MARTINSBURG — Martinsburg quarterback Tyson Bagent had a message on the sidelines for coach Dave Walker.
“I told coach, ‘I’m playing the whole game,’ because I haven’t done so all year except for one game,” Bagent said.
Bagent, who is among the leading candidates for the Kennedy Award but whose numbers are sometimes hampered a bit by coming out in blowouts, showed what kind of numbers he can produce in four quarters of action.
The senior quarterback hit on 18 of 21 passes for 372 yards and four touchdowns, did not throw an incompletion in the second half and led an offense that scored on seven of nine possessions, with one of those coming on kneel-downs at the end of the game.
Defensively, it wasn’t always as dominant as it has been lately, but the Class AAA No. 2 Bulldogs overcame some adversity and a few too many penalties and pulled away with a 49-28 win over No. 6 Capital in a semifinal on Saturday afternoon.
Martinsburg will play Spring Valley in a rematch of last year’s championship game next Saturday at Wheeling Island Stadium. A win would give the Bulldogs (13-0) their second straight title and fifth in seven years.
“I like this stadium but nothing really compares to being on Wheeling Island,” Bagent said. “I’m ready to go. I’m fired up.”
Capital certainly made Martinsburg earn it, especially for a half as the teams entered the break tied at 14.
Martinsburg, which yielded just two first downs and minus-6 yards of total offense in two combined playoff games leading into Saturday, allowed two long Capital touchdown marches, aided partially by Bulldogs penalties.
“It was just a matter of us not making mistakes,” Walker said. “[Capital] had a lot to do with it, they’re a good football team. They converted on some third downs and we had some penalties. Second half I thought we came out and played a lot better and made plays when we needed to.”
Martinsburg didn’t grab its first lead until early in the third quarter as it forced Capital into a three-and-out and took over at the Cougars’ 29-yard line after a 9-yard punt.
Three plays later, Dewayne Grantham powered in from 2 yards out and the Bulldogs went up 21-14.
But that was just a sign of things to come as Capital again went three-and-out and, four plays later, Bagent connected with Jarod Bowie on an 82-yard scoring strike.
It was the third touchdown pass for Bagent and catch for Bowie as the two victimized Capital’s defense over and over again with a quick slant that the speedy sophomore turned into big plays. He finished with a game-high 197 receiving yards on eight grabs.
“It was just something we saw in preparation, we felt like we could get and Jarod for a sophomore is a fantastic player,” Walker said.
“That was basically just a read, I’m reading the linebackers,” Bagent added. “They were flying around trying to stop the run and that left the slant pattern wide open and I think we capitalized.”
The Cougars (9-4) would get a first down on their next drive but nothing else, and Martinsburg took over on its own 20 after a punt.
A nine-play, 80-yard march culminated in an 8-yard TD run for Mikey Jackson on the first play of the fourth quarter and a tight game at halftime had been blown wide open.
“That’s what good teams do,” Capital coach Jon Carpenter said. “They’re who they are. They made plays on defense when they had to and that’s why they’re who they are. They just played well, made some stops and took over the game.”
Capital seized a bit of momentum back as Uriah Carvens picked up the ensuing kickoff and sprinted 61 yards for a score. But just three plays into the next drive, Bagent hit on his fourth and final touchdown pass of the day, a 39-yard toss to Teddy Marshall to make the score 49-21.
Capital’s DeShawn James added a late 2-yard touchdown run and Quisean Gray had a pair of 6-yard touchdown scampers in the first half, but it wasn’t enough as the Cougars couldn’t find a stop when they needed to.
“We’ve got a bunch of bad dudes here at Martinsburg and that’s for years to come,” Bagent said. “There’s always going to be another guy coming and I’m excited for this week and for where this dynasty is going to go.”
Capital quarterback Kerry Martin hit on 11 of 24 passes for 177 yards but the Cougars mustered just 54 rushing yards on 30 carries. Deshaun Harper had a team-best 59 receiving yards on three catches for Capital.
Grantham rumbled for 147 yards on 17 carries for Martinsburg as part of 563 total offensive yards. Marshall added 67 yards on three catches.