The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

High School Sports

November 3, 2012

Applemen muscle to win over Tigers

PRINCETON — No. 11 Musselman’s 73-0 loss to Martinsburg last week suddenly seems like ages ago.

On Friday night at Anne S. Hunnicutt Stadium, the Applemen (7-3) were the ones dishing out the punishment. They didn’t score 73, but they also didn’t have their starters in the game for most of the fourth quarter as they racked up 697 yards of total offense in a 65-34 thrashing of Shady Spring (5-5) in the final week of the regular season.

“Week 10 is important no matter what happens in Week 9,” said Musselman head coach Denny Price. “We didn’t practice at all this week, so we just played this one cold turkey and played pretty well.”

On offense, Musselman did seemingly no wrong.

When the Applemen wanted to run, it was like sprinting gassers in practice, with little resistance to stop their progress. Josh Ferguson did much of the damage, rushing for 156 yards and two touchdowns — not to mention a 76-yard kickoff return for a score — but he wasn’t alone. Michael Keller also ran free, as his more powerful style led to 109 yards rushing on just 11 carries. In total, Musselman ended the game with 352 yards on the ground on just 37 carries.

When the Tigers brought their defenders up in the box — a dangerous move anyway with Musselman’s speed once its backs got into the secondary — the Applemen had few problems throwing it over the heads of the Shady defenders. Quarterback Caleb Dembeck threw just 15 passes, but he completed 11 of them for 316 yards and five touchdowns. He found the end zone twice in the opening quarter, once with his arm and the other with a 2-yard run, putting his team ahead 14-0 and setting the tone for the rest of the frigid evening.

“That’s the way we’ve been all season,” said a proud Price of his team’s performance. “We have some speed in the backfield, our quarterback is really smooth and we have some guys who can catch. That allows us to do a lot of things.”

The Tiger offense tried to keep pace, looking for its first Class AAA win of the season, but even All-State quarterback Adam Weeks’ arm wasn’t enough. The senior, still looking for a spot to continue his career at the college level, did his job, throwing for 353 yards and four touchdowns — including 152 yards through the air to Jordan Palchesko.

“I thought Adam Weeks played a heck of a game,” said Tiger head coach Vince Culicerto. “This was senior night for him, and he played his best football. He was clutch for us.”

A late first-half touchdown connection between the two allowed the Tigers to enter the locker room with both momentum and hope, down just 28-14, and they answered a pair of Musselman scores to begin the second half with a 32-yard pass from Weeks to Nathan Gillian to make the score 42-21. But there was just no stopping the Applemen offense.

Musselman never panicked, and every time it sent its offense on the field it expected — and usually found — more points. Even with the second team in the game, Deonte Glover scored a fourth-quarter touchdown, set up by a 42-yard Alex Reiser scamper up the middle, and in preparation for the playoffs, Darrin Zombro even kicked a 25-yard field goal on a first down play late in the game.

“Musselman’s just super talented,” said Culicerto. “That’s the first time we’ve seen a team like that. Their speed was something else. We got our licks in there, and the kids fought hard.”

Musselman, which is expected to jump up somewhere around No. 9 or 10 when the WVSSAC ratings and playoff brackets are released Sunday, will take a great deal of momentum into the postseason. Its only two losses to West Virginia clubs this year came to Martinsburg and Parkersburg South. The other was the season opener at Skyline (Va.).

“I feel pretty good about it,” said Price. “We came off a bad loss and weren’t able to practice this week. Our kids made a long trip on a bus and got off and played a good game. You have to feel pretty good about that.”

Shady finished its first year as a Class AAA member with five AA wins and five AAA losses.

“It’s disappointing that we couldn’t get a AAA win, but we took a big step and took it on,” said Culicerto. “We’ll work hard and go back at it next year.”

— E-mail: chuffman@register-herald.com and follow on Twitter @RegisterHeraldRH

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