Pioneers prepare to take on Eagles
HUNTINGTON -- Even though the opponent is new, the Wayne game plan is unchanged.
Robert C. Byrd dropped to Class AA in West Virginia this season and compiled a 9-1 record in the regular season. That earned the Eagles a No. 4 seed for the playoffs. They have won two straight to advance to the semifinals where they'll take on top-ranked and defending champion Wayne at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Pioneer Field.
"They're trying to play the role of underdog. After watching film, I'm not buying it," Wayne coach Tommy Harmon said Sunday during a film study session. "I hear it's been said they're just coming to take on Goliath. Hey, they're a good football team. Their one loss was to Bridgeport. They just beat Bluefield. That tells you something."
While the Pioneers (12-0) aren't familiar with R.C. Byrd (11-1), their familiarity with being in this position so many times works in their favor.
"Our guys are poised and ready," Harmon said. "We know what to expect. Our performance has got to be with high intensity. We have to play with the brain as well."
R.C. Byrd eliminated No. 5 Bluefield, 34-20, in a quarterfinal game last Friday in Clarksburg. Mason Compton returned the opening kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown and the Eagles were on their way to their first state semifinal berth. Their size and ability to control the line of scrimmage made the difference. They held Bluefield to 167 total yards.
Four R.C. Byrd lineman to watch are Justin Noble (6-4, 250), Teague Warner (6-3, 280), Isaiah Holyfield (5-11, 270) and Justin Lucas (6-1, 260).
"They've got size up front, athletes on the outside, multiple tailbacks, a quarterback who runs and throws," Harmon said. "They're all tough things take away. They're a complete team.
"The big thing is the room for mistakes is minimal now when you play a team that's got that much talent. They're highly aggressive and like to be physical."
Compton also caught a 60-yard TD pass from Aaron Hill and picked off two passes on defense. Tre Cox ran for two scores and Iziah Hill hauled in a 16-yard TD pass, his 12th of the season. Hill was the Big 10 Conference player of the year. Going into the Bluefield game, Ben D'Annunzio had rushed for nearly 1,300 yards and scored 14 touchdowns. Kicker Scott Levine has connected on eight field goals.
Wayne moved on with a 47-0 win over No. 9 Nicholas County at home. The Pioneers generated 680 yards and held the Grizzlies (7-4) to 141. Mason Hodge sprinted 92 yards for a TD on the first play and the rout was one. He finished with 144 yards, another rushing TD and also caught a 71-yard TD pass.
Brandon Spurlock picked up 172 yards on 14 carries to go over 1,800 yards and set the single-season rushing record. Grant Ferguson completed 8 of 13 for 178 yards.
During the second half, Spurlock pulled up on a run with a leg injury and Hodge left with an ankle injury. Harmon hasn't seen either back since then. He said it would be a game-time decision, but anticipates both will be able to go.