Tough start doomed Cabell Midland
WHEELING -- Everything appeared to be in order for the Cabell Midland Knights as they prepared for their state championship contest against Martinsburg.
However, it was the opening kickoff that set the tone for the game and their 38-14 loss to Martinsburg in Saturday afternoon's Class AAA championship game.
Following a bobbled kickoff, the Knights started possession at their own 8-yard line and immediately went three-and-out, giving the Bulldogs possession from the Cabell Midland 37 on their first drive.
It was all the momentum that the now three-time Class AAA state champions needed.
"We didn't start out good early," Cabell Midland coach Luke Salmons said. "We made some mistakes."
With dangerous Martinsburg players such as quarterback Justin Clinton, wide receiver Cedric Brown and running back Trey Boyd in the arsenal, the last thing the Knights wanted to do was to give the Bulldogs momentum early.
In fact, that's why Salmons took the opening kickoff -- he wanted momentum and the chance to set the tone.
"Absolutely," Salmons said. "We always take the ball. We never defer. That's just who we are."
It was a move that somewhat caught Martinsburg coach Dave Walker by surprise.
"I was a little surprised because if we won the toss, I was going to defer," Walker said. "So I was actually kind of pleased. ... That's kind of what we were hoping for, so things kind of worked out."
The reasoning behind taking the opening kickoff is simple.
Salmons wanted his playmakers -- running backs David Gaydosz and Lowell Farley -- to have the ball in their hands first to hopefully put pressure on Martinsburg and possibly force them into a situation where they may have to play behind early.
That would be an unfamiliar feeling for the Bulldogs, who have made a living off of jumping out on teams and burying them early.
Instead, the initial drive came up just a yard short and the Bulldogs got their playmakers on the field -- and in the end zone -- quickly.
Whether it was the pair of touchdown passes from Clinton to Brown or the back-breaking 83-yard run by Trey Boyd to make it 21-0, the Bulldogs accomplished their goal of building an advantage early to put pressure on the Knights, who were in their first championship game appearance in school history.
The Knights settled down in the second half and played much better, but by that point, it was too late.
"Once we did (adjust), the points were a little high on their side," Farley said. "Just getting back with the rushing game was pretty tough.
"It would've been hard for any team to bounce back from that big of a difference."