POINT PLEASANT, W.Va. — It wasn’t a fitting end to Point Pleasant’s 2016 football season.
It was, however, the proper outcome in Saturday night’s contest at Ohio Valley Bank Track and Field.
Sixth-seeded James Monroe rushed for 271 yards and surrendered only 209 total yards of offense while handing the host Big Blacks their first shutout loss since 2007 following a 21-0 decision in a frigid Class AA quarterfinal contest in Mason County.
The visiting Mavericks (11-1) owned the snow-blown evening from start to finish, thanks in large part to a solid ground attack and an even stingier defense that forced two timely turnovers and limited third-seeded PPHS (11-1) to just 95 yards on the ground.
Both teams mustered only one first down on their opening drives of the game, but the first sign of trouble came at the end of Point Pleasant’s first offensive possession.
After starting from their own seven-yard line, the Big Blacks were facing a fourth-and-three situation at their own 33.
The hosts, however, didn’t handle the snap on their ensuing punt attempt and had to fall on the fumble, which resulted in a loss of downs at their own 28 with 6:16 left in the first quarter.
JMHS needed only four plays to secure a 6-0 advantage as Grant Mohler capped things with a four-yard scamper with 5:17 remaining.
Point Pleasant’s next two possessions started at its own 11 and its own eight, with the second drive sustaining itself through 10 plays deep inside JMHS territory.
The 10th play, however, resulted in a loss of momentum as Connor Moore picked off a Cason Payne pass and returned it to the Mavs’ 13-yard line.
The Big Blacks came up with three consecutive stops on the ensuing James Monroe possession, but Evan Beasley executed a successful fake punt and run on fourth down — allowing the guests to sustain their offensive possession.
Beasley broke off a 56-yard run four plays later, then the Mavs needed five more plays to complete a scoring drive that resulted in a two-score advantage.
Beasley’s two-yard run with 2:27 remaining before halftime capped a 12-play, 87-yard drive, and a successful Mohler run on the two-point try gave James Monroe a 14-0 cushion.
Both teams had seven first downs in the first half, but the Mavericks owned a 150-112 advantage in total yards of offense — including a 145-77 edge in rushing yards.
The Mavericks also had an averaging starting position at their own 37-yard line in the first half, while the Big Blacks started their four possessions at an average of their own 15.
PPHS was held under 100 yards of total offense in the second half, which included only 18 rushing yards on 10 carries.
James Monroe, on the other hand, produced another 126 yards after the break — all on the ground.
The final score of the contest cam with 9:36 left in regulation after a four-yard Mohler run made it a 21-0 contest.
In all, the Mavericks outgained Point Pleasant by a 276-209 overall margin in total yards of offense — which included a 271-95 advantage in rushing yards.
JMHS claimed a 15-12 edge in first downs and also finished the evening plus-2 in turnover differential.
After the game, 10th-year PPHS coach David Darst was obviously dejected with the outcome — but he did have nothing but praise for his opponent on this night.
“Without a doubt, the better team won tonight. They just outplayed us and we kept shooting ourselves in the foot,” Darst said. “We got beat in all three phases of the game. When that happens, it won’t end up going too well.
“James Monroe came in here motivated and executed its game plan. Those running backs run the ball really hard and that’s a big football team over there. We just didn’t match up with them.”
It ends up being the final game for seniors Jason Schultz, Jason Wamsley, Sheb Harris, Dakota Booth, Andrew Roach, John Patterson, Grant Safford, Fernando Marcos Del Rio, Gage Withrow, Seth Stewart, Zach Wamsley, Gage Gibson and Joe Clark in the Red and Black.
During their four-year careers at PPHS, this senior class has accumulated a 44-4 overall record while going a perfect 39-0 in regular season contests.
The upperclassmen also end their careers with a 5-4 playoff mark, which includes four consecutive state quarterfinal appearances — the only group to ever accomplish such a feat in Big Blacks history.
In being asked about the legacy that this group is leaving behind and how they should always take a great pride in what they have been able to accomplish in their football careers, Darst could muster only a short response.
“I hope so, I really do,” Darst said.
Grant Safford led the PPHS rushing attack with 79 yards on 15 carries, followed by Payne with eight yards on 12 attempts. Keshawn Stover also had one run for eight yards.
Payne completed 9-of-19 passes for 114 yards, throwing two interceptions in the setback. Payne had only thrown one interception all season prior to Saturday night.
Stover led the wideouts with 83 yards on four catches, followed by Safford with 11 yards on two catches.
Jason Wamsley — the team’s leading wideout — had one grab for 13 yards before leaving the game in the first half with a broken finger.
Beasley led the JMHS rushing attack with 132 yards on 17 carries, followed by Mohler with 125 yards on 27 attempts.
Beasley was 1-of-5 passing for five yards, with Devin Johnson hauling in the one pass.
It was the first time that Point Pleasant had been shut out in a game since dropping a 28-0 decision to visiting Gallia Academy at Sanders Field in Week 2 of the 2007 season.
James Monroe becomes the first team to shut Point Pleasant out at OVB Field in the history of the facility, which opened in 2009. The Big Blacks are now 46-6 all-time at OVB Field.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.