MARTINSBURG – Following Jefferson’s 42-3 loss to unbeaten, and top-ranked, Martinsburg last Friday night at Cobourn Field, Cougars’ coach Craig Hunter made one thing very clear to his team, in the post-game huddle.
He told them their efforts for a turnaround season have not been wasted, just because of this setback.
“This game definitely did not define our season,” Hunter said. “There is still a lot of football left to play.”
While it ended up being a difficult night for Jefferson, Washington (4-4) won its second straight game, holding off an improved Musselman squad at Terry L. Marcus Stadium, 29-27.
After going 3-6 last season, Hunter and his coaching staff knew Jefferson had what it needed to turn its football fortunes around. Goals were set.
One of them was to return to the WVSSAC Class AAA playoffs, Hunter said. At 7-1, that prospect looks good.
“Those goals are still intact,” Hunter said. “We also have a chance to get a home playoff game. That’s something else we’re shooting for.”
The Cougars close out their 2021 home schedule against Hedgesville this Friday, then finish on the road at county-rival Washington on Friday, Nov. 5 at Terry L. Marcus Stadium.
The immediate task at hand for Jefferson is to fix the things, which didn’t go as planned, in the loss to Martinsburg.
“We had some missed opportunities,” Hunter said. “Some missed tackles, not taking care of the ball like we should have, those kind of things. These are things we have to work on.”
Martinsburg (9-0) has always carried a lot of firepower on both sides of the ball. The Bulldogs showed all of it last Friday, but Jefferson did not go down easy.
While the Bulldogs struck early, scoring on a 2-yard run by Murphy Clement with 9 minutes, 43 seconds left in the first quarter, Jefferson took the ensuing kickoff at its own 44-yard line and drove to the Martinsburg 14, where Oren Humphries kicked a 29-yard field goal, cutting the Bulldogs’ lead to 7-3.
That, however, was all the closer the Cougars were going to get to the Bulldogs.
Martinsburg opened up a 22-3 lead on Jefferson at the half. After three quarters, the Bulldogs were up 28-3.
Unlike some of Martinsburg’s other wins this season, the game didn’t go into running time until the fourth quarter, following a 75-yard return of a blocked field by the Bulldogs’ Kam Shallis.
Martinsburg amassed 360 yards in total offense, compared to 109 by the Cougars. In that respect, Hunter wasn’t all that surprised, given the nature of Martinsburg’s harassing defense.
“They didn’t do anything differently,” he said. “We knew it was going to be tough running the ball against their defense. We also didn’t get a lot of opportunities in our passing game.”
Quarterback Sammy Roberts completed 10 of 31 passes for 91 yards for Jefferson with one sack. Isaiah Fritts, Spencer Powell and Keyshawn Robinson each had three catches.
The longest completion for Roberts was a 20-yarder to Fritts in the third quarter. Roberts did try a few long passes against Martinsburg, but those tries fell incomplete.
Fritts did give the Cougars some excitement on defense when he returned an Ezra Bagent interception 31 yards in the fourth quarter, helping to set up what appeared to be a routine, 23-yard field goal attempt by Humphries.
But Martinsburg’s special teams put a strong rush on the attempt, blocking Humphries’ kick, which was scooped up by Shallis at the Bulldogs’ 25-yard line and returned for what would be the final touchdown of the game.
“I thought we competed well for, like, around the first quarter,” Roberts said. “But after that, we missed the little opportunities and made some mistakes. What we need to do, now, is fix those mistakes.”
Roberts is confident any failures Jefferson had last Friday against Martinsburg will be turned into success for the team later on.
In last Friday’s homecoming win against Musselman, the Patriots were up against an improved Applemen squad. Most of Musselman’s team is back from injuries sustained earlier in the season.
“They were about as full strength as they’ve been all year, back to week one,” Washington coach Glen Simpson said. “Our defense did a great job against them. They really did.”
Washington had 181 yards rushing. Rodrigo Delgado was the leading rusher for the Patriots, with 80 yards on 18 carries and two touchdowns.
Tyler Meisenzahl rushed for 74 yards on 16 carries and a touchdown for Washington. Chase Crutchley also had a touchdown for the Patriots.
Hannah Hill kicked three extra points.
Koltin Childress had nine tackles for the Patriots, including five solo tackles.
“Our first half last Friday was probably the best first half of football that we’ve played since I’ve been here,” Simpson said. “In the second half, there were some old habits that creeped back up on us that we saw on film. We’re going to stress again that you have to do these good things all the time.
“When you have good habits and you put them into practice, you put them into play, then, you know, things are just so much easier for you.”