SETH – Greenbrier West had one thing on its mind when it headed to Sherman Friday night. Stay the course and sink the Tide’s playoff hopes. Sherman’s goal was a little different. The Tide wanted to pull off the big upset and set themselves up for a legitimate run at the Class A playoffs. Things went as planned for the Cavaliers.
The Cavaliers won the coin toss and immediately went to work. Playing on a rain soaked Zontinti Field, Greenbrier West wanted to score early and often in case more downpours came, and field conditions deteriorated any further. Needing only four plays to drive 60 yards, West executed the plan flawlessly. After drawing the Tide offsides to earn a first down at the midfield stripe, the Cavaliers turned to tailback Jake Pate for a big play. Pate took a handoff to the right and burst around the end for a gain of 23 yards. On the next play, Cole Vandall play-faked to Pate and dumped a pass in the left flat to Isaac Agee. Agee reached up and effortlessly one-handed the catch, turned up the field, and scored with ease. Hayden Ridgeway’s PAT made it 7-0 Greenbrier West with only 1:38 off the clock.
It appeared the Tide would answer quickly on the subsequent kickoff. Senior returner Hunter Cooper fielded Ridgeway’s kickoff at the Sherman 13-yard line. Cooper hit the left hash mark and headed toward the scoreboard endzone, clearing all but one Cavalier by the time he reached the Tide 35-yard line. All that stood between Cooper and a touchdown was Ridgeway. Cooper tried to subtly fake right then left before committing to the right. Ridgeway stood his ground and got his hands on Cooper, slowing his momentum just enough for Evan Vandall to wrap him up from behind. Vandall took the tackle one step further, ripping the ball away. Colton Dunbar was trailing Cooper on the return and covered up the loose ball at the West 45-yard line. What appeared to be a poor special teams play turned into a gem in the blink of an eye.
The Cavaliers could do nothing with the possession and punted the ball away after a quick three-and-out. Special teams would flip the field, however, when Agee boomed a 43-yard punt to the Sherman 15. Andrew Simpson squatted to field the one-hopper at the left hash and ranged to his right. Roy Loudermilk, Evan Vandall, and Tucker Lilly gang tackled Simpson, but a blow from Marcus Adkins dislodged the football. Lilly pounced on the loose ball at the Sherman 28-yard line. A six-play Cavalier drive ended with an incompletion in the endzone, however, turning the ball over on downs.
The Cavalier defense made quick work of Sherman and forced a three-and-out. Jaxson Johnson’s 18-yard punt did little to keep the Cavaliers away from the Red Zone, spotting West up at the Sherman 21-yard line. Pate worked his magic from there, following lead blocks from Agee and Jacob Whitt to reach the secondary. Holliday sealed another defender, springing Pate for a 21-yard score. Ridgeway’s PAT succumbed to the poor field conditions, but the Cavalier lead was 13-0 with 4:24 remaining in the opening quarter.
Sherman’s fortunes would get no better. Two plays, two penalties, and a fumble killed another Sherman opportunity before it got started, giving West the ball at the Tide 14. After an unsportsmanlike foul backed the Cavaliers up to the 26-yard line, Pate snuck down the middle of the field from the left-wing position and hauled in a Vandall pass for the score. Ridgeway hooked the extra point in from the right hash for a 20-0 advantage with 2:33 to go in the opening quarter. Although sloppy at times, West had executed the gameplan to get up early on a steadily deteriorating surface.
Sherman would get their deepest penetration of the night on their next drive. A big kickoff return would result in the Tide starting at the West 35-yard line. Three straight runs advanced the ball to the Cavalier 22-yard line before a pair of incompletions appeared to stifle the Sherman drive. Two incompletions followed, but a pass interference call bailed out the Tide and gave them a fresh set of downs at the Cavalier 11-yard line. A fullback dive was stuffed for no gain, and a dead ball, personal foul against Sherman backed them out of the red zone as the first quarter ended. The penalty would kill the drive as Sherman fizzled out quietly with an incomplete pass to turn the ball over on downs.
Greenbrier West attacked. A six-yard carry by Pate was followed by a spectacular, 49-yard pass from Vandall to Agee. Triple-covered on the play, Agee leapt into the air at the Sherman 43 to pluck the football out of the air, out of Jacob Ketcherside’s reach. Agee advanced the ball to the Tide 26-yard line before being brought down. Pate followed Trent Parker’s devastating trap block off the left side, squared his shoulders, and darted into the endzone for a 26-yard score. Ridgeway’s smooth point after made it 27-0 with 9:12 remaining in the first half.
Sherman did it’s best to mitigate a game that was methodically getting away from them. Five runs, mainly between the tackles, were followed by two slants to Andrew Simpson. A third straight pass attempt fell incomplete and go the Tide offense off their schedule. Holliday dealt a crushing blow on yet another fullback dive, and a false start penalty then killed all Tide momentum, forcing a punt. A ten-yard punt.
The game would take a bit of a ragged turn at this point. Vandall would be sacked on first down, then a fumbled exchange would give Sherman possession inside the Cavalier 35. An incomplete pass was followed by a completion that lost seven yards. An incompletion on third down led to a 17-yard Tide punt. Jake Pate took a first-down toss 77 yards for an apparent touchdown, but a holding call against the Cavaliers negated an exclamation point on their first half effort. The game stood at 27-0 at the halftime break.
The second half was a lot of rinse and repeat. The Cavaliers stymied Sherman on their first possession, then ground out some offense. Pate carried three straight times to begin the drive followed by a Vandall scramble and throw to Agee that produced a first down. Pate carried up the gut for five yards then Holliday took a short pass for a six-yard gain. West was within striking distance and took a shot. Vandall lofted a pass into the right corner of the endzone that Tucker Lilly settled underneath for a 24-yard touchdown. A mishandled snap on the conversion ended with no point after but led comfortably 33-0 with 6:05 to go in the 3rd quarter.
The Cavalier defense got stronger as the game wore on.
Sherman was under a deluge of West pressure. A first down carry was strung out to the sideline for a loss of four, a swing pass to the left lost another yard, and a third down scramble produced an incompletion. As the Tide prepared to punt, a low snap allowed Brandon Poticher and Cole Vandall to close the distance on Sherman punter Jaxson Johnson. The wet surface allowed Johnson to slip between both Cavalier defenders as they tried to slow their momentum, but Johnson had little time to react. As he quickly booted the ball away, it deflected off the chest of teammate Jeremiah Steele who had retreated to help block on the errant snap. The ball dribbled toward the Sherman endzone and was covered up by Vandall, giving West the ball at Sherman’s 14-yard line.
West would squander their good fortune, however, and fumble the ball back to the Tide. The Cavalier defense did their part and forced a quick three-and-out. Johnson set up just inside the end line to punt the ball back. Johnson’s punt bounded into the arms of Pate at the Sherman 33-yard line. Pate started up the left hash then shifted to the middle of the field. Dawson Green came flying in from Pate’s right side, but Pate did a 360-degree spin to break the tackle and bolted to the right sideline. As Pate reached the ten, he squared his shoulders and jetted in the endzone for an apparent score. The Cavaliers were flagged for an illegal block at the end of the play, negating another highlight moment for Pate. Undaunted, Pate took a handoff to the right, cut inside Jacob Whitt’s trap block, and strode past the block from Colton Dunbar for a 19-yard touchdown. Vandall did a nice job handling a high snap and Ridgeway was able to push through another PAT for a 40-0 lead with 2:17 left in the third quarter.
As the game transitioned to the fourth quarter, the 35-point running clock was in effect as well as an 8-minute, shortened period. The quarter was mostly anti-climactic. West did appear to drive the ball down for a score, but a yellow flag negated the touchdown, and the Cavaliers went in reverse. A low snap got away from Vandall, and the Tide was able to track it down. Sherman could not generate any offense however and punted the ball away.
After suffering through multiple short punts throughout the night, Sherman’s Johnson finally had solid contact and skied a 34-yard punt. Johnson’s suffering would not be over as a result of the kick. Holliday backpedaled to the West 41-yard line and reeled in the punt. A quick step to his left cleared the first three Tide defenders. After sprinting the first ten yards toward the Cavalier sideline, Holliday shifted to his right and cleared the seven more members of the coverage unit as he sprinted for the pylon. Several Tide defenders chased Holliday in futility. Vandall scooped up a low snap and tossed the ball to Dunbar for the 2-point conversion with 3:47 left in the game.
Pate earned Rock 95 McDonald’s of Rainelle Player of the Game honors for his efforts. Pate carried 15 times for 139 yards and three touchdowns. Pate also had one catch for a touchdown in a complete game effort that saw him make four tackles, one tackle for loss, and one pass defended.
Vandall continued his torrid pace at quarterback, throwing three touchdown passes for the fourth consecutive game. Vandall now has 20 touchdown passes on the season. Be on the lookout for an accompanying article detailing Vandall’s milestones coming out soon.
Greenbrier West moves to 8-0 and will host Midland Trail this Friday night at 7 P.M. Sherman drops to 4-4 and makes a pivotal trip to Meadow Bridge this Friday.
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