By Gary Fauber
Assistant Sports Editor
ST. MARYS —
When Malik Boatwright fumbled on the game’s opening possession, Greenbrier West fans can be forgiven for any here-we-go-again reaction.
Turnovers cost the Cavaliers last year in a playoff loss at eventual state champion Wahama.
Not this time. Boatwright and — as usual — the Greenbrier West defense made sure of that.
Boatwright made some big plays on both sides of the ball, the defense continued its shutout streak and the No. 7 Cavaliers advanced in the state playoffs with an 18-0 win over second-rated St. Marys Saturday in a Class A quarterfinal game.
The win puts West (11-1) in the semifinals for the first time since 2010, when it lost at Magnolia. This time, the Cavaliers will be at home — against Magnolia. The No. 11 Blue Eagles beat No. 6 Moorefield 37-7 on the road Saturday.
There will be football in Charmco one more time, thanks to the formula that has worked so well all year.
The Cavs’ defense has not been scored upon in eight quarters this postseason. Notre Dame scored on a kickoff return in West’s 54-7 win in the first round.
A week after holding the Fighting Irish to 49 yards of offense, West allowed St. Marys just 71. Its relentless pass rush and penetration again made it difficult for the quarterbacks to run plays. Michael Stout and Evan Illar were sacked a combined five times, three by West senior Chris Gabbert.
“This might have been our best (performance),” Boatwright said. “Once we get focused, we are hard to beat. We tried hard to get this win.”
It was about more than shutting the opponent down. This time, the Cavs also got points from their defense.
It all started with Boatwright’s interception late in the first quarter that put the Cavaliers on the board. St. Marys (11-1) started a drive in West territory at the 32-yard line after deflecting a West punt.
The Blue Devils were called for holding on first down, then Boatwright read Stout perfectly. He was standing right in the ball’s path at the 47 and returned it 53 yards for a touchdown and 7-0 lead with 1:32 left in the first.
West really asserted itself defensively in the third quarter.
The Devils, who switched to Illar at quarterback “trying to create a spark” according to coach Jodi Mote, were moving the ball well on the first drive of the second half. A 36-yard gain by senior Noah Spitzer gave St. Marys first down at the West 23.
That was the last time the Devils would mount any kind of offensive resistance.
After Logan Brown sacked Illar on third down, St. Marys faced a fourth-and-13 at the 26. With Illar in the shotgun, the snap soared over his head. Illar chased the ball and fell on it, and West took over after a 26-yard loss.
From there, the Cavs were firmly entrenched in the Devils’ heads. St. Marys had more bad snaps, and Illar rushed passes and made a bad pitch — all factors that led to a pair of Greenbrier West safeties in the third quarter.
On its second drive of the period — which started at its 7 after a fair catch penalty — St. Marys faced second-and-9 at the 8. Illar tried to pitch to David Gray, who could not come up with the ball, which squirted into the end zone for a Greenbrier West safety and 16-0 lead.
The second safety came on the Devils’ very next possession. Backed up to his 13 after an intentional grounding penalty, Illar dropped back into the end zone and hurried another pass — to offensive lineman Noah Shultz.
The ineligible receiver penalty in the end zone resulted in another 2 points for West and an 18-0 lead. The play was the last of the third quarter, and was run untimed after the grounding call on the previous play.
“We were a little concerned about their offensive line size,” West coach Lewis McClung said. “But I thought our D-line played great. The defense, overall, just gave up a couple of big plays. You take those away and they probably played about as well as they could possibly play.”
Boatwright overcame his early turnover to take over in the first half. In addition to his interception return, Boatwright keyed the Cavaliers’ only scoring drive of the game.
On fourth-and-5 at the St. Marys 34, Boatwright appeared to be stopped at the line of scrimmage. But he broke away from that tackle, spun out of another and got just enough yardage for the first down.
West later faced second-and-21 at the 30 when, after a timeout, backup quarterback Dustin Yoakum lined up under center and Boatwright at halfback. Boatwright took the pitch and, instead of running, fired a pass to senior Mikey Goddard, who got behind the defense for a 28-yard gain to the 2.
On fourth down, Boatwright carried in from the 1 for a 14-0 West lead with 4:46 left before halftime.
“Nobody was expecting it,” Boatwright said of the halfback option. “It was a big play we wanted to make, and coach (Jeremy) Tincher (the offensive coordinator) was up in the press box and saw it.”
Getting past the opening fumble and staying focused was big for the Cavaliers.
“We felt like, last year, we had Wahama where we wanted them and we didn’t finish the deal,” McClung said. “We talked about that at halftime. We really talked about it all week, being able to finish. We’ve got to get into position and we’ve got to seal the deal.”
Other than that drive, the Cavs were able to mount little offense against a St. Marys defense that shut out four opponents in the regular season. West was held to 138 yards of total offense.
For St. Marys, which was celebrating the 50th anniversary of the 1963 team that went undefeated and unscored upon, the game — and, thus, the season — came down to offensive mistakes.
“This time of year, that’s what it usually comes down to,” Mote said. “It just seemed like when it rained, it poured today. It was one of those days. But it still doesn’t take away from what those boys accomplished this season.”
The date and time for West’s semifinal against Magnolia will be determined today.
— E-mail: gfauber@register or follow on Twitter @GaryFauber.
GW (11-1) 7 7 4 0 — 18
SM (11-1) 0 0 0 0 — 0
GW—Malik Boatwright 53 interception return (Bradden Isaacs kick), 1:12.
GW—Boatwright 1 run (Isaacs kick), 4:46.
GW—Safety, ball fumbled out of end zone, 5:10.
GW—Safety, penalty committed in end zone, :00.
RUSHING — GW: Chase McClung 12-38, Boatwright 19-27, Corey Cox 13-26, Jordan Grimmett 3-(-2), Jordan Tincher 3-(-4); SM: Jeremy Pratt 6-43, David Gray 13-27, Noah Spitzer 5-25, Corey Stewart 2-1, Evan Illar 2-(-11), Michael Stout 4-(-16).
PASSING — GW: Boatwright 3-3-0-53; SM: Stout 1-6-1-21, Illar 3-10-1-18.
RECEIVING — GW: Mike Goddard 2-52, Dustin Yoakum 1-1; SM: Spitzer 2-30, Gray 2-9.
TAKEAWAYS — GW: Boatwright (INT), Yoakum (INT); SM: Noah Shultz (FR), Robby Binegar (FR).