By J. Daniel Rollins
Register-Herald Sports Writer
NEW RICHMOND —
It’s officially basketball season in Wyoming County.
The No. 6 Wyoming East Warriors (9-2) were defeated by the No. 11 Nicholas County Grizzlies (9-2) 35-14 Friday night in the opening round of the WVSSAC Class AA playoffs. The Grizzlies will advance to the second round, where they await the winner of today’s Bluefield/Ravenswood contest.
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It was a wet and soggy night in New Richmond, as rain storms moved in through the area just minutes before kickoff and continued throughout the night, making it tough for either team to air the ball out as they had hoped.
But the Grizzlies had a running back that was up to the task of picking up the slack.
Wil Mayes, the powerful Nicholas County back, put the team on his shoulders in the first half, scoring two of his three touchdowns and leading his team to victory.
The 5-foot-11, 190-pound junior picked up 146 yards on 24 carries.
“There’s a guy that runs downhill very well,” Nicholas County coach Gene Morris said. “Sometimes guys that are a little more elusive kind of lose that ability when the weather conditions and footing is how it happened to be.”
Mayes didn’t seem to have too much trouble with the muddy field, gaining positive yardage on all but one of his 24 carries.
“I enjoy it,” Mayes said of playing in the mud. “It does make things a little tougher, but it’s still fun.”
Mayes and the rest of the Grizzly backfield’s job was made a little easier by the play of the offensive line — Austin Hill, Brandon Jones, Drew Amick, Will Lemasters and Cameron Woods.
“I couldn’t have done it without my line,” Mayes said. “They controlled the line and made the holes, and I just ran the ball.”
In fact it was Hill, a 6-foot-2, 270-pound monster, who had perhaps the biggest play of the game early in the second half.
Leading the Warriors 21-14, Nicholas County quarterback Tyler Sagraves dropped back to pass, but the wet ball slipped out of his hand.
That was when the senior center, who also serves as the team’s kicker, scooped the ball up and ran 26 yards to the end zone, hurdling a Wyoming East defender in the process, and putting the Grizzlies up by two touchdowns.
“I just kind of was in the right place in the right time and saw the ball come out,” Hill said. “I picked it up and got some great blocks from the guys and ended up scoring a touchdown.”
Hill also made a big play in the fourth quarter, this time on the opposite side of the ball.
Wyoming East punter Brian Witt managed to get a punt off, but it hit a charging Hill, who recovered at the 20-yard line.
That set up a four play drive that ended in another Mayes touchdown to finally put the Grizzlies comfortably ahead.
“I thought our offensive line did a heck of a job in that second half,” Morris said. “We got some good breaks, we blocked a punt and I thought we executed well. Our players didn’t let the weather bother them any. I was pretty proud of them.”
Despite only finding the end zone two times, the Warriors did have their moments, including a 57-yard pass down the right side of the field from junior quarterback Aaron Griffith to senior receiver Christian Hedinger, that eventually set up a Coty Bishop touchdown.
“I think we’ll take a lot of positives from this,” Wyoming East coach Gary Poindexter said. “We’ll get back in the weight room. We’ve got a lot of young good kids coming up, but we’re also losing a lot of good seniors.”
— E-mail: jrollins
@register-herald.com and follow on Twitter at @JDanielRollins.
NC 7 14 7 7 35
WE 0 14 0 0 14
NC: Wil Mayes 41 yard run, (Austin Hill kick)
WE: Coty Bishop 4 yard run, (Tristan Jones kick)
NC: Mayes 19 yard run, (Hill kick)
NC: Tyler Sagraves 14 yard run, (Hill kick)
WE: Bishop 7 yard run, (Jones kick)
NC: Austin Hill 26 yard run, (Hill kick)
NC: Mayes 3 yard run, (Hill kick)
Rushing – NC: Tyler Sagraves 13-62, Andrew Woods 3-23, Josh Jarvis 2-0, Wil Mayes 24-146. WE: Coty Bishop 5-8, Christian Hedinger 1-(-1), Aaron Griffith 9-25, Brian Witt 1-1, Jacob Summe 10-23, Ben Ferguson 1-16.
Passing – NC: Tyler Sagraves 10-14-70-1. WE: Aaron Griffith 6-17-54-2, Brian Witt 0-1-0-0.
Receiving – NC: Jacob Hopkins 1-0, Joe Amendola 1-7, Jared Price 1-19, Wil Mayes 2-16, Ryan Belmont 1-8, Josh Gregory 1-7. WE: Christian Hedinger 3-49, Jacob Dulcie 1-5, Jacob Summe 1-(-4), Nik Walker 1-4.
Takeaways – NC: Joe Amendola (2 INT). WE: Colten Cooms INT.