Miners strike late, top Point


POINT PLEASANT, W.Va. — For four-plus years, a variety of football teams had hoped to beat Point Pleasant in the regular season.

On Friday night, Mingo Central became the one program to have its prayers answered.

Quarterback Jeremy Dillon completed a 31-yard Hail Mary pass to Dawson Elia with no time remaining in regulation, allowing the visiting Miners to end Point’s state-best 43-game regular season winning streak with a dramatic 36-34 victory in the 2017 season opener for both squads at Ohio Valley Bank Track and Field in Mason County.

The Big Blacks (0-1) put up quite a spirited fight against the defending Class AA champions, and the hosts were a mere 6.9 seconds away from extending their vaunted streak for another week.

The Miners (1-0), however, had one last shot at extending their own current 14-game winning streak, and the Blue and Black put the final outcome on the shoulders of their senior signal-caller.

Trailing 34-30, Dillon — the reigning Kennedy Award winner in West Virginia, which goes to the state’s top overall performer — took the snap and gradually rolled to his left while buying time for his receivers to get themselves down field.

With a pair of Point defenders closing in on him near the MCHS sideline, Dillon hurled a bomb toward the far left corner of the end zone. The pass barely sailed over the extended fingers of one PPHS defensive back and straight into the arms of Elia, who came down with the winning grab in the back corner of the end zone.

In a game that featured more twists and turns than even a rollercoaster enthusiast could stomach, it simply came down to one final snap and one play being made.

It was an incredibly difficult way to see a winning streak that dates back to President Barack Obama’s first term come to an end, but PPHS coach David Darst was dignified in discussing the turn of events just moments after the setback.

“I am pleasantly, pleasantly surprised with how well we played football against the returning state champs,” Darst said. “We had some questions coming into the year and everyone told us how much better Mingo Central was supposed to be compared to last year, and we were about six seconds away from knocking them off.

“They made a play and they have a really good football team, but for us to come out here tonight and perform the way we did … that tells me that we have a pretty special team here ourselves. I couldn’t be any more proud of the effort that these kids gave here tonight.”

The Big Blacks mustered only 13 fewer yards than MCHS out of the 965 yards of total offense in the contest, and both teams held leads in each half of play.

PPHS took an early 7-0 lead following a Cason Payne two-yard run with 7:29 remaining in the opening period, but the guests responded with a 12-yard touchdown pass from Dillon to Elia on their ensuing drive. Dillon added a successful two-point conversion run that gave MCHS an 8-7 lead with 5:08 in the first quarter.

Dillon found Drew Hatfield with a 21-yard scoring pass 21 seconds into the second frame, then added another two-point conversion run that gave Mingo Central a 16-7 cushion.

After converting a 40-plus yard run on fourth-and-short at midfield, Payne followed with an eight-yard scoring pass to Keshawn Stover. Jacob Bryant added his second of three successful first half point-after kicks, allowing the hosts to close back to within 16-14 with 9:57 left in the first half.

Dillon responded with a 51-yard touchdown run at the 7:04 mark, but an unsuccessful PAT run only increased the Miner lead to 22-14.

Payne answered by completing a 33-yard touchdown pass to Tucker Mayes with 5:52 remaining, allowing Point Pleasant to enter halftime with a slim 22-21 deficit.

After collectively producing 21 first downs and 525 yards of total offense in the first half, both teams went on the defensive in the third period as neither squad produced a single point.

Point, however, missed a golden opportunity with the opening drive of the second half as the hosts strung together an 11-play drive that put the ball at the six. Facing a fourth-and-two, PPHS elected to try a 24-yard field goal that ultimately sailed wide of its mark.

The Big Blacks finally managed to take a second half lead when Payne capped a seven-play drive with a one-yard plunge 38 seconds into the fourth. Bryant added the successful kick for a 28-22 advantage.

Dillon followed by orchestrating a 12-play, 65-yard drive that resulted in a nine-yard TD pass to Josh Reed. Dillon tacked on the two-point run and gave the Mines a 30-28 lead with 4:20 left.

PPHS marched right back down the field in nine plays while covering 61 yards, as Payne hit Alec Smith with a 34-yard scoring pass that once again put the hosts on top. The Big Blacks missed their two-point pass attempt, making it a 34-30 contest with 1:17 left in regulation.

Mingo Central needed only six plays to cover 72 yards during its game-winning drive.

The Red and Black amassed 476 yards of total offense, which included 168 rushing yards to go along with 18 first downs. MCHS, conversely, produced 281 rushing yards and 208 passing yards while collecting 20 first downs.

Payne led the hosts with 83 rushing yards and also went 22-of-29 passing for 308 yards while accounting for two rushing scored and three passing TDs.

Brumfield added 62 rushing yards, while both Smith and Josh Wamsley caught six passes apiece for 103 and 101 yards, respectively.

Dillon ran 16 times for 201 yards and also went 15-of-28 passing for 208 yards, throwing four TDs and running for another. Dillon also converted a trio of extra-point rushes.

Reed led the MCHS wideouts with seven grabs for 85 yards, while Elia added 16 rushes for 80 yards and three catches for 56 yards.

PPHS was flagged nine times for 66 yards, while the Miners had 12 penalties for 95 yards. Neither team committed a turnover.

Next up for Point Pleasant, a road date on Friday with James Monroe — the team that ended the Big Blacks’ 2016 season.

“We just need to move on from this game, regroup and get prepared for a game against a team that knocked us out of the playoffs last year,” Darst said. “Hopefully we can get some things fixed and get started on another winning streak.”

PPHS last lost a regular season game on Oct. 5, 2012, during a 34-14 setback at Oak Hill. It was also Point’s first regular season home loss since Sept. 28, 2012, a 34-33 setback to Brooke.

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Point Pleasant defenders Jacob Bryant (13) and Brian Gillispie (72) gang tackle Mingo Central quarterback Jeremy Dillon during a fourth quarter run Friday night at OVB Field in Point Pleasant, W.Va.
http://www.mydailytribune.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/42/2017/08/web1_8.29-PP-Tackle.jpgPoint Pleasant defenders Jacob Bryant (13) and Brian Gillispie (72) gang tackle Mingo Central quarterback Jeremy Dillon during a fourth quarter run Friday night at OVB Field in Point Pleasant, W.Va. Bryan Walters|OVP Sports

Point Pleasant junior Josh Wamsley (2) hauls in a pass during the third quarter of Friday night’s Week 1 football contest against Mingo Central at OVB Field in Point Pleasant, W.Va.
http://www.mydailytribune.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/42/2017/08/web1_8.29-PP-Wamsley.jpgPoint Pleasant junior Josh Wamsley (2) hauls in a pass during the third quarter of Friday night’s Week 1 football contest against Mingo Central at OVB Field in Point Pleasant, W.Va. Bryan Walters|OVP Sports

By Bryan Walters

bwalters@aimmediamidwest.com

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