Big Blacks outlast North Marion, 45-42


By Bryan Walters - bwalters@civitasmedia.com



Point Pleasant senior Grant Safford (37) breaks away from a pair of North Marion defenders, during the Big Blacks’ 45-42 victory in the opening round of the postseason, on Friday night at OVB Track and Field.


Alex Hawley/OVP Sports

Point Pleasant junior Keshawn Stover hauls in a touchdown pass during the Big Blacks' victory over North Marion. (Alex Hawley/OVP Sports)


Alex Hawley/OVP Sports

Point Pleasant junior Alec Smith (30) tackles a North Marion ball carrier in front of Big Blacks Andrew Roach (27), Cason Payne (7) and Jason Wamsley (13). (Alex Hawley/OVP Sports)


Alex Hawley/OVP Sports

Point Pleasant sophomore Cason Payne (7) breaks a long run in front of teammates Seth Stewart (50) and Zach Wamsley (65). (Alex Hawley/OVP Sports)


Alex Hawley/OVP Sports

POINT PLEASANT, W.Va. — North Marion played like a team that had waited 15 years for a postseason appearance.

The Big Blacks, on the other hand, just simply found a way to win a playoff game for a fourth straight year.

The Point Pleasant football team survived a major scare from 14th-seeded North Marion on Friday night while holding on for a 45-42 victory in the opening round of a Class AA playoff contest at Ohio Valley Bank Track and Field in Mason County.

The third-seeded Big Blacks (11-0) made school history by securing the program’s fourth consecutive postseason with a victory, but nothing came easy for the hosts in accomplishing such a feat.

PPHS never trailed after the 5:05 mark of the opening quarter and led by as many as 17 points (45-28) with 5:10 left in regulation, but the Huskies (6-5) simply refused to go away quietly down the stretch.

NMHS — which last appeared in the playoffs back in 2002 — picked up a pair of Kyle Elliott touchdown runs over the next two minutes of play, allowing the guests to close back to within three points at 45-42 with 3:17 remaining in the fourth.

Point Pleasant followed with a sustained drive that ate up time and picked up yardage, but the Red and Black ran into a little bit of trouble with around a minute left in the contest.

Facing a critical fourth-and-two inside the NMHS red zone, the Big Blacks caught a big break as the Huskies jumped offsides — allowing Point Pleasant to pick up the first down.

The hosts followed by taking consecutive kneel downs to run out the remainder of the clock while also securing a place in next week’s second round of the Class AA playoffs.

The Big Blacks will face sixth-seeded James Monroe next weekend after the Mavericks defeated 11th-seeded Winfield Friday night by a 61-7 margin.

Following the game, 10th-year PPHS coach Dave Darst acknowledged that it wasn’t a perfect night for his troops. He noted that the opponent had an awful lot to do with it, but he was also quick to point out that his kids found a way to win — which was the ultimate goal of the night.

“We played a really good offensive football team. Their quarterback did a really good job of making them go, plus it’s tough playing against a team that has 22 seniors,” Darst said. “They are a very well-coached football team and they played with a lot of enthusiasm, but that is why I am so proud of our kids. We ran into a tough football team and we survived it.

“Maybe it will wake us up a little bit that we just can’t show up in the playoffs and win games. Everybody at this time of year is good and we need to be prepared for that moving ahead.”

Overall, both teams combined for 1,136 yards of total offense on the night — with Point Pleasant claiming a slim 594-542 advantage in that column.

North Marion did most of its damage through the air, putting together 312 yards and four touchdowns on 21-of-38 pass attempts by senior quarterback Kyle Elliott.

Elliott also had the two late rushing scores of 42 and six yards while finishing the night with 131 yards on 17 carries. The Huskies also ran the ball 38 times for 230 yards — an average of just over six yards per carry.

It was the most yards allowed by the Big Blacks in a game this season, and Darst wasn’t overly thrilled about that afterwards. But, as he noted, Point Pleasant will have a chance to improve on that over the next seven days.

“It wasn’t one of our best nights defensively and they took advantage of some things tonight, but somehow we managed to find a way to win the game,” Darst said. “We had some mistakes tonight and we definitely have some things to work on before next week, but we found a way to get it done and we are moving on to next week.”

NMHS took an early 7-0 lead after putting together a nine-play, 65-yard drive on the opening possession of the game as Brett Mayes hauled in a 28-yard touchdown pass from Elliott with 9:18 remaining.

Point answered with a nine-play, 57-yard drive on its first possession that ended with a 15-yard touchdown pass from Cason Payne to Dakota Booth with 5:05 left fof a seven-all contest.

After a Huskies punt that pinned PPHS inside its own 10-yard line, the Big Blacks needed only six plays to cover 90 yards as Payne capped things with a 46-yard touchdown scamper for a 14-7 advantage with eight seconds left in the opening canto.

After trading possessions, North Marion managed to tie things up at 14 with a 43-yard touchdown pass from Elliott to Mayes with 7:19 left in the first half.

Both teams again traded possessions, then Grant Safford busted off a 44-yard touchdown run on Point’s first play from scrimmage — giving the hosts what proved to be a permanent lead of 21-14 with 3:21 remaining until halftime.

Point Pleasant opened the second half by taking its opening possession down the field and producing points as Jason Schultz successfully booted a 33-yard field goal with 9:50 left in the third for a 24-14 edge.

The Huskies, however, answered with a three-yard scoring pass from Elliott to Mayes with 6:57 remaining, cutting the deficit down to 24-21.

The Big Blacks countered with a two-yard TD run by Safford at the 5:30 mark for a 31-21 edge, but Mayes followed with a 22-yard TD catch at the 2:58 mark — again cutting the lead down to three points at 31-28.

PPHS started the fourth canto with a 32-yard touchdown pass from Payne to Keshawn Stover that increased the lead to 38-28 with 11:04 remaining, then Safford tacked on his third final TD run — this time from 36 yards out — for a somewhat comfortable 45-28 cushion with 5:10 left in regulation.

Elliott broke off a 42-yard TD run at the 4:27 mark for a 45-35 contest, then Zach McIntire recovered the ensuing onside kick for NMHS.

Elliott capped the following drive with a six-yard scamper to complete the scoring at 45-42.

The Big Blacks committed three turnovers in the contest, but also finished the night plus-2 in turnover differential. North Marion did manage a 24-20 advantage in first downs.

Point Pleasant produced 508 rushing yards on 47 attempts, an average of 10.8 yards per attempt. Grant Safford accounted for a large portion of that total after amassing 288 rushing yards on 26 attempts.

Cason Payne also had 211 yards on 20 carries and was 6-of-11 passing for 86 yards, throwing two touchdown passes and his first interception of the year. Dakota Booth led the wideouts with two grabs for 45 yards.

Sheb Harris recovered an onside kick for PPHS early in the fourth quarter. Payne and Andrew Roach both recovered a fumble for the hosts, while Alec Smith and Tucker Mayes came away with interceptions.

Brendan Megna recovered a fumble and Brett Mayes picked off a pass for the Huskies, who were flagged three times for 12 yards.

Point Pleasant was penalized five times for 45 yards. Schultz was also a perfect 6-of-6 on PAT kicks to go along with his pivotal third quarter field goal.

Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.

Point Pleasant senior Grant Safford (37) breaks away from a pair of North Marion defenders, during the Big Blacks’ 45-42 victory in the opening round of the postseason, on Friday night at OVB Track and Field.
http://aimmedianetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/14/2016/11/web1_11.12-PP-Safford.jpgPoint Pleasant senior Grant Safford (37) breaks away from a pair of North Marion defenders, during the Big Blacks’ 45-42 victory in the opening round of the postseason, on Friday night at OVB Track and Field. Alex Hawley/OVP Sports

Point Pleasant junior Keshawn Stover hauls in a touchdown pass during the Big Blacks’ victory over North Marion. (Alex Hawley/OVP Sports)
http://aimmedianetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/14/2016/11/web1_11.12-wo-PP-Stover.jpgPoint Pleasant junior Keshawn Stover hauls in a touchdown pass during the Big Blacks’ victory over North Marion. (Alex Hawley/OVP Sports)Alex Hawley/OVP Sports

Point Pleasant junior Alec Smith (30) tackles a North Marion ball carrier in front of Big Blacks Andrew Roach (27), Cason Payne (7) and Jason Wamsley (13). (Alex Hawley/OVP Sports)
http://aimmedianetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/14/2016/11/web1_11.12-wo-PP-Smith.jpgPoint Pleasant junior Alec Smith (30) tackles a North Marion ball carrier in front of Big Blacks Andrew Roach (27), Cason Payne (7) and Jason Wamsley (13). (Alex Hawley/OVP Sports)Alex Hawley/OVP Sports

Point Pleasant sophomore Cason Payne (7) breaks a long run in front of teammates Seth Stewart (50) and Zach Wamsley (65). (Alex Hawley/OVP Sports)
http://aimmedianetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/14/2016/11/web1_11.12-wo-PP-Payne.jpgPoint Pleasant sophomore Cason Payne (7) breaks a long run in front of teammates Seth Stewart (50) and Zach Wamsley (65). (Alex Hawley/OVP Sports)Alex Hawley/OVP Sports

By Bryan Walters

bwalters@civitasmedia.com