Costly mistakes in the rematch of the WVSSAC Class A state football playoffs first round contest was deja vu for the Yellow Jackets as Pendleton County took advantage in the final two minutes to snatch the 14-7 victory in Franklin on Friday night.
“I am not mad at their effort. Their effort was there all night long. We were just dog tired at the end of the game and that’s the way it should be by giving full effort all game long. I am proud of them and I hate for it to end this way, especially for our whole program and for our seniors. We have work ahead of us and these guys have laid a great foundation for us. I look forward to getting back to work,” Moorefield coach Matt Altobello remarked.
“Pendleton County didn’t do too much different from what we were expected. We had a couple of miscues here and there. It was a field position battle back and forth all night long. We just have to make sure we learn from this moving forward. We have to fix our mistakes and hone in on them if we have this opportunity again”
A punt by the No. 8 Wildcats put No. 9 Moorefield on its own ten yard line with 3:43 remaining in the deadlocked game at seven points apiece.
The question would remain how the Yellow Jackets would react with the playoff clock ticking and season on the line.
Moorefield senior quarterback Matthew Jenkins calmly rushed for three yards and was tackled by Pendleton County’s Josh Alt and Cole Day.
Jenkins added nearly seven more yards with Day garnering the stop and a measurement showed inches short to move the chains.
The Yellow Jackets returned to their bread and butter running game as Jenkins grabbed the first down reaching the 23-yard line and Day made the tackle again.
“We are glad to get this win. Anytime you can get a win against these guys, you better celebrate it. A good football team, big and physical. I am pleased with our effort overall, just hanging in there and hanging around. I would like to see us taking advantage of those drives early on in the game. We struggled a little bit and that’s a credit to them. We knew it was going to be a battle for four quarters,” Pendleton County coach Zac Smith commented.
Jenkins was chased out of the pocket by Alt, who made a huge hit moments after the ball was released and fell incomplete in a barren area causing an intentional grounding call.
After an errant pass, Jenkins handed the ball off to Gavin Wolfe for an eight yard gain.
The Wildcats made a stop for no gain forcing Moorefield to punt with only 1:39 remaining.
Unfortunately for the Yellow Jackets, the snap was low and punter Atikilt Tamiru struggled to corral the ball as the fumble was ruled dead as he started to run and Pendleton County was given a golden opportunity at the four yard line.
Pendleton County senior quarterback Isaiah Gardiner scored the game-winning touchdown from four yards out and the extra point by Josh Alt created the 14-7 final score with 1:32 left.
Moorefield started at the 45-yard line and elected to throw the ball to catch the Wildcats off-guard, but the pass by Jenkins was intercepted by Gardiner to seal the victory.
The Wildcats burned off the rest of the clock including a big third down conversion gain by senior Dalton Dunkle and a kneel down from Gardiner iced the game.
Pendleton County advances to the quarterfinal against Tygarts Valley, while the Yellow Jackets hibernate in the Hive.
It was a defensive battle throughout the contest as the offenses struggled to find any rhythm and the miscues haunted the Yellow Jackets.
The first two touchdowns were made in the second quarter for these Potomac Valley Conference foes.
Starting the playoff game, Pendleton County received the kickoff and started around the 25-yard line where Dunkle rushed for about nine yards and was taken down by Moorefield’s Malachie Hinger and Zaden Stonestreet.
Gardiner collected the first down at the 47-yard line for the Wildcats and was tackled by Tamiru.
Pendleton County’s Dusty Smith entered Yellow Jackets territory at the 45-yard line and was tackled by Moorefield’s Blake Funk.
Dunkle added five yards and was stopped by Hinger, then Gardiner sacked by Moorefield’s Vincent Cyrus.
Gardiner’s pass was deflected and Jenkins made the interception for the Yellow Jackets at the 39-yard line.
Jenkins made two carries for four yards, then connected with Funk for a nine yard reception resulting in first down at the Pendleton County 48-yard line with a stop by Isaiah Alexander.
Moorefield’s drive came to a halt as Day made two tackles on Jenkins and Wolfe for minimal gain, then a catch by Coleman Mongold covered five yards coming up short on third down leading to a punt by Tamiru which went deep to the five yard line.
The Yellow Jackets burned off about four minutes on that opening series.
Moorefield’s defense clamped down with a Hive mentality collectively making a stop for no gain on Dunkle’s carry, then Stonestreet garnered an ankle tackle on Day allowing just four yards.
Garinder was chased out of bounds by Hinger, Funk and Jenkins for no gain to force a punt with Mongold making a fair catch at the 47-yard line.
Moorefield’s Jenkins shook free from an ankle hold and was finally brought down by Wildcats’ Braden McClanahan after a ten yard keeper for a first down at the 43-yard line.
Jenkins added eight more yards on two carries, then Wolfe was stopped for no gain by Alt to force a punt with six seconds remaining in the first quarter.
Tamiru’s punt once again pinned the Wildcats deep with the ball rolling to the three yard line this time.
Day mustered up three yards to end the frame with Stonestreet notching the stop.
Moorefield’s Vincent Cyrus tackled Gardiner on a five yard gain to begin the second quarter.
Day garnered the first down on a three yard run with Moorefield’s Tyberious Clayton making the tackle.
Gardiner dodged an initial pursuit by Mongold and was chased out of bounds by Matthew Delawder after a dozen yards.
Pendleton County’s Ryan Mitchell made a reception for nine yards reaching the 35-yard line.
Hinger jarred the ball loose hitting Gardiner and Jenkins made the fumble recovery for the Yellow Jackets at midfield.
Jenkins picked up ten yards on two carries for a first down, then powered down the field 37 yards for a touchdown and Tamiru added the extra point giving Moorefield a 7-nil lead at the 8:26 mark.
Day made a huge run on the first play from scrimmage going 28 yards to reach the Yellow Jackets 41-yard line and was finally wrestled down from behind by Mongold.
Hinger led a group of Yellow Jackets dropping Dunkle for a loss.
McClanahan made a catch for a dozen yards and a first down at the 30-yard line.
The Wildcats went back to their normal running game as Dunkle notched six yards and Jenkins got the stop.
Day was tacked for a three yard loss by Stonestreet as Pendleton County was looking at third down.
Moorefield’s Axton Runions tacked Dunkle after a four yard gain, then the Wildcats went for it on fourth down and was denied as Cyrus slammed Gardiner down at the 21-yard line for a turnover on downs.
The Yellow Jackets failed to gain a single yard as Funk was tackled for a one yard loss by Gardiner, then Jenkins threw the ball out of bounds twice before Tamiru punted with 4:19 on the clock.
Facing third down from their own 35-yard line, the Wildcats’ McClanahan made a catch and dodged some tackles before being hauled down with the momentum carrying the players out of bounds and a personal foul moved the chains at the Moorefield 30-yard line.
Hinger and Funk made a couple huge stops to force fourth down and 11, then Gardiner lanced the ball with a minute left to Mitchell, who caught the ball stepping out of bounds which was ruled complete in bounds despite a protest with possession now inside the red zone at the six yard line.
After a defensive penalty, Jenkins tacked Day for a loss.
Day responded with a four yard touchdown catch in the corner of the end zone from Gardiner with 24 seconds left before halftime and Alt tied the game with the extra point, 7-all.
Pendleton County’s Connor Armentrout made an interception with nine seconds left, then an incomplete pass and kneel down closed the half.
Moorefield began the third quarter at the 35 yard line and burned nearly eight minutes off the clock with a drive ending in a missed field goal.
On third down, Funk made a catch for 14 yards and a first down at the 48-yard line.
Jenkins reached midfield and was about to be tackled by Alt, but put his hand down and kept going only to have the play stopped even though his knee didn’t hit the ground.
Jenkins passed to Mongold for tow more yards, then connected with Funk for a first down on a nine yard play to the Wildcats 39-yard line.
Jenkins made two carries for six yards total, then Moorefield committed a false start.
Jenkins converted the third down at the 24-yard line and was tripped up by Mitchell.
Wolfe garnered one yard and was stopped by Alt, then Dillon Smith sacked Jenkins at the 32-yard line.
After an incomplete pass, the Yellow Jackets gave Tamiru a chance to kick a 50-yard field goal and it was off the mark with 4:20 left in the third quarter.
Gardiner picked up two first downs for the Wildcats racing the 44-yard line, but Moorefield shut the drive down with tackles by Stonestreet, Cyrus and Funk to force a punt with 34 seconds to go.
Moorefield started the next possession at its own 17 yard line and Wolfe added eight yards to close the frame.
Jenkins collected the first down to commence the final stanza, then Funk was stopped for no gain by Mitchell.
After a three yard keeper by Jenkins, there was a false start.
The next pass attempt went awry as Jenkins was under pressure from Alt, then Moorefield punted to the 45 yard line.
Pendleton County failed to move the chains as Delawder and Jenkins made tackles on short gains by Gardiner, then Ethan Sines recorded a sack to make the Wildcats punt from the 47-yard line.
Moorefield got the ball back with 7:26 remaining in the game at the eight yard line, but couldn’t collect a first down either as Alt and Mitchell made stops against Jenkins and Wolfe leading to a punt from the 16-yard line with only two minutes used up.
The Yellow Jackets forced another Pendleton County punt, then the ill-fated drive yielded the miscue on the punt leading to the Wildcats winning touchdown.
“We are very thankful for the opportunity to get out here and to play. Most states don’t even have football right now. We are blessed to be here. We are in the orange now, but we still got the opportunity to play. It didn’t work out the way we would have liked, but we just have to keep our heads up and move forward in life,” Moorefield senior Matthew Jenkins stated.
The Wildcats (6-2) roam further into the playoff picture after defeating Moorefield in the first round for a second year in a row.
The Yellow Jackets (4-3) have a strong foundation to keep growing and take flight once again next season.