Wayne returns to Wheeling
HUNTINGTON -- Wayne passed its way into the Class AA football state championship game.
Yes, you read that correctly. The top-ranked Pioneers (13-0) passed for 251 yards, all by Grant Ferguson, Friday night in a 44-20 rout of No. 13 Robert C. Byrd (9-4) in the playoff semifinals at Huntington High School's Bob Sang Stadium.
The Pioneers will go for their third consecutive state championship when they take on No. 2 Bridgeport (12-1) at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Wheeling Island Stadium. The Indians clobbered Bluefield 42-21.
The score and statistics aren't a fair indicator of how dominant Wayne was. At halftime, the Pioneers led 44-0 and held a 352-68 edge in total yardage. Byrd managed just one first down in the first half.and punted five times in seven possessions.
"We have a lot to play for," Wayne coach Tom Harmon said. "We have a chance to play for a state championship."
Wayne tied now-defunct Anstead for the state's longest winning streak at 36 games. The Pioneers did it in impressive fashion with Ferguson leading a juggernaut offense that overpowered the Eagles. Ferguson had missed Wayne's first two playoff games recovering from an ankle injury. Reserve Nate Adkins was stellar in Ferguson's absence and Ferguson was just as outstanding in his return, completing 9 of 17 passes for 251 yards and two touchdowns.
Ferguson was helped by a rushing attack that compiled 167 yards and by a defense that held Byrd to 265 total yards.
That the physical, run-oriented Pioneers took control of the game via the air might have surprised Byrd.
"If you have all the pieces of a a puzzle to do it, it's easy," Harmon said of an effective passing game. "We had all the pieces tonight. We had guys make catches, throw it well and give us time to throw it. Having Grant back helped our offense,.Being able to stand up helped us, too."
By "standing up," Harmon was referring to the condition of Wayne's field, which was deemed by the WVSSAC as unplayable because it was so rutted after last week's muddy victory over Sissonville. The Pioneers were quick on the FieldTurf of Huntington High and Byrd couldn't catch up.
The Pioneers began the blowout on the first play of the game when Cody Stiltner raced 57 yards around right end for a touchdown. The Pioneers needed just three plays on their second possession to make it 14-0 as Mason Hodge scored on a 20-yard run. Wayne punted on its third possession, but the hope that gave to Byrd was false, as Ferguson hit Stiltner with a 47-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the Pioneers fourth possession to make it 21-0.
As bad as the first quarter was for Byrd, the second was even worse as Wayne scored 23 points. Stiltner scored on a 9-yard run and a 36-yard pass from Ferguson. Hodge then dropped Elias Grant in the end zone for a safety before catching an 11-yard touchdown pass from Ferguson to give Wayne a 44-0 lead at the half.
The Pioneers played their reserves the entire second half and were outgained 197-73, but the outcome never was in doubt.
Seth Napier led Wayne's running game with 48 yards on 11 carries. Stiltner caught four passes for 101 yards.
Grant led Byrd with 75 yards on 10 carries.
ROBERT C. BYRD 0 0 12 0 -- 20
WAYNE 21 23 0 0 -- 44
W -- Stiltner 57 run (Stamper kick)
W -- Hodge 20 run (Stamper kick)
W -- Hodge 5 run (Stamper kick)
W -- Stiltner 9 run (Stamper kick)
W -- Stiltner 36 pass from Ferguson (Stamper kick)
W -- Safety, Hodge tackled Grant in the end zone
W -- Hodge 11 pass from Ferguson (Stamper kick)
RCB -- Marino 1 run (run failed)
RCB -- Jones-Wright 18 run (run failed)
RCB -- Cook 44 run (Marino run)
First downs 9 14
Rushes-yards 39-236 37-167
Passes 3-11-1 9-17-1
Passing yards 29 251
Total yards 265 418
Fumbles-lost 1-1 1-1
Penalties-yards 4-25 7-47
Punts 5-29.6 2-41
RUSHING -- RCB: Jones-Wright 7-55, Helm 5-11, Grant 10-75, Marino 6-(-1), Malfregeot 3-28, Cook 6-70, Jackson 1-4, Freeman 1-2. Wayne: Hodge 8-42, Spurlock 6-45, Ferguson 1-5, N. Adkins 5-9, S. Napier 11-48, Mitts 3-2, Wellman 2-7.
PASSING -- RCB: Marino 3-11-1, 19 yards. Wayne: Ferguson 9-17-1, 251 yards.
RECEIVING -- RCB: Banko 2-5, Bonnett 1-14. Wayne: Stiltner 4-102, Langdon-Arthur 2-92, Hodge 3-57.
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