CHARCMO- Greenbrier West kicked off the 2023 season Friday night with a resounding 41-7 victory over Pendleton County. It was a night of firsts in Charmco. New head coach Kelly Vaughan got his first win in his first game at the helm, joining former coaches Toby Harris (2X), Howard Hylton, and Lewis McClung as winners in their debuts. West also got its first victory on the new FieldTurf surface at Cavalier Field.
After a sluggish first quarter for both teams, Pendleton County would strike first in the contest. Taking advantage of a Cavalier fumble, the Wildcats marched 65 yards in a methodical, 12-play drive. Pendleton quarterback James Vincell connected on three passes on the drive, including a tight completion to William Owens that gave the Wildcats a first and goal at the one-yard line. Two plays later, Dillon Smith carried the ball in the endzone for the first touchdown by an opposing team at Cavalier Field since November 5, 2021. Gabriel Harvey added the PAT for a 7-0 Pendleton County lead with 10:37 to go in the first half.
Ethan Holliday got West jumpstarted with an 18-yard kickoff return to the Cavalier 40-yard line. Cole Vandall dumped a short completion to Brandon Poticher, then kept the ball on an option to the left for a gain of 18 yards. Vandall hit Tucker Lilly in the right flat for a modest gain of one, then carried the ball for 6 more yards. Jake Pate earned a first down after deftly ducking a Wildcat tackler on the left edge, moving the ball to the Pendleton County 18-yard line. Vandall gashed the Wildcats again, this time with a keeper up the middle for 17 yards. On first and goal, Vandall tried to stretch the ball over the goal line only to be stopped inches shy. On second and goal, Vandall handed the ball to Moses Gray who trudged into the endzone for his first touchdown since September 17, 2021. Hayden Ridgeway tied the game at 7 with the PAT leaving 7:29 to go in the half.
Greenbrier West’s defense began to assert itself at this point forcing a three-and-out series from the Wildcats. Holliday made a big stop when he dropped Owens for a nine-yard loss on second down. Evan Vandall then broke up a pass attempt forcing a Pendleton County punt. Holliday set the Cavaliers up with great field position once again, fair-catching the Wildcat punt at the Pendleton 48-yard line.
The Cavaliers offense went to work immediately. Vandall zipped a pass in the left flat to Pate who sprung up the field behind a devastating pancake block from Holliday for a gain of ten. Holliday then ran a fantastic post route on the right side, receiving a Vandall pass on the run for a 14-yard gain. Pate then wiggled his way to the Wildcat 8-yard line behind a beautiful trap block from Jacob Whitt. Vandall pushed the ball to the five on a designed keep before Gray put the Cavaliers in the lead with 4:04 to go in the second quarter. Ridgeway nailed the PAT for a 14-7 West lead.
The West defense did its job for a second straight possession when it forced Pendleton County into a second straight three-and-out. Holliday continued to shine on special teams, returning Owens’ punt to the Pendleton County 24-yard line for the Cavaliers’ best starting field position of the night.
Greenbrier West’s offense momentarily stalled. A holding call backed the Cavaliers up to the Pendleton 34. Isaac Agee was stopped for a two-yard loss and Lilly was dropped for a five-yard loss on a swing pass to the right side. Lilly regained 10 yards on third down when he gathered up Vandall’s pass on the left hashmark. Faced with a fourth and 17 from the Pendleton County 31-yard line, the Cavaliers took a timeout to strategize. The strategy worked to perfection. Agee lined up at right wing and streaked down the middle of the field. Vandall connected with Agee in stride at the 18-yard line. Agee side-stepped a defender and raced into the endzone with a 31-yard touchdown reception, the first of his career. Ridgeway belted his third PAT of the game for a 21-7 advantage with 1:04 left in the first half. The Cavalier defense would hold Pendleton to a third straight three-and-out to basically end the first half.
The second half began just as the first half ended, with a three-and-out from Pendleton County. West’s subsequent drive stalled at the Pendleton 42, but Agee pinned the Wildcats deep with a 38-yard punt that careened out of bounds at the Pendleton County 4-yard line. The Wildcats failed to muster any offense and once again were done in three plays. Holliday continued to kill the Pendleton County punt team when he returned yet another punt deep into Wildcat territory.
Starting their drive at the Pendleton 15-yard line, the Cavalier offense couldn’t take advantage. West was flagged for a clip on first down. Pate carried the ball back to the 16 to get nine of the penalty yards back. Pate fought his way to the Wildcat seven-yard line on his next carry but got dropped for a five-yard loss on third down. Vandall’s fourth down pass attempt was batted down by Owens, momentarily halting the Cavaliers.
Whatever momentum Pendleton County grabbed by stopping West on downs, they soon lost. Facing a third and three at their own 20-yard line, the Wildcats attempted a pass across the middle of the field. C. W. Sturgill dropped into the hook zone and nabbed Smith’s pass. Sturgill returned the interception for an apparent 27-yard pick six. A flag, however, followed the interception so the Cavaliers had to settle for starting their drive back at the 33-yard line.
Wasting no time, Pate took a bubble pass from Vandall and raced down the right sideline. The Wildcats recovered to knock Pate out of bounds at the one-yard line. For his efforts, Pate was rewarded on the next play with a one-yard carry for a touchdown, his first as a Cavalier. Ridgeway split the uprights for a 28-7 lead with 2:49 left in the third quarter.
Pendleton County suffered through what had become a recurring theme on their next possession, going three-and-out. Holliday also followed the same blueprint he had all night, returning the Wildcat punt 42 yards to the Pendleton County 17. A ten-yard penalty was tacked on for good measure, giving the Cavaliers a first and goal and the Wildcat seven-yard line.
Agee got two cracks at a score, carrying the ball to the five. On third and goal, Vandall dropped back and tossed a slant to Lilly for the touchdown. Ridgeway remained perfect and added the PAT for a 35-7 lead with 0:24 left in the third.
Both squads subbed out with their JV teams in the fourth quarter. The Cavaliers mounted one more scoring drive, capped off by an 11-yard Colton Chrisman touchdown.
Greenbrier West moves to 1-0 on the season and will face 1-0 Summers County in Hinton on Friday. Pendleton County drops to 0-1 and will host 0-1 East Hardy Friday night.
Moses Gray was selected as the McDonald’s of Rainelle Rock 95 Player of the Game for his two-touchdown performance.
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