to just 87 yards rushing. D.J. Stewart, who entered the game averaging nearly 10 yards per carry for Bluefield, had just one yard on eight carries.
“They do a nice job getting their guys into space,” Harmon said. “We made some fundamentally sound plays tackling in space.”
Wayne effectively kept the ball out of Bluefield’s hands in the second half. The Pioneers ran 36 plays after halftime, while the Beavers ran just 15 plays from scrimmage, two of which ended in turnovers.
“You could hear the air leave the stadium every time they touched it,” Harmon said. “Limiting those times does nothing but help.”
Bourne threw for 150 yards and ran for 48 more for Bluefield (8-2).
Wayne became the first West Virginia team to win three straight against the Beavers since Poca from 2001 to 2003.
The playoffs loom ahead for Wayne, the two-time defending state champion.
“Our goal was not tonight,” Harmon said. “It’s a step in the process. Lessons learned through ten weeks now really count.
“Wash it away or turn your stuff in.”
WAYNE 13 0 8 8 — 29
BLUEFIELD 3 10 7 7 — 27
W — Hodge 3 run (Stamper kick)
B — Desiderio 31 FG
W — Ferguson 81 run (kick failed)
B — Coppola 20 run (Desiderio kick)
B — Desiderio 27 FG
B — Barker 30 fumble return (Desiderio kick)
W — Perry 4 run (Perry run)
W — Hodge 7 run (Ferguson run)
B — Edwards 14 pass from Bourne (Desiderio kick)
First Downs 18 15
Rushes-yards 52-410 29-87
Passing 2-5-0 12-20-2
Passing yards 7 188
Total offense 417 275
Fumbles-lost 3-2 1-0
Penalties 11-90 5-40
Punts-avg. 2-47.5 5-29.2
RUSHING — Wayne: Hodge 24-227, Ferguson 10-123, Perry 7-27, Spurlock 9-26, Stiltner 2-7. Bluefield: Bourne 11-48, Coppola 9-46, Stewart 8-1, Edwards 1-(-8).
PASSING — Wayne: Ferguson 2-5-0, 7 yards. Bluefield: Bourne 11-19-2, 150 yards; Carter 1-1-0, 38.
RECEIVING — Wayne: Stiltner 2-7. Bluefield: Edwards 8-130, Stewart 2-36, Carter 2-22.