By Cam Huffman
Jalen Jones wasn’t the best player on the field Friday night as No. 16 Oak Hill battled No. 1 Cabell Midland in the opening round of the Class AAA playoffs.
That’s saying something.
The Red Devil star did his usual damage — rushing for 148 yards and two touchdowns, catching three passes for 20 yards and coming up with a huge return of 77 yards — but Cabell Midland’s David Gaydosz stole the show.
The 6-foot senior ran for 205 yards and three touchdowns — and that was just in the first half. He ended the game with 268 yards on just 14 carries as the Knights (11-0) knocked off the Red Devils (7-4) 52-20 to advance to the round of eight in Class AAA.
Cabell Midland will play area rival Spring Valley next weekend. The No. 8 seed knocked off No. 9 Wheeling Park 31-7 Friday night.
“We didn’t play good early,” said Midland head coach Luke Salmons. “We had a lot of mental mistakes, and we were a little bit too hyped. But we won, and that’s all that matters. We know what we did wrong, but we beat a 7-3 team and we’ll be better next week.
“We know (Spring Valley) pretty well. But that’s good. It’s good for the community, and it’s good for high school football. They’ll be ready to play. Our kids will be ready to play. And it should be fun.”
Gaydosz will certainly draw a lot of attention throughout the Knights’ playoff run, but Midland showed Friday it’s far from a one-man team. Kasey Thomas, alternating between quarterback and running back throughout the contest, rushed for 119 yards on 11 carries, and bruising fullback Lowell Farley plowed through the Oak Hill defense for 71 yards and three touchdowns, giving the home team great balance.
“The running backs a lot of times get all the credit, but that o-line’s pretty good,” said veteran Oak Hill head coach Eddie Souk. “They’ve got a good line, they have a good scheme and they do a good job.”
The Red Devils had a chance to really make things interesting, and they were smelling a monumental upset when, down just 16, they took the opening drive of the second half 70 yards down to the Oak Hill 15-yard line. But Jones lost 6 yards on a third-down play, as the Knights defense sniffed out a pitch, and quarterback Deon Martin couldn’t handle the snap on fourth down. Midland recovered a fumble at its own 39-yard line and proceeded to quickly drive 61 yards, capped by a Farley 1-yard run, to take a 35-12 lead and finally break the Red Devils’ will.
“It seemed like every time we got something going, we shot ourselves in the foot,” said Souk. “We made a few adjustments at halftime, and we came out and were taking care of what we were doing. But the football bounces funny ways, and everything bounced (the Knights’) way.
“But they’re a good team, and they deserved what they got.”
Farley scored again, this time from 25 yards out, early in the fourth quarter, before the Knights found their final touchdown on the game on a 24-yard pass over the middle from Theodore Petitt to Stephen Matthews — one of just four passes the quarterback attempted all game — giving Midland its biggest lead at 49-20.
Jones, running out of the Wildcat formation, marched his team down for a late touchdown, finishing it off with a 17-yard run, but Christopher Molina kicked a 27-yard field goal with 27 seconds on the clock to account for the final tally.
“We did what we needed to do,” said Salmons. “I thought we played a lot better in the second half, and we had three or four kids run the ball really well.”
Oak Hill had chances in the opening quarter to control the momentum, forcing a Cabell Midland turnover on the first possession, getting the ball in Knight territory, and then stopping Midland on back-to-back plays from the 2-yard line to hold off another scoring chance as the Knights struggled to get things going.
But Oak Hill couldn’t turn those plays into points, and with 2 minutes to go in the opening quarter, Gaydosz began to take control. His first big run was a 51-yard scamper just before the end of the first quarter, when he shot through the line like a cannon ball, ran into a wall of Red Devil defenders around the 15-yard line and then somehow broke free to cross the goal line and break a scoreless tie.
The next time he touched the ball he rumbled 60 yards for his second score, this time running almost untouched through the middle of the Oak Hill line and then outrunning the Red Devil safeties to the end zone.
Making it three touches for three scores, Gaydosz went 46 yards with eight minutes to play in the first half, capping off the Midland first-half scoring, which also included a Farley 3-yard run after an Oak Hill fumble.
The visitors refused to go away, though, breaking a 21-0 Cabell Midland shutout with a 3-yard Jones run, which followed his electric 77-yard kickoff return.
“He’s a good player,” Salmons said of Oak Hill’s offensive star. “We didn’t wrap up and tackle very well, but good players make you look like that sometimes. He’s a good player, and we take our hats off to him.”
Oak Hill scored again down 28-6 after an 80-yard drive that ended with a K.K. Goodman 3-yard run.
A Matt Wynn interception in the end zone thwarted another Midland scoring chance, and Oak Hill entered the halftime locker room down 28-12 and came out of the break with some confidence.
“We played our tails off, but we just ran into a team that was a little bit better,” said Souk. “That’s nothing to be ashamed of. Our kids played hard and never quit, and Cabell Midland’s beaten everybody they’ve played.”
Despite Friday’s result, against a bigger, stronger team, the 2012 campaign had to be considered a success for the Red Devils. In their first season back in Class AAA in more than a decade, Oak Hill was nine points shy of a 9-1 regular season. Souk’s club lost the season opener 43-36 to Elkins and fell just a point short against AA rival Bluefield, losing 51-50 on a last-second field goal.
The only lopsided regular season defeat came on the road to Lewis County, a 37-19 setback.
“I think it was a pretty good run,” said Souk. “A lot of people downed us, because they wanted us to get in the MSAC and this and that. But we are who we are. We’re one of the smallest AAA teams in the state, and I think we made a statement that we can play with anybody.”
Cabell Midland 52, Oak Hill 20
OH (7-4) 0 12 0 8 — 20
CM (11-0) 7 21 7 17 — 52
CM: David Gaydosz 51 run (Christopher Molina kick) 2:02
CM: Gaydosz 60 run (Molina kick) 11:09
CM: Lowell Farley 3 run (Molina kick) 9:06
OH: Jalen Jones 3 run (Jones run fails) 8:45
CM: Gaydosz 46 run (Molina kick) 8:04
OH: K.K. Goodman 3 run (Jones run fails) 1:22
CM: Farley 1 run (Molina kick) 3:32
CM: Farley 25 run (Molina kick) 11:23
CM: Stephen Matthews 24 pass from Theodore Petitt (Molina kick) 7:06
OH: Jones 17 run (Jones run) 4:58
CB: Molina 27 FG 0:27
RUSHING — OH: Jalen Jones 26-148, K.K. Goodman 9-58, Ray Sullivan 4-6, Deon Marion 7(-28), Jarrell Green 1-4. CM: Kasey Thomas 11-119, Stephen Matthews 6-20, David Gaydosz 15-268, Lowell Farley 12-71, Theodore Petitt 3-3, Tre Martin 1-3, Stephen Donahue 1-11.
PASSING — OH: Marion 4-8-0-22-0, Sullivan 1-1-0-30-0. CM: Petitt 2-4-1-49-1.
RECEIVING — OH: Jones 3-20, Green 1-2, Marion 1-30. CM: Thomas 1-25, Matthews 1-24.
TURNOVERS — OH: Antonio Gray (FR), Matt Wynn (INT). CM: Jesse Myers (FR).