WAYNE, W.Va. - Nathan Spurlock had a simple plan Friday night."I just kept my head up and looked for the holes and they were there and I hit them as hard as I could,'' said the Wayne junior running back, who started in the backfield for the first time this season against Robert C. Byrd in the Class AA semifinals.Indeed, the 5-foot-8, 180-pound Spurlock, who started in place of his brother Brandon Spurlock, found running room time and time again in churning out 208 yards on 24 carries as the No. 1 Pioneers played keepaway from the No. 4 Eagles in an 18-0 victory. A crowd of about 3,000 attended at Pioneer Field at Wayne High School.Wayne (13-0), the defending state champion, will take on No. 2 Keyser (12-1) in next week's state championship at Wheeling Island Stadium. The Golden Tornado defeated Bridgeport 42-14 in the other AA semifinal Friday.
The Pioneers weren't at full strength against RCB (11-2) without senior Brandon Spurlock, who had rolled up 1,859 yards and 25 touchdowns, and sophomore Mason Hodge, who had 532 yards and 10 scores. They were sidelined by injuries suffered in last week's quarterfinal victory.Hodge, though, started at his linebacker position and punted but didn't carry the ball.Nathan Spurlock and sophomore quarterback Grant Ferguson, who added 111 yards on 12 attempts on the ground, picked up the slack as Wayne gouged the Eagles for 423 yards on 60 rushing attempts."It's really all just teamwork,'' said Nathan Spurlock. "We practice hard, we run over players over and over and just keep going at it. The line did great. We worked together.''Spurlock said his older brother Brandon gave him encouragement all week and before the game.He was like, 'You can do this,' '' said Nathan, who has started at linebacker all season but played only sparingly in the backfield as a blocking fullback."I said, 'I feel it. I'm going to hold onto the ball and run as hard as I can.' I play with my heart. I was nervous at first, then I got used to it. I went out there and had fun.''"I had no doubt what kind of effort Nathan would put into it,'' added Wayne coach Tom Harmon. "The kid's got the heart the size of a lion.''Wayne's defense forced RCB to punt seven times and held it to four first downs and 56 yards of total offense. Eagles sophomore Ben D'Annunzio and senior Tre Cox, a pair of 1,000-yard rushers, could only manage 23 and 5 yards, respectively."We were just sterling,'' said Harmon of his defense. "We took away everything they wanted to do. We didn't let them push us around up front even though we were outsized by 40 or 50 pounds per man."It was a great Wayne victory and effort. When you play a team that spreads you out all over the field and has guys that can score and you're able to tackle them in the open field, that says a little bit about our athleticism. And then if you can't throw it over our heads, there's not a whole lot left. That's a great football team we just beat.''
After RCB turned the ball over on downs on its first possession, Ferguson's 13-yard TD gave Wayne the lead for good at 6-0 with 2:32 left in the opening quarter. He faked a handoff, turning his back to the line of scrimmage, then whirled around and ran straight up the middle. Ferguson had 44 yards on three carries on the drive.Pioneers junior tailback Kurt Arthur scored from 5 yards out as Wayne went ahead 12-0 with 6:24 remaining in the second period. Ferguson hit senior split end Zack Cassidy on a 43-yard pass to the RCB's 7-yard line to set up the score.RCB forced a fumble right before halftime but went three and out as the first half ended.RCB created several openings in the second half but couldn't take advantage.Wayne punted on its opening possession of the third quarter, but the Eagles punted it right back. On the ensuing possession, RCB forced another Pioneer fumble but turned the ball over on downs.Wayne finally finished off RCB on senior running back James Egnor's 36-yard scoring burst off left tackle to set the final score with 7:57 to go in the game.
"We hung in there,'' said RCB first-year coach Bruce Carey, "but we just couldn't put anything together. We couldn't sustain a drive."We just played defense the whole night to where they were wearing us down. [Spurlock] came through there a hundred times unblocked. I know when I look at the film I'm going to be sick.''Carey returned to the sideline for the first time this season after stepping away for health reasons two years ago while the coach at Bridgeport."I really enjoyed it this year,'' he said. "It feels good. I think I'll stay for a while. These kids are fun.''Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4811.