CHARMCO (WVDN) – CHARMCO – Homecoming games are the things small town America is all about. Parades are held. Queens are crowned and kings follow suit. The community shows up for this annual reunion and celebrates their hometown football heroes. Then the dance stamps the exclamation point on the week.
Greenbrier West dispatched Meadow Bridge 54-0 Friday night for their fifth consecutive victory. In the process, they set the record for consecutive shutouts to open a season with five, breaking the tie they held with the 1981 and ‘83 Cavalier squads. What started innocently enough in week one with a 33-0 win over Buffalo began to grow legs in week two with a 26-0 victory over Summers County. The Cavaliers then began to realize something special was brewing and the scoreless streak became a rallying cry for the West defenders in practice. A blistering pace was set in week three at Pocahontas County with a 54-0 win. Webster County was the next to succumb, falling under a 61-0 Cavalier landslide to tie the school record. The Meadow Bridge shut out set a new mark.
After a half-hour of homecoming activities preceding kickoff, Greenbrier West was ready for some football. Meadow Bridge won the coin toss but deferred to the second half. West was chomping at the bit to get started, and they started fast. Ty Nickell carried the Cavaliers from the West 40-yard line to the Wildcat 11 in only three plays. Ethan Holliday got the Cavalier scoring spree started as he weaved his way into the endzone on a counter play for the game’s first score. Hayden Ridgeway chipped in the extra point for a 7-0 lead only 1:29 into the game.
A quick three-and-out was served up by the Cavalier defense, forcing a Meadow Bridge punt. A good kick by Wildcat punter Brycen Sawyers was nullified by a holding call against the Wildcats, giving the Cavaliers the ball at their own 43-yard line. Greenbrier West was ready to take advantage of the Meadow Bridge miscue. Tucker Lilly took a shotgun snap and peered downfield. Kaden Parker streaked directly toward the goal line running directly through the middle of the Wildcat secondary. Lilly delivered a perfect spiral, hitting Parker in stride for a 57-yard touchdown. Ridgeway’s PAT made it 14-0 with 8:02 to go in the first quarter.
The Wildcats thought their fortunes could be changing when a short kickoff gave them great starting field position. They thought wrong. Holliday read a Wildcat sweep perfectly and dropped quarterback Seaton Mullins for a loss at the Meadow Bridge 40-yard line. The Wildcats would take a shot through the air. Seaton took the snap and rolled to his right as Conner Mullins slipped out of the backfield and headed up the numbers. Seaton, pressured by Trent Parker and Cameron White, was chased from behind by Cole Vandall forcing him to get rid of the ball early. Conner had momentarily gotten behind the West defenders but had to turn and wait for Seaton’s pass at the West 30-yard line. Drifting backwards as he outstretched his hands, Conner waited for a reception that wouldn’t come. Holliday raced in Conner’s direction and extended his hands at the same time the ball arrived. Conner tried to make a pirouette catch but Holliday pushed through the throw and made a running interception, his momentum carrying him to the Cavalier 13 as he made a wide circle to change direction at full speed. Holliday ran from the West sideline to the far hash then veered left at the 35-yard line, bringing him back toward the home stands before Seaton finally ran him out of bounds at the Wildcat 30-yard line.
Nickell went to work quickly. A gain of 16 yards on first down was followed by a 12-yard carry to the two-yard line. The Wildcats held Vandall to a 1-yard gain on first and goal, but Nickell punched the ball in the endzone on the next play. Ridgeway extended the lead to 21 with the extra point with 4:13 remaining in the first quarter.
Down by three scores, things didn’t get much better for the Wildcats. The kickoff was bobbled and covered up at the Meadow Bridge 31-yard line. An errant snap followed and forced Seaton to scramble, but he was met by Jacob Nutter and finished off by Vandall. Seaton dropped to throw on second down and was sacked by Vandall and Nutter, dropping the Wildcats to their 15-yard line. Seaton took the direct snap on third down and ground five yards out over the right side but it wasn’t nearly enough. Facing a fourth and twenty-one deep on their own end, Meadow Bridge elected to punt. Sawyers swatted at a high snap and turned to chase down the ball. Cameron White closed quickly and Sawyer elected to kick the ball out of bounds to save a potential West touchdown, drawing a penalty flag for illegal procedure. West head coach Toby Harris declined the penalty, giving the Cavaliers possession at the Wildcat five.
The turnover set up one of the best feel-good moments of the 2022 season. Reney Cordial V, a career lineman and team captain, was set in the backfield as the tailback. Nickell and Vandall led the way as Cordial took the handoff over the left side. Cordial was wrapped up at the goal line but fell into the endzone for his first career touchdown. The crowd erupted and Cordial sprinted past his teammates toward the West sideline, waving his arms wildly in celebration. Cordial didn’t stop at the sideline, running past his teammates toward the bleachers. As he got to the crowd, Cordial half-climbed the fence and raised his arms in celebration as the Cavalier faithful roared their approval. Ridgeway booted through the PAT for a 28-0 advantage with 2:15 to go in the first quarter.
As the game entered the second quarter, the Cavaliers had shut down another Wildcats drive on three downs. Sawyers boomed a 40-yard punt high into the Charmco sky and it appeared West would have good starting position near midfield. Instead, the Wildcats got the break they had sorely needed when Lilly misjudged the ball and muffed it. Conner Mullins slid across the ball, recovering it at the Cavalier 38-yard line. It turned into the biggest shift of field position for the Wildcats all evening, netting them a 43-yard gain.
The advantageous field position wouldn’t last long. Kaiden Sims carried to the right on first down, gaining a yard on a direct-snap sweep. Conner carried left on second down but was turned into the teeth of the West defense by Cole Vandall, gaining two yards. Facing a third and seven, the Wildcats went to the air. Seaton took a shotgun snap and rolled to his right. Nickell blitzed on the snap and was on Seaton’s heels, knocking him out of bounds as he released a pass across his body in the direction of Conner who was inside the West 20-yard line. Holliday, already with an interception and a touchdown to his credit, would further electrify the homecoming crowd. Ethan scooped the ball out of the air at the Cavalier 21-yard line and cut hard to his right. A shoulder shimmy by Holliday at the 32-yard line cleared Wildcat lineman Jadon Butcher. Holliday hit stride at the numbers on the Cavalier sideline and outraced most of the Wildcats. Cole Vandall was out in front of Holliday and position himself between Trip Roles and the ballcarrier. That was all Holliday needed to complete a 79-yard interception return for the touchdown. The Cavalier lead stood at 34-0 with 10:16 to go in the second quarter.
A penalty and a short kickoff would give the Wildcats another shot at a short field, but the offense couldn’t muster anything positive, and the drive stalled back in Wildcat territory at the 49-yard line. A decent punt of any kind would at least pin the Cavaliers deeper in their own territory. Unfortunately for Meadow Bridge, the bounces weren’t going their way. The snap sailed high over Sawyers’ outstretched arm. Sawyers gave chase along with the Cavaliers’ man of the hour, Ethan Holliday. Holliday and Sawyers both dove for the ball at the Wildcats 25-yard line. Darn Vaughan was in pursuit and tried to dive on the ball again with Sawyers near the 20-yard line. In either case, Meadow Bridge had turned the ball over on downs and did so deep in their own territory.
West would go to work at the Wildcat 23-yard line. With three receivers wide to his left and Nickell flanking him directly to his left, Cole took the shotgun snap and faked a handoff to Nickell. Meadow Bridge defensive tackle David Clendenin pressured Vandall, wrapping him up at the waist and dragging him backward toward the ground. As Vandall fell back and just before Sims finished off his tackle, Vandall flipped the ball in the right flat to Nickell who made a one-handed grab and turned upfield. Nickell cruised into the endzone, but a late flag fell at the 11-yard line, wiping the score away, at least momentarily. Replaying first down, the Wildcats got pressure on Vandall. Seaton flushed Vandall to his left and Clendenin completed the sack. Vandall kept the football on the option and gained ten yards, setting up a third and ten for the Cavaliers. Nickell would do the damage from there, running off tackle and bouncing to the outside. Nickell cut inside Holliday’s block at the five-yard line and scored a 20-yard touchdown. Ridgeway’s kick made it 41-0 with 5:56 to go in the first half.
On the next possession, it took three plays for calamity to strike the Wildcats again. A hot, high snap hit Seaton’s facemask and floated high into the air. Cole Vandall, rushing off the right edge, plucked the ball out of the air and squirted out of a gang of Cavaliers and Wildcats. 32-yards later, Vandall had his second career defensive touchdown. 3:45 remained until halftime and West held a commanding 47-0 lead.
The final nail in the coffin came on one of the more flukeish plays you’ll ever see. The Cavaliers had just forced a three-and-out on the Wildcats. After the punt, West had the ball at their own 40-yard line and was prepared to run one play going into halftime. Lilly booted the snap and tried to cover it up immediately, but the ball took two short hops to the right and Nickell scooped it up on the run. Hitting his stride early, Nickell was able to beat the Wildcats to the goal line for an improbable touchdown. Ridgeway’s PAT made it 54-0 with only 12 seconds remaining in the first half.
The scoring run was a milestone for Nickell, pushing him past the 1,000-yard threshold in only five games. That feat tied Trent Walker’s school record that was set in the 2006 season. The 54 points in the first half were also a Cavalier record, breaking the previous mark of 50 set last season in the Webster County game.
The second half was a fast affair with the teams agreeing to play three-minute quarters. The fourth quarter also had a running clock, ending the game quickly after the halftime break. Soon after handshakes, the Cavaliers bolted for their locker room to sing their traditional, post-game, feel good sing along, Bruce Channel’s “Hey Baby.” What happened next can only be described as a signature moment. As the twangs from John Denver’s guitar started the medley to “Country Roads,” the Cavalier players sprinted the hilltop overlooking Cavalier Field. The entire team swayed back and forth and belted out the chorus as the fans looked up at them. It was spontaneous and genuine, an exclamation point to a victorious homecoming night.
Ethan Holliday was selected as the Rock 95 McDonald’s Player of the Game. He also garnered the award following week three.
Before the game, the Cavaliers crowned their homecoming queen and king. Raelyn Palmer, a National Honor Society member, senior cheerleader, basketball player, and track athlete among other honors, was crowned the queen. Meagan Poticher, also a National Honor Society member, National Technical Honor Society, volleyball, basketball, and track athlete was the runner-up. Ty Nickell was selected King and Reney Cordial was the runner-up. All were selected by a vote of the student body.
Meadow Bridge 0 0 0 0 – 0
Greenbrier West 28 26 0 0 – 54
1st – (10:31) Ethan Holliday 11-yard TD rush (Hayden Ridgeway PAT)
1st – (8:02) Kaden Parker 57-yard TD pass from Tucker Lilly (Ridgeway PAT)
1st – (4:13) Ty Nickell 1-yard TD rush (Ridgeway PAT)
1st – (2:15) Reney Cordial 5-yard TD rush (Ridgeway PAT)
2nd – (10:21) Ethan Holliday 79-yard TD Interception return (Kick failed)
2nd – (5:56) Ty Nickell 20-yard TD rush (Ridgeway PAT)
2nd – (3:45) Cole Vandall 32-yard TD Fumble return (Kick failed)
2nd – (0:12) Ty Nickell 60-yard TD Fumble (Ridgeway PAT)
Passing: GW (3-3-66-1-0) Lilly 2-2, 53 TD (57); C. Vandall 1-1, 10: MB (0-3-0-0-2) S. Mullins 0-3, 2INT
Rushing: GW (14-176yds) Nickell 7-158, 3TD (1, 20, 60); Vandall 3-2; Holliday 1-11 TD (11); Cordial 1-5 TD (5); Lilly 1- (-1); Hodge 1-(-1): MB (34-(-33)) Sims 10-21; C. Mullins 10-9; S. Mullins 15-(-21); Sawyers 2-(-42)
Receiving: GW (3-66, TD) Nickell 2-9; K. Parker 1-57 TD (57)
Turnovers: Holliday 2 INT, TD (79) FUM; C. Vandall FUM, TD (32); Vaughan FUM