POINT PLEASANT, W.Va. — Winning isn’t easy, which makes perfection all the more sweeter.
It took four hard-fought quarters, but the Point Pleasant football team achieved perfection for the fourth time in school history Saturday afternoon following a 31-21 victory over visiting Lewis County in the Week 11 regular season finale at Ohio Valley Bank Track and Field in Mason County.
The Big Blacks (10-0) never trailed in the contest, but the hosts struggled to find any kind of offensive rhythm in the first half — which allowed the Minutemen (7-3) to hang around in a one possession game at the break. PPHS took its largest lead of the game late in the third quarter at 21-7, but Lewis County responded with 14 of the next 17 points to close to within 24-21 with 3:55 left in regulation.
Point, however, responded when it needed to most — as the Big Blacks marched 80 yards to paydirt on their ensuing possession to drive the proverbial nail in the coffin. Cody Mitchell’s seven-yard run at the 1:14 mark allowed the hosts to wrap up the scoring and secure a 31-21 triumph.
The Big Blacks outgained the Minutemen 450-226 in total yards of offense and claimed a 20-8 overall edge in first downs, but a first half pick-six and a minus-2 turnover differential also made for an eventful day on the sidelines.
Afterward, seventh-year PPHS coach Dave Darst noted that it took everyone doing a role for 48 minutes to make this victory a reality. He also acknowledged that it was a very fitting end to what has become an historic 2013 campaign.
“It was just a fantastic day for Point Pleasant football. Our kids never quit,” Darst said. “We had two touchdowns called back on penalties, and a lot of teams could have just quit at that point and said it’s not our day. We didn’t do that. We just had a bunch of people step up and make plays when we needed them.
“I’m proud for our coaches, our players and our community. This is a nice reward for all of the hard work and preparation that we’ve put in to this point. A lot of people didn’t think we could put together a competitive AAA program, and I’m not saying we’re going to win the state championship, but we are one of only two unbeatens in the regular season in Class AAA. We are going to show up every week and play competitive football.”
The win allowed the Big Blacks to secure their second unbeaten regular season in the last three years and also join the 2011, 1979 and 1969 squads with perfect records. The 1962 team at PPHS also went unbeaten, but did finish the season with one tie.
Point Pleasant also secured its sixth straight postseason berth and the program’s 11th playoff appearance overall with the decision, which helped Point extend its regular season winning streak to 14 consecutive games. Including the playoffs, PPHS is now 38-8 over the last four seasons — which is also a program best.
For seniors Colin Peal, Brandon Edge, Austen Toler, Zach Hardman, Zach Stewart, Levi Doolittle, Thomas Mitchell, Colin McDermitt, Brycen Reymond, Chase Walton, Levi Russell, Luke Halstead and Tyler McDaniel, it was not a bad way to wrap up your final regular season home game.
“It’s a special day for those seniors. They’re not a big group by the numbers, but they have been part of more wins in this program than any other class in the history of this school,” Darst said. “They are good kids that deserve something like this, and really it’s a tribute to their families. They’ve been raised right and taught the value of hard work, and here at Point Pleasant — it’s about hard work.
“We have to make ourselves better to compete against the bigger schools, and we are doing that right now.”
Early on, Point Pleasant appeared to be off to its traditional normal start. The hosts forced a three-and-out on the opening possession for LCHS, then marched 43 yards in eight plays on the ensuing drive to claim a 7-0 advantage. But, it was how Point scored that first TD that should have signaled that something wasn’t quite right.
On their way into the end zone, the Big Blacks coughed up the ball and was lost in a pile of two teams. PPHS wideout Jon Peterson came up with the fumble recovery in the end zone at the 6:28 mark, allowing Point to take the early lead.
Lewis County followed with a nine-play drive that resulted in a punt, but Point Pleasant followed with its biggest mistake of the day three plays later. Quarterback Aden Yates threw a screen pass that was picked off by Brandon Moneypenny, who returned it 38 yards to make it a seven-all contest with 25 seconds left in the opening stanza.
The Big Blacks answered on their ensuing possession, as the hosts marched 60 yards in seven plays to reclaim the lead at 14-7 after Mitchell scored on a 12-yard scamper with 9:56 left in the first half. Neither team scored during the rest of the second canto, allowing PPHS to take a seven-point lead into the intermission.
Offensively, Point Pleasant dominated the opening 24 minutes of play — yet only owned a one-possession lead. PPHS outgained the Minutemen 191-16 in total yards and held a 10-2 edge in first downs. PPHS also had two turnovers before the break, compared to only one for LCHS.
Point claimed its biggest lead of the day with 3:04 left in the third quarter after Mitchell capped a six-play, 38-yard drive with a two-yard scoring plunge, making it a 21-7 contest. The score remained that way headed into the fourth quarter.
The Minutemen clawed back into the game with 7:15 left in regulation, as Ryan Carson capped an eight-play, 42-yard drive with a two-yard scoring run that made it a 21-14 contest.
PPHS answered the bell on its ensuing possession, as the hosts drove 18 yards in six plays to get the ball down to the LCHS eight yard line. Senior Colin Peal — who missed a 35-yard field goal on the opening drive of the second half — connected from 26 yards out, giving Point a 24-14 cushion with 4:10 left in the contest.
On Lewis County’s next drive, the guests needed only one play to pull back to within a possession. Malik Conway took a double-reverse handoff and rumbled 68 yards down the right sideline to paydirt — making it a 24-21 contest with 3:55 left in regulation.
That, however, was as close as the Minutemen would be the rest of the way. Point followed with its game-clinching drive that was finished off by Mitchell’s seven-yard run, and the celebration at OVB Field was on.
Point Pleasant finished the day with 390 rushing yards on 49 carries, with Mitchell leading the charge with 193 yards and three touchdowns on 24 attempts. Cody Marcum was next with 132 yards on 10 totes, while Chase Walton added 49 yards on 11 tries.
Aden Yates finished the day 5-of-11 passing for 60 yards, including one interception and zero touchdowns. The junior also had 16 rushing yards on four attempts. Mitchell led the wideouts with three catches for 40 yards, followed by Walton and Austen Toler with 11 and nine yards, respectively, on a catch apiece.
The hosts committed three turnovers and were flagged eight times for 75 yards. Point Pleasant also had two punts for an average of 24 yards each. Mitchell had the Big Blacks’ lone takeaway after a second quarter interception, and Peal was a perfect 4-for-4 on PAT kicks.
LCHS finished the game with 165 rushing yards on 34 attempts, with Mark Metzer leading the guests with 60 yards on 16 carries. Conway also added 57 yards on four tries, while Ryan Carson chipped in 12 yards on three totes.
Skyler Carlton was 7-of-14 passing for 61 yards, including one interception and zero touchdowns. Carlton also rushed six times for 31 yards. Brandon Robinson led the wideouts with three grabs for 37 yards.
The Minutemen were penalized eight times for 43 yards and had only one turnover in the setback. LCHS also punted five times for an average of 33 yards.
Point Pleasant must now wait and see both who and when they will play next weekend. Early indicators are that Logan — who PPHS defeated 37-21 in Week 3 — will be coming to OVB Field for Week 12. Complete playoff brackets and schedules will be decided on Sunday afternoon.