fairlea — Friday night was like Christmas morning for Greenbrier East football fans, who had waited 21 years since last hosting a playoff football game. But Class AAA No. 9 Spring Mills played the role of the Grinch, breaking the hearts of the No. 8 Spartans and a packed house at Spartan Stadium with a 28-27 win in the opening round of the Class AAA playoffs.
East (7-4) had its chances to claim its first playoff victory since 1996, even after a blocked extra point gave Spring Mills the edge in a game where neither defense seemed to be able to stop the opposition. Trailing by a single point with 6:24 to play in the game, the Spartans took over at midfield with a chance to claim the go-ahead score. But facing a fourth-and-3 at the Spring Mills 43, an illegal procedure call backed the home team up five yards. Then on fourth-and-8 with the outcome hanging in the balance, quarterback Kyle King’s pass to Nate Baker along the Spartan sideline — which would have been good for a first down — was ruled out of bounds.
The Cardinals (7-4) took over and ran out the clock, sending the East faithful home in disappointment.
Individual offensive performances were the story of the day. For the Spartans it was senior running back Marion Lawson who carried the load, picking up 198 yards on 31 carries, as well as a pair of touchdowns. The first trip to the end zone tied the game at 21-all after a 13 play, 66-yard drive to open the second half, and his second from a yard out looked to tie the game at 28-all in the final quarter before Owen Voglesong’s extra point was blocked, giving the visitors the break for which they had been searching.
Lawson became the 14th player in Greenbrier East history to top 1,000 yards on the ground in a season with his second straight big rushing performance.
Spring Mills’ workhorse was quarterback Chase Henson, who rushed for 129 yards on 26 carries and threw for 146 more, including a pair of touchdowns. His first, a 56-yard strike to Jacob Barrick on a first-and-20 with a little more than a minute left in the opening quarter, put his team ahead 21-7, before East answered just before the half with a 30-yard touchdown pass from King to Monquelle Davis.
Henson’s second touchdown throw went to Bernard Newman on a wheel route on the opening play of the fourth quarter, covering 31 yards and giving his team a 28-21 advantage and ending a run of 14 straight points from the home team.
In the end, it was Henson’s legs that closed the deal, as he rushed for a pair of first downs on the final drive, allowing the Cardinals to run out the clock.
Along with an interception on defense, King, East’s senior quarterback, finished 4-of-8 through the air for 66 yards and a pair of touchdown passes. Aside from the first-half strike to Davis, King also found Baker on a 24-yard seam route for the first score of the game.
Spring Mills advanced to play the winner of No. 1 Martinsburg and No. 16 Preston in the second round of the playoffs next week. East’s season came to an end in the opening round of the playoffs for the third time in the last five seasons.
GE (7-4): 7 7 7 6 — 27
SM (7-4): 7 14 0 7 — 28
GE: Nate Baker 24 pass from Kyle King (Kick Owen Voglesong); 2:02
SM: Chase Henson 4 run (Kick Hayden Pack); 0:46
SM: Bernard Newman 5 run (Kick Pack); 6:06
SM: Jacob Barrick 56 pass from Henson (Kick Pack); 1:09
GE: Monquelle Davis 30 pass from King (Kick Voglesong); 0:32
GE: Marion Lawson 6 run (Kick Voglesong); 4:44
SM: Newman 31 pass from Henson (Kick Pack); 11:52
GE: Lawson 1 run (Voglesong Kick Blocked); 9:34
Rushing — GE: Kyle King 6-5, Marion Lawson 31-198, Brandon Honaker 1-2, Quentin Wilson 2-17; SM: Aiden Smoot 4-7, Chase Henson 26-129, Zilan Williams 4-8, Bernard Newman 8-41.
Passing — GE: King 4-8-1-66, Monquelle Davis 0-1-0-0; SM: Henson 5-14-1-146.
Receiving — GE: Nate Baker 1-24. Brandon Honaker 1-6, Monquelle Davis 1-30, Chris Hulmes 1-6; SM: Jacob Martin 1-18, Jacob McCarren 1-17, Jacob Barrick 1-50, Bernard Newman 2-45.