POINT PLEASANT, W.Va. — Not even the weather was going to rain on Point Pleasant’s parade.
The Big Blacks stormed out to a 14-0 first quarter lead and never looked back Friday night en route to a 41-14 pounding of visiting Logan in a Class AAA opening round playoff contest at Ohio Valley Bank Track and Field in Mason County.
Point Pleasant (11-0) shined in all three phases of the game, particularly in the opening moments of the contest. The defense recovered a fumble and returned it to the house for an early 7-0 lead, then the Wildcats (7-4) had a pair of bad snaps on consecutive punt attempts — which resulted in a pair of PPHS possessions inside Logan territory.
The fourth-ranked Big Blacks scored on the first of those two opportunities to secure a 14-0 cushion, then traded second period scores to claim a 21-7 edge headed into the intermission. The 13th-ranked Wildcats managed to whittle their deficit down to 27-14 headed into the fourth, but Point closed regulation with a pair of sustained drives to wrap up the 27-point triumph.
The victory was the first for PPHS at the Class AAA level since the 1979 season and just the second ever in the school’s history. The Big Blacks — who are now 5-10 alltime in the playoffs — also improved to 4-1 in postseason contests at OVB Field.
Afterwards, seventh-year PPHS coach Dave Darst was very upbeat about his squad’s overall effort. He was glad to see a group join his 1979 teammates while also securing another postseason game next weekend.
“That was a tremendous effort out of our kids tonight. Offensively, what can I say except that I don’t know if I’ve ever seen our running game move the way that it is right now. Our young linemen have really grown up,” Darst said. “Defensively, we played well again tonight. Logan has a pretty good running back over there and we gave up a couple of big plays, but when you only give up 14 points in a playoff game … that’s doing a good job.
“We’re very excited about this win and we have another game next week at home to get ready for. We’re excited about the next challenge.”
The next challenge for the Big Blacks will be fifth-ranked Wheeling Park after a 55-34 victory over South Charleston. Wheeling Park is now 10-1 overall on the season and the game will be played at OVB Field, but the date and time will not be determined until Sunday.
The Big Blacks wasted little time in establishing momentum, as Logan’s sixth play on the opening drive of the game provided just the spark that PPHS was looking for. A Wildcat handoff was jarred loose and straight up in the air, which came down in the hands of Jon Peterson.
Peterson took the fumble recovery and rumbled 56 yards to paydirt, giving Point Pleasant an early 7-0 advantage with 9:27 remaining in the opening period.
LHS followed with a seven-play drive on its following possession, which resulted in a loss of downs following a bad snap on a punt. Punter Daniel Hanks recovered the bad snap but was tackled at the Logan 40, where Point took over possession with 7:22 left in the first.
Ten plays and 40 yards later, Chase Walton extended the Big Blacks’ advantage to 14-0 after a one-yard plunge at the 2:41 mark of the first.
The Wildcats countered with a three-and-out on their next drive, but another bad snap on a punt resulted in Hicks being taken down at the LHS 20 with 1:07 remaining in the period. Point’s drive stalled inside the five, but the guests were pinned deep in their own territory when they retained possession.
Those first five drives of the game were monumental in helping Point Pleasant seize control, something that Darst acknowledged later on in the night.
“That was the perfect start for us, and we’ve pretty much done that all year,” Darst said. “Our kids have been very opportunistic on defense, and it’s really set the tone for what we’ve done all year long.”
The sixth drive, however, was a quick wake-up call — as Logan marched 95 yards in four plays to produce its first points of the night. A 45-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Miller to Clayton Marcum with 10:03 left in the first half allowed LHS to pull to within 14-7.
Point Pleasant countered with a 10-play, 87-yard scoring drive that was capped by a six-yard TD run by Cody Mitchell, allowing the hosts to secure a 21-7 edge with 5:12 left until the half. The score remained that way, as each team traded interceptions before the break.
Point Pleasant owned a slim 155-153 overall edge in total yards at halftime, including a 121-77 advantage in rushing yards. Both teams had nine first downs and PPHS was plus-1 in turnover differential after one half of play.
The Big Blacks opened the second half with an 11-play, 57-yard drive that led to points, as Mitchell capped that drive with a one-yard run at the 7:39 mark for a sizable 27-7 advantage.
Logan countered with a seven-play, 72-yard scoring drive that ended with a two-yard TD run by Brynden “Worm” Street at the 4:49 mark, making it a 27-14 contest late in the third quarter. The Wildcats would never come closer the rest of the way.
Point Pleasant answered with a 12-play, 80-yard drive that was finished off with an eight-yard TD pass from Aden Yates to Chase Walton at the 11:19 mark of the fourth, giving PPHS a 34-14 lead.
Logan followed with a three-and-out, then the Big Blacks drove the proverbial nail in the coffin on its next possession. The host covered 61 yards in six plays to claim a 41-14 cushion, as Walton ran 19 yards to paydirt with 7:39 left in regulation to complete the 27-point outcome.
Logan’s last two drives resulted in a loss of downs, while Point Pleasant had its only punt of the night sandwiched in between those drives — with the PPHS punt coming around the one minute mark of the fourth quarter.
Point Pleasant finished the night with a sizable 444-230 overall edge in total yards of offense, including a whopping 374-79 advantage in rushing yards. The Big Blacks averaged 6.8 yards per carry on 55 attempts, while the guests managed only 3.3 yards per try on 24 totes.
The Big Blacks also claimed a 23-11 overall edge in first downs and finished the evening plus-1 in turnover differential. Point was flagged five times for 50 yards, while Logan was penalized twice for 20 yards.
Cody Mitchell led the PPHS rushing attack with 141 yards and two scores on 26 carries, followed by Chase Walton with 136 yards and two scores on 21 attempts. Cody Marcum chipped in 35 yards on five rushes as well.
Aden Yates finished the night 7-of-10 passing for 70 yards, throwing one touchdown and zero interceptions. Walton also attempts two failed passes, including a Hail Mary interception right before the half. Yates also rushed for 12 yards on three carries.
Walton led the wideouts with three catches for 29 yards and a score, followed by Brian Gibbs with one catch for 23 yards. Austen Toler, Mitchell and Peterson also had a catch apiece for eight, six and four yards respectively.
Brynden Street led Logan with 109 rushing yards and a score on 15 carries, followed by Tyler Vernatter with three carries for five yards. Three other backs combined for six carries and negative 35 rushing yards.
Ryan Miller finished the night 9-of-24 passing for 151 yards, including one TD and one interception. Josh Rein led the wideouts with four catches for 34 yards, while Clayton Marcum hauled in three passes for 57 yards and a score. Brynden Street also caught two passes for 60 yards.
Cody Mitchell had the Big Blacks’ lone interception of the night on a deflected pass late in the second quarter. Colin Peal was also a perfect 5-for-5 on extra-point kicks.
Point Pleasant — which is now 28-3 alltime at OVB Field — handed Logan its sixth playoff loss in six chances. It was also the final game for 10th-year LHS coach Gary Mullins, who is resigning from the head coaching position after this season.
Now Point Pleasant must focus its attention on Wheeling Park, a team that some pundits consider a legitimate contender for the Class AAA championship. Coach Darst knows it will be an electric atmosphere at OVB Field next weekend, one that his troops can hopefully survive.
“We’re expecting the biggest crowd that we’ve ever had here next week. We’re going to have an unbelievable football team coming in and it’s going take a tremendous effort for us to get it done,” Darst said. “If we do that, who knows what happens from there.”