Hinton – An old coaching axiom says that a team will routinely show the most improvement from week one to week two. While Greenbrier West still wasn’t as polished as they had hoped to be in their second outing, the Cavaliers learned from their week one mistakes and displayed enough improvement to defeat Summers County 20-8 and notch their first win of the season.
Summers County was able to weather several first half fumbles without it hurting them in their season-opening 36-7 win over Pikeview, but that wouldn’t be the case against the Cavaliers. The Bobcats attempted to run a reverse on their first play from scrimmage, and just as Kalob Black tried to hand the ball off to Willie Dodson, senior Cavalier defensive tackle Tucker Gibson poked the ball away. Jayden Robinson, who was in pursuit of Dodson from his defensive end position, crashed into Black and climbed over him to recover for West at the Summers County 21-yard line. Six plays later, Cavalier quarterback Cole Vandall bulled his way into the endzone. Vandall’s conversion pass fell incomplete but West led 6-0 less than three minutes into the game.
The two teams swapped possessions for the remainder of the first quarter until Summers County was able to generate a drive that started at the Cavalier 44. Andre Merriam-Harshaw carried twice to advance the ball to the Greenbrier West 11, but a personal foul backed the Bobcats up. Facing a first and 24, Summers could only move the ball back to the Cavalier 14 on a Merriam-Harshaw run, an incomplete pass, and a Black carry. Cruz Testerman lined up for a 29-yard field goal, but the snap was high and holder Brandon Isaac was dropped at the 25 by Elijah Perkins to turn the ball over on downs.
Even though the field goal attempt failed, the momentum seemingly stayed with the Bobcats. On the Cavalier’s second play following the miss, Ty Nickell found a running lane down the middle of the field. Merriam-Harshaw, who trailed Nickell on the play, reached in from behind and forced a fumble that was recovered by Charles Rodes at the Cavalier 25. Five plays later, Merriam-Harshaw carried the ball up the gut for a six-yard touchdown. He added the conversion run for an 8-6 Bobcat lead with 8:05 remaining in the second quarter.
Resilient teams are known for their ability to handle adversity. The Cavaliers had taken a shot from the Bobcats. Now it was time to answer, and the Cavaliers did immediately. From the West 25, Nickell took a short toss to the left and started up the field. Tucker Lilly and Chase McClung each sealed off a defender and Nickell burst up the sideline, untouched, for a 75-yard touchdown. It was sweet redemption for Nickell after his fumble on the previous possession led to the Bobcats’ score. Vandall ran for the conversion and in a matter of 18 seconds, the Cavaliers had regained the lead 14-8.
Trailing for the second time in the game, the Bobcats went to work to try to erase the deficit. Starting at their own 35, the Bobcats mixed runs by Merriam-Harshaw, Blackmon, and Dodson to move the ball down to the Cavalier 31. The drive seemed to have stalled facing a 4th and 11. Isaac rolled to his left and lofted a pass to Drake Cole. Cole hauled in the pass at the West four-yard line, but Vandall was able to recover on the play and tackle Cole at the one to save the touchdown. Set up now with a first and goal, Isaac tried to bootleg to the left but was dragged out of bounds by Nickell at the 3. Cole was flagged on the Isaac run for an illegal block and Summers County was backed up to the Cavalier 13. Merriam-Harshaw rumbled to the right for a gain of six and Black swept around the left for two before Dodson was dropped for a three-yard loss. With only seconds left in the first half, Merriam-Harshaw tried to bounce outside on a play designed to go off tackle but Vandall tripped him up at the nine to turn the ball over on downs. The 13-play drive came up empty for Summers County and West was able to take a knee to run out the first half with a six-point lead.
Greenbrier West wasted no time building on their lead in the second half. Moving from their own thirty-yard line, the Cavaliers mixed it up with Vandall and Nickell carrying the load. Seven straight plays from the duo moved the ball into Bobcat territory. On first and ten from the 43, Vandall play-faked to Josh Jones luring Merriam-Harshaw into the backfield. Chase McClung, lined up at tight end, slipped out into the right flat and Vandall delivered a perfect ball over the outstretched arms of Merriam-Harshaw. McClung turned up the sideline and turned on the jets. Freshman DB Ryan Oliveros made a diving attempt at McClung at the 20-yard line but he couldn’t bring the first-year senior down. McClung sprinted into the endzone for a Cavalier touchdown. Jones was stopped at the one on the conversion try, but the Cavaliers now had a little breathing room leading 20-8.
After both teams traded possessions, Summers County drove into West territory once again early in the fourth quarter. On first and ten at the West 32, the Cavaliers were flagged for two fouls, holding and a late hit on Bobcat quarterback Brandon Isaac. The fifteen-yard personal foul placed the ball at the Cavalier 17, but to the chagrin of the Bobcats, Isaac was injured on the play and had to be replaced by junior Peyton Miller. On Miller’s first play under center, he bobbled the snap. Stumbling toward the ballcarrier, he picked up the football off of the turf and tried to execute a handoff to Dodson, but the wingback was out of Miller’s reach and the ball launched backwards. Nickell and Daron Vaughan gave chase for the Cavaliers, battling with Dodson for control. Reney Cordial was trailing the play and recovered for the Cavaliers.
Still trailing by twelve, the Bobcats attacked the Cavalier offense. Nickell was dropped for a loss on first down and a Vandall screen pass attempt was incomplete. On third down, Summers County picked off a deep pass attempt by Vandall at the Bobcat 45. Although the Bobcats had the ball again, the wheels started to come off at that point. Isaac, back in as the Bobcat signal-caller, was sacked on consecutive downs and had to leave the game a second time. The Bobcats looked to Dodson this time around, and his fourth-down desperation pass was intercepted by Marcus Adkins.
Summers County was able to hold Greenbrier West at bay one more time and turned the Cavaliers over on downs. Dodson got the Bobcats back into Cavalier territory with a thirty-five-yard run, but the Summers County offense was lifeless after the big gain. West turned the Bobcats over on downs a third time and took over at their own 32. Trying to generate a first down and burn some clock, the Cavaliers gave Summers County one last glimmer of hope. On third and two from the West 40, a high shotgun snap sailed through Vandall’s hands. As he retreated to corral the football, Ashton Rose batted it out of his hands toward the Bobcat endzone. Merriam-Harshaw broke ahead of the pack and covered the football up for Summers County at the Cavalier nineteen-yard line.
Re-energized by the unexpected opportunity, Summers County drew the Cavaliers offsides and started with a first and five at the West 14. Dodson was cut down after a two-yard gain. Benjamin Lane then took the jet-sweep handoff and almost scored. Jayden Robinson’s diving stop at the two-yard line gave the Cavaliers a chance to make yet another stop. Merriam-Harshaw carried on first and goal and was denied by Robinson, Adkins, and Chase Franklin. The Bobcat chances finally died on second down when Isaac fumbled the snap and the Cavaliers recovered. Vandall took a couple of kneel downs to secure the Greenbrier West victory.
Next week, Greenbrier West (1-1) hosts Pocahontas County (1-0) on Friday night (9/10) at 7:30. Summers County (1-1) travels to Shady Spring (1-1) on Saturday evening (9-11) at 3pm.
Game notes: The Bobcats carried a #20 jersey out to the coin toss to honor James Monroe assistant coach and former Class AA All State DB Ben Thornton who is battling illness. Ty Nickell had his first career 100-yard rushing game and also scored his first career touchdown. Nickell also registered 10 tackles, 9 assists, 2 sacks, and 2 tackles for loss. Chase McClung caught his first career touchdown pass and was selected as the Rock 95 McDonald’s Player of the Game.
Greenbrier West (1-1) 6 8 6 0 – 20
Summers County (1-1) 0 8 0 0 – 8
9:07 1st – Cole Vandall 1yd TD (Pass failed)
8:05 2nd – Andre Merriam-Harshaw 6yd TD (Merriam-Harshaw run)
7:47 2nd – Ty Nickell 75yd TD (Vandall run)
8:35 3rd – Chase McClung 43yd pass from Cole Vandall (Run failed)
Passing (GW) Cole Vandall 2/5, 42-1-1. (SC) Brandon Isaac 2/5, 42-0-0. Willie Dodson 0/1, 0-0-1
Rushing – (GW) Ty Nickell 12-120 1TD (75), Cole Vandall 17-30, Jayden Robinson 1- (-3), Marcus Adkins 3-(-1)
(SC) Andre Merriam-Harshaw 17-110 1TD (6), Willie Dodson 11-50, Kaleb Black 10-11, Brandon 6-(-34), Benjamin Lane 4-22
Receiving – (GW) Chase McClung 1-43, 1TD (43). Ty Nickell 1-(-1)
(SC) Drake Cole 1-29. Andre Merriam-Harshaw 1-7.