Defense puts stamp on year
WHEELING -- All season long, Wayne's offense was praised for the number of points it put up.
However, it was the defense that produced the most eye-opening statistics and pushed Wayne into the realm of "greatest Pioneer team ever" by fans who attended Friday's game.
Wayne's 35-0 dismantling of Keyser in the Class AA football state championship game Friday night was the cherry on top of a season that had seen the first-team defense allow just two touchdowns in 14 games.
Yes, that's right -- for the season.
"I can't think of a better tribute to the program, the way our defense played tonight inspired," Wayne coach Tom Harmon said.
Coming into the game, Keyser had averaged more than 40 points per outing, including 52 in the playoffs.
Wayne's defense beat the Golden Tornado at their own game, controlling the line of scrimmage and playing more physical than their counterparts from the eastern panhandle.
Keyser finished with just 92 total yards on 42 plays, including less than two yards per rush.
"Our defense is where it's all at," Wayne linebacker Mason Hodge said. "Three shutouts in the playoffs and in the state championship -- you can't ask for anything better."
Last week, with Hodge and leading rusher Brandon Spurlock limited by injuries, the Pioneers shut down a big-play Robert C. Byrd offense to just 55 total yards.
Robert C. Byrd, like Keyser, had been averaging 40-plus points.
However, to do it in the state championship?
That was a feeling like no other for Wayne's Anthony Bryant.
"It's awesome, man," Bryant said. "Being able to shut everyone out and to be able to do our thing has been great. We're all like brothers and we work together to get what needs to be done, done."
Harmon didn't want to analyze this team in comparison to other Wayne teams in the past, and neither did the players.
Considering the performance put on in the postseason, however, the question still looms whether this was the best Wayne team in history.
"I'd love to suit up against them and see what we can do," Spurlock said. "I hope we're the best, but you know? There's no way to prove it. It doesn't matter anyway. We're all champions."