Big Blacks host Logan in AAA playoff opener

Bryan Walters

November 13, 2013

POINT PLEASANT, W.Va. —It’s been a while, but it’s still better than never at all.

The Point Pleasant football team will look to end a 34-year postseason drought Friday night when the Big Blacks host 13th-seeded Logan in a Class AAA opening round playoff game at Ohio Valley Bank Track and Field in Mason County.

Fourth-seeded PPHS (10-0) enters the playoffs fresh off its fourth perfect regular season in program history, as the Big Blacks rolled through the 2013 campaign with relative ease while becoming only one of two unbeaten AAA teams (Huntington) in the process.

Point Pleasant defeated all 10 of its gridiron opponents by double digits while finishing the year plus-11 in turnover differential, which helped the Red, Black and White become the highest scoring team in Class AAA during the regular season.

The Big Blacks also enter the 2013 postseason in a second-place tie with University, as both programs surrendered a total of 121 points apiece. Only Huntington allowed fewer points (93) as a defensive unit this fall in AAA.

Those are all credible accolades for PPHS, but none of those matter at this point in time. The only thing that matters now is surviving and advancing —something that, historically, has not been easy for the Big Blacks.

Point Pleasant — which is making its 11th postseason appearance in school history — owns an alltime playoff mark of 4-10 overall, and only twice in those previous 10 trips have the Big Blacks had at least one postseason victory. Three of those four wins also came in 2011, when PPHS advanced to the Class AA state final before losing to state champion Wayne.

The only other playoff win in Point Pleasant history came in 1979, when the Big Blacks earned their first-ever postseason victory over George Washington in a Class AAA opening round contest. That win also serves as Point’s only postseason triumph at the Class AAA level, a span of 34 seasons.

PPHS head coach Dave Darst — who owns a 52-19 overall record and 3-5 playoff mark in seven seasons at the helm — was a sophomore lineman on that 1979 team, so he knows how special it is to win a AAA playoff contest first hand. Then again, Point has lost six straight postseason games in AAA — so he’d like to see another group of Big Blacks join his teammates.

“We’ve talked to the kids about the fact that we’ve only won one AAA playoff game. This is a chance for this group to put their stamp on something that only one other team here has done,” Darst said. “The 2011 group — which some of these guys were part of — did something special, but that was at the AA level. It’s time for us to do something big on the big stage.

“We really hope to be playing next week, but we have to focus on what we need to do against Logan to make that a reality.”

The visiting Wildcats (7-3) are the obstacle that now awaits either history or disappointment, a team that has had no luck when it comes to postseason results. Logan will be making the program’s sixth playoff appearance in football, but the Wildcats are 0-5 alltime in the second season.

LHS will also be playing with a little more fire than most weeks, as 10th-year head coach Gary Mullins is stepping down from the position following the season. Mullins has guided Logan to five of its six playoff appearances, including two of the last three campaigns.

“Logan’s going to be on a high coming in. They’ve never won a playoff game and their coach is retiring at the end of the year,” Darst said. “They are going to come in ready for this matchup.”

It also won’t hurt that both teams are familiar with one another, as Point Pleasant claimed a 37-21 victory at LHS in Week 4 this fall. Logan was only one of two teams to score more than 20 points on the Big Blacks this year.

Does that make things easier or more difficult for Point Pleasant in preparation?

“It does make some things easier because we are familiar with them. We know who their best athletes are and what they are trying to do with them. But then again, they know some of the same things about us,” Darst said. “Our game plan is very similar to our first game with them, at least on the defensive side of the ball. They have similar sets and are still using some of the same things we saw down there, but they have also done some things different — and we’ve gone over that with the kids.”

The Wildcats are averaging 34.8 points per game offensively while allowing an average of 21.5 points as a defensive unit headed into the playoffs. Logan has faced four playoff qualifiers this fall, which resulted in a 1-3 record in those contests. Logan lost to PPHS, University (49-20) and Mingo Central (26-20) and defeated Class A Man by a 40-20 count in the season opener.

LHS can do damage in all three areas of the game, particularly in special teams. The Wildcats had a 90-yard kickoff return for a TD against Point Pleasant and also returned another kick inside Point’s 10. Kicker Daniel Hanks is also 32-of-43 on PAT kicks and 1-for-5 on field goal tries this fall.

Worm Street leads the Wildcats rushing attack with 150 carries for 1,319 yards and seven touchdowns. Tyler Vernatter is next with 429 yards and eight TDs on 74 attempts, while Matt Cox has 38 totes for 341 yards and three scores.

Ryan Miller has completed 30-of-60 passes this season for 603 yards, which includes seven touchdowns and one interception. Noah Corbett is also 28-of-51 this fall for 377 passing yards, including six TDs and three interceptions.

Josh Rein leads the wideouts with 34 catches for 571 yards and seven TDs, followed by Brett Musick with nine grabs for 121 yards. Clayton Marcum also has seven catches for 76 yards and two scores.

Defensively, Jacob Browning leads LHS with 74 tackles. Clayton Marcum is next with 58, followed by Tyler Workman and Stephen Dilly with 55 and 54 tackles respectively. The Wildcats have eight different players with pass breakups and 13 players with at least one fumble recovery this fall.

Logan has also forced two safeties, blocked a punt and has a total of 13 interceptions this fall — with Tyler Workman leading the way with five picks.

Point Pleasant, on the other hand, has outgained opponents by a 4,306-1,672 margin in total yards of offense, which includes a sizable 3,221-929 advantage in rushing yards. Point is averaging 43.6 points per game offensively and is allowing just 12.1 points as a defensive unit.

The Big Blacks were a perfect 4-0 against playoff qualifiers this season, which helped PPHS extend its regular season winning streak to 14 straight.

Point Pleasant is also 27-3 alltime at OVB Track and Field since it opened back in 2009, which includes a 3-1 mark in the postseason.

Given that home record and a recognizable 12th man, Darst is excited to open the 2013 playoffs at the friendly confines of home.

“We’ve had the community’s support all year long. We had a bigger crowd at Shady Spring than Shady Spring did, and that’s saying something given the drive,” Darst said. “I think everybody is excited to be playing here at home. I’m sure we’ll have a good turnout Friday from everyone hoping to see a win.

“I do know this. We are a tough out at Point Pleasant. Our kids play extremely well at home.”

As for preparing for this game, Darst acknowledges that his troops have responded like a program that has been to the playoffs the last five years — particularly with the cold weather that rolled in this week.

“The kids have been pretty focused and upbeat this week. We started the year wanting to play until it was cold, and here it is this week — so we’ve done that,” Darst said. “I’m sure the kids will be ready to keep a good thing going.”

Kickoff of the Class AAA opening round playoff game between Logan and Point Pleasant will happen Friday night at 7:30 p.m.