POCA — The game couldn’t have started much worse for Poca. It booted the opening kickoff out of bounds and gave up a 65-yard touchdown run on the first offensive play.
However, the rest of the game was certainly something to behold, and perhaps one for the record books as well.
Jordan Wolfe threw five touchdown passes and ran for another score as the Dots won a 56-49 shootout with Frankfort in the Class AA playoff quarterfinals Saturday afternoon at O.O. White Stadium.
“It was one to remember,’’ Wolfe said with a smile.
The victory gives No. 5 seed Poca (9-2) another home game in the state semifinals at 7:30 p.m. Friday against No. 16 Fairmont Senior (7-4). Fairmont has knocked off No. 1 Herbert Hoover and No. 8 Robert C. Byrd in the first two rounds.
Saturday’s game was an offensive showcase from start to finish, as neither team punted nor faced a fourth down. They combined to gain more than 1,100 yards, Poca with 597 and Frankfort with 533.
Poca led 35-20 at halftime, but Frankfort rallied into a 42-all tie with 9:42 remaining in the game.
After Frankfort scored with 2:50 left to make it 56-49, the Dots finally closed it out by recovering an onside kick and churning out a pair of first downs on the legs of Malakai Woodard-Jones, who had carries of 19 and 15 yards. Woodard-Jones finished with 218 yards and two touchdowns on 27 attempts.
The Dots had to shake off their slow start, as the Falcons broke off runs of 65 and 49 yards on their first two plays. Frankfort’s wing-T offense caused headaches all day for the Dots, rolling up 412 yards on 40 carries.
“We told them at the beginning of the game that we’ve got to get to the pace of play,’’ said Poca coach Seth Ramsey. “It’s so hard to replicate an offense like that in practice because they’re just so good at what they do. They’re so quick coming off the ball and so fast at how they play.
“We told them to weather the storm, dig in and figure out the pace of play and we’ll end up making adjustments as we go.’’
Poca scored touchdowns on all five of its offensive possessions in the first half to take its 35-20 lead at the break, but turned the ball over on all three of its third-quarter drives to allow the Falcons back in contention.
“We were 5 for 5 on drives in the first half,’’ Wolfe said, “but we eased up a little bit in the second half. Still, we got the job done.
“It definitely makes you nervous back in the pocket, knowing you’ve got to complete the pass and you’ve got to move the chains and keep it rolling.’’
Fortunately for Wolfe, he had Toby Payne and Kambel Meeks at the other end of his passes. Payne, a Division I prospect, had nine receptions for 148 yards, including touchdown catches of 23, 25 and 31 yards, and Meeks grabbed six balls for 181 yards, with scoring receptions of 78 and 20 yards.
“Them covering Toby left Meeks wide open,’’ Wolfe said. “He can’t be covered one on one. He’s fast and there’s no way they’re going to catch him.’’
Poca started to gain its footing late in the second quarter, driving 68 yards to score on a Wolfe 3-yard run to make it 28-20 with 55 seconds remaining to halftime. Payne then intercepted a Falcons pass at his own 27, and instead of running out the clock, the Dots went into hyper mode.
Wolfe found Meeks with a 63-yard pass to get the ball to the Frankfort 10. After a sack, Wolfe again connected with Meeks on a 20-yard post pattern for a TD with 15 seconds to halftime and it was 35-20.
“They have a lot of good receivers, a lot of athletic kids,’’ said Frankfort coach Kevin Whiteman. “They have that [Payne] boy going Division I, and he made a lot of plays today and was a big factor in the game.’’
The Dots had contributors all across the board in addition to Wolfe, Payne, Meeks and Woodard-Jones.
- Christian LeRose had three catches for 30 yards, including a clutch 10-yard reception on third and 9 in the second quarter to keep a touchdown drive alive, and also intercepted a pass in his own end zone in the first half.
- Linebacker Brandon Moore had a fumble recovery and an interception in the second half for Poca as each team turned the ball over thrice.
- Even Dots kicker Joe Starcher deserved kudos for making all eight of his extra points and booming his last three kickoffs into the end zone, forcing the Falcons to cover 80 yards on their ensuing drives — a welcome sight for a Poca kickoff coverage team that’s had some lapses this season.
Frankfort also featured a bevy of skill-position standouts in the high-scoring contest:
- Peyton Clark ran for 156 yards and two touchdowns on bursts of 48 and 75 yards and caught three passes for 51 yards and a score.
- Quarterback Luke Robinette, who passed seldomly much of the season, threw for 121 yards and two touchdowns, rushed for a score and tacked on a pair of 2-point conversion runs. He also picked off a pass on defense.
- Parker VanMeter, who injured a leg in the second half and had to leave the game, added 93 yards and a touchdown run on 11 carries.
Whiteman said the flow of the game made each possession pressure-packed, as both teams worried about missing an opportunity to score.
“It makes it tough,’’ Whiteman said. “If you’d have told me coming into this that we’d score 49 points and lose, I’d have bet my house on it. I wouldn’t believe that would happen it we put 49 up. It was definitely back and forth and a lot of stress.
“Those kind of games are fun to coach. They’re definitely better than a blowout. It just stinks to lose.’’