POCA — No matter how much Winfield’s methodical offense hogged the ball, eventually, Poca and its big three offensive weapons knew they would get it back.
And while the Generals attempted to inflict death via a thousand paper cuts, the Class AA No. 3 Dots were throwing daggers.
The Dots ripped off yardage in chunks, scoring seven touchdowns of 12 yards or longer and four of more than 50 yards. Poca’s starters found the end zone on every offensive possession in a 56-21 conquest of the No. 11 Generals at O.O. White Stadium on Friday.
The win gave Poca a stranglehold on the Cardinal Conference after consecutive wins over Mingo Central, Sissonville and the Generals. On Friday, the Dots (7-0) showcased the big-play balanced offense and ball-hawking defense that have driven the team to a lofty perch near the top of the ratings.
“They answered the bell,” Poca coach Seth Ramsey said. “I think we’re getting to where we’re mentally tough to where we can go on the road and get a win [at Mingo], come back and not have a letdown game [against Sissonville] and come back the next week and play an in-county rival and come out and do what we need to do to get the job done. We’ve just got to keep going the way we’re going.”
Poca’s Ethan Payne finished with 312 yards and five touchdowns on 20 carries. Jay Cook completed 7 of 10 passes for 195 yards and three touchdowns, all of which were caught by Toby Payne, who finished with four receptions for 158 yards. Each of the Payne brothers also had a turnover as Ethan recovered a fumble and Toby picked off Winfield’s Nick Vance.
In fact, the Generals turned the ball over on three of four possessions across the second and third quarters, with the other possession ending as the halftime horn sounded. All that helped a game that stood at 21-14 in the second quarter turn into one that was 56-14 with 3:25 remaining in the third quarter.
Winfield (4-2) scored on a Vance 1-yard plunge with 4:25 remaining in the second quarter. It was the second straight scoring drive for the Generals, which came on a combined 27 plays and over 12 minutes of possession and cut Poca’s lead to 21-14 just a few minutes shy of the break.
Winfield seemed to be doing just what it needed to do, scoring and keeping Poca’s offense off the field. But on the first play of the ensuing drive, Ethan Payne rumbled 59 yards for a score, and on the first play of Winfield’s next possession, Toby Payne came up with his interception, returning it to the Generals’ 6-yard line.
Three plays later, Cook hit him on a 12-yard slant route to the end zone and Poca seized control for good.
“I’m just trying to prove a point that I’m not just Ethan Payne’s little brother anymore,” Toby Payne said, laughing.
Jokes aside, his size and athleticism on the outside presents quite a conundrum for opposing defenses. Load the box and Cook and Toby Payne will play pitch and catch. Don’t load the box and Ethan Payne will continue to break off long touchdown runs. He registered touchdown scampers of 62, 6, 59, 27 and 60 yards Friday, while Toby Payne has now caught six touchdown passes over his last two games. On the season, he has caught 10 of Cook’s 12 scoring tosses.
“They’re very good, you can’t take anything away from them,” Winfield coach Craig Snyder said. “Ethan Payne is one of the most explosive players I’ve ever coached against. But you can’t turn the ball over, we didn’t have a chance.
“They’re tough matchups. What are you going to do? You’ve got to guess and you’ve got to guess right. Then you’ve got to make plays. They’re very good and they’re winning like this for a reason.”
Winfield fumbled on each of its first two second-half possessions as the Dots pulled away. On one sequence, Ethan Payne had a 68-yard touchdown run called back on a penalty. On the next play, Cook hit Toby Payne in stride for a 79-yard score.
“We’re doing a good job of turnovers and when we create them, we’re doing a good job of getting points off of them,” Ramsey said. “Our guys really bowed their necks. I thought our defense got better against their power-run game as we went on.
“For three straight weeks we’ve played three really good football teams and we’ve answered the bell every time.”
Vance shook off a second-quarter injury and led Winfield with 131 yards on 16 carries. He also connected with Hunter Morris on a 30-yard touchdown pass late in the third quarter that completed the scoring. Morris finished with 79 yards on three catches. John Covert pounded out 74 yards on 24 carries for Winfield.