The playoffs are full of big moments, and both Poca and Fairmont Senior have thrived in those situations, pulling off a bushel of big plays to keep their respective seasons going.
That trait will allow one of them to get to the big show, as they tangle at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the Class AA semifinals at Poca’s O.O. White Stadium.
The winning teams in this weekend’s semifinal round in all three classifications advance to the Super Six state championships Dec. 3-4 at Wheeling Island Stadium.
Poca, which sported more of a ground-oriented offense during the first part of the regular season, lately has sprouted into a big-play passing team as well behind junior quarterback Jordan Wolfe.
In a 28-6 first-round playoff win against Liberty Raleigh, Wolfe threw touchdown passes of 61 yards to Toby Payne and 58 yards to Kambel Meeks.
Then during a 56-49 shootout victory versus Frankfort in the quarterfinals, Wolfe had TD tosses of 78 and 20 yards to Meeks and three more to Payne — covering 31, 25 and 23 yards.
Wolfe was attempting fewer than 15 passes per game during the first half of the regular season, but his development under center has the Dots now regularly trying 20-plus passes per game.
“You want to focus on stopping the run with them,” said Fairmont Senior coach Nick Bartic, “but the ability they have is to throw the ball, and they’ve been successful. They throw the deep ball well, and the out [pattern] particularly well.
“Their quarterback throws a good out and a good deep ball, and when you do that, it opens things up in the passing game. They have the ability to hit you deep. They are big, athletic dudes as targets. They’re not just out there to block; they also make plays on balls.”
Fairmont Senior has also revived its big-play passing game in the postseason, thanks to quarterback Dom Stingo. Stingo came off the bench in the first round to throw for 198 yards and four TDs in a 30-28 win against No. 1 seed Herbert Hoover, including first-quarter scoring strikes of 80 and 58 yards to Evan Dennison.
In the quarterfinals, a 33-28 victory against Robert C. Byrd, Stingo ran for a touchdown and threw for 266 yards and two scores, one of them a 52-yarder to Jayden Cheriza.
“We’ve got to make sure we limit the big play,” said Poca coach Seth Ramsey. “Last week especially, we gave up way too many big plays. And this offense, with how athletic they are on the outside and how explosive they are, and with the Stingo kid — who seems to be playing some really good ball right now — we have to limit the big play and have to make them earn their touchdowns and earn their scores.”
Ramsey said if the Dots run their offense the way he wants, it will limit the opportunities the Polar Bears have to break off a big play.
“We’ve just got to make our possessions count,” Ramsey said. “Whether we get big plays or not, we’ve got to get those connected possessions where we’re getting those third-and-shorts. If it’s third-and-long, we’re working on those to extend our drives and making our possessions count. If we can do that, we can limit their big plays and we should be right where we need to be at the end of the game.”
Friday’s winner in Poca meets the Bluefield-Independence winner in the Class AA championship. The Super Six schedule in Wheeling has the Class AA title game set for 7 p.m. on Dec. 3, the AAA contest at noon on Dec. 4 and the Class A finals at 7 p.m. on Dec. 4.