Wayne's Ferguson armed and ready
HUNTINGTON -- So far the Class AA football playoffs have been pretty fun for Wayne's football team.
Well, almost all of them.
Wayne quarterback Grant Ferguson had been injured in the regular season finale against Bluefield and had watched from the sideline in the first two wins of the playoffs.
The playoff wait for Ferguson ended in a big way Friday night.
Ferguson returned from an ankle injury, throwing for 251 yards and two touchdowns in the first half as top-rated Wayne (13-0) advanced to the Class AA championship with a 44-20 win over No. 13 Robert C. Byrd (9-4) in a game played in Bob Sang Stadium at Huntington High.
"Grant is a high quality person and player," Wayne coach Tom Harmon said. "Just having his presence out there is a big plus and his playmaking ability just puts it over the top."
The injury occurred late in the Pioneers' 29-27 win over Bluefield at Mitchell Stadium and Ferguson was literally carried from the complex after toughing out the win.
After watching his teammates carry the weight to help the Pioneers advance to the semifinal, Ferguson couldn't wait to get back on the field and help his team win.
"That was really hard to not suit up and go out there with my brothers," Ferguson said. "I knew they would win so I could get another chance to play with them another time. I was just happy to be back out there with those guys."
Ferguson's first two completions Friday were a pair of 46-yard connections of similar variety -- the first to Cody Stiltner to set up Mason Hodge's 5-yard touchdown run and the second to Kurt Langdon-Arthur to set up Stiltner's 9-yard scoring run as Wayne jumped out to an early advantage.
On a night where the weather was frigid and it was hard to get a grip on the football, Ferguson consistently put passes on the money in places where his receivers could get them.
The throttling by Wayne's first team offense did not relent until the final play of the first half when Ferguson hit Hodge for an 11-yard touchdown pass to give the Pioneers a 44-0 lead as they walked into the locker room at halftime.
"It just clicks with him out there," Hodge said. "He's started since he was a sophomore and it's a bit smoother with him there. He's our No. 1 guy and with him, it's our 11 guys who have been doing it all year. It just makes it click for us."
Wayne's first-team offense didn't get on the field again, but that first half produced 426 yards as the Pioneers etched their name into the West Virginia record books with their 36th straight victory, tying Ansted's consecutive win total.
Now, the Pioneers head back to Wheeling for the third consecutive year, looking to complete the trifecta of Class AA championships.
When they take on No. 2 Bridgeport (12-1) at 7:30 p.m., Friday at Wheeling Island Stadium, Ferguson will be armed and ready to help lead the Pioneers. Bridgeport advanced Friday over No. 3 Bluefield, 42-21.
"Just going one time is a dream, but now I get to go for the third-time straight," Ferguson said. "Hopefully, the stands are packed and we get to have another successful experience up there."