Thanks in large part to Karrington Hill’s shutdown work on defense, Capital locked down another berth in the Class AAA playoff semifinals.
Quarterback Kerry Martin Jr. threw for a pair of touchdowns and ran for another score Saturday afternoon as the No. 3 Cougars rolled to a 48-14 victory over Hedgesville during a quarterfinal game at sunny but chilly University of Charleston Stadium.
The win sends the Cougars (12-1) back into the semifinals for a sixth straight season, earning them a trip to No. 2 Spring Valley next weekend. The date and kickoff time will be determined Sunday.
Also playing a huge role for Capital was Hill, a junior defensive back who drew the assignment of covering Malakai Brown, the Eagles’ talented junior who captured the 2017 Randy Moss Award as the top receiver in West Virginia.
Brown caught two passes for 31 yards, but didn’t get his first reception until 3:34 remained in the third quarter with Capital already ahead 35-7. Brown came into the game with more than 1,000 receiving yards and 18 total touchdowns.
“I’m tickled to death for that kid,’’ Capital coach Jon Carpenter said of Hill. “There ain’t very many people it’s important to like it is to him, and for him to come out here and let that kid catch one ball — you’d never bet on that.’’
With Brown by and large taken out of the equation, No. 11 seed Hedgesville (7-5) had trouble keeping possessions going. The Eagles fell behind 23-0 at halftime and had managed just four first downs and 43 total yards at that point.
“Credit to Capital,’’ said Eagles coach Joey Yurish. “They’re a good football team. We shot ourselves in the foot a lot in the first half and that put us in a hole and we couldn’t sustain drives like we knew we had to.’’
Capital got a lift from its defense after Hedgesville quarterback Hunter Coe was forced into an intentional grounding call that lost 23 yards, pinning the Eagles at their own 6. On the next play, Coe was hounded by Kalai Clark’s pass rush and threw an interception that Logan Spurlock returned 2 yards for the game’s first touchdown.
Coe wound up 12 of 30 for 191 yards and one TD, but it came on the game’s final play as he unloaded a 74-yard bomb to Owie Ash against the Cougars’ reserve defense. Coe was also picked off twice and ran for a score.
“That was a pretty good defensive game plan,’’ Carpenter said of his assistant coaches. “They give you so many problems with formations and things that you don’t see and we asked those kids to do a lot. We mixed it up a lot, and our secondary was lights out.’’
Hedgesville was able to hand the ball off to Brown seven times for 17 yards, but his contributions were minimal. His best moments were a nifty 36-yard diving catch that put the ball at the Capital 2 — but the Eagles couldn’t punch it in — and a 40-yard kickoff return that also led to no points.
“The way our defense was set up,’’ Hill said, “I was supposed to be covering [Brown] the whole game, so I did a good job staying over the top, which was our main focus. As long as I stayed over the top of the route, I knew I was going to be able to shut him down.
“He did a good job being physical, but he didn’t give me a whole lot off the line, it was more he came right at me and made one move and went to either side. I felt like if I got both hands on him, I was able to stay on top of the route, which is what I wanted to do, so it worked out pretty good.’’
Meanwhile on offense, Martin and the Cougars started to find their rhythm after a slow start. Clark ran for two touchdowns in the third quarter and Martin threw a pair of scoring passes in the fourth — one to Shawn James for 7 yards and the other a 34-yarder to younger brother Kerion Martin, who made a terrific one-handed catch at the goal line.
Kerry Martin hit on 19 of 29 passes for 274 yards, finding eight different receivers, and ran 10 times for 104 yards as Capital piled up 24 first downs and 529 offensive yards. He was pleased with the results Saturday, but not satisfied, as further challenges await.
“We’ve been to the semifinals since I was in high school,’’ Kerry Martin said. “Right now, it’s just about capitalizing. We’ve got to get past one of the best teams in the state in Spring Valley, and then there’s Martinsburg. Right now, it’s time to buckle up and capitalize.’’
Ash, who started the first 10 games at quarterback for Hedgesville before Coe took over, caught three passes for 95 yards Saturday. N’iyjere Smith had five receptions for 53 yards. The Eagles were coming off their first playoff win since 1997, an opening-round upset at No. 6 Parkersburg South.
“We had a bunch of missed tackles,’’ Yurish said, “and the interception didn’t help at the beginning of the game. We’re going to be fine. We’ve got a young team and we’re going to be back. I’m proud of our guys with the way they played.’’