PARKERSBURG — Parkersburg South and its high-powered offense may have gotten off to a slow start, but on Friday night in a first-round Class AAA playoff game, it truly was a case of “better late than never” for the host Patriots.
After a scoreless first quarter, No. 4 South finally broke through on the first play of the second period and that sparked a 28-point uprising that turned out to be only the beginning.
South quarterback Brandon Penn threw for 220 yards and two touchdowns, rushed for 32 yards and three more scores, and the Patriots shook off its early struggles en route to a 47-13 win over No. 13 South Charleston.
The Patriots (10-1) will host No. 5 Musselman next weekend. The Applemen defeated Parkersburg 48-29 Friday.
Penn scored on a 3-yard run to begin the second quarter and added touchdown runs of 1 and 30 yards to a 36-yard scoring pass to Dylan Day as the Patriots woke up and roared to life.
“With how they play defense, we hadn’t really faced that all year long,” South coach Nathan Tanner said. “I think it was just an adjustment of our kids executing. We didn’t really change too much, our kids just settled in.
“After that first quarter our kids started executing and that’s why we put some points up on the board.”
While Penn and the South offense hit their stride, the Patriots’ defense was doing a job as well, holding South Charleston (4-7) to just 78 yards in the first half. The Black Eagles did get one score on a 1-yard touchdown run from quarterback Trey Dunn to temporarily cut South’s lead to 21-7. But South answered right back with a 65-yard drive on seven plays capped by Penn’s 30-yard scamper on a draw play to give the Patriots momentum again.
In total, the Patriots defense smothered South Charleston (4-7) to the tune of 156 yards and forced three turnovers, including two interceptions off of quarterback Trey Dunn.
“It’s the same story,” SC coach Donnie Mays said. “You get them backed up and you kill yourself and then you’re fighting for your life. It’s hard to play from behind each week. It’s tough. You look at our defensive line and it’s all underclassmen and they’re learning, but we’ve got to get stronger. That’s our focus right now because our season is over and we’re going straight to the weight room.”
For the SC defense, it was somewhat a case of missed opportunities. The Patriots scored three times on third-and-9 or worse, including on a third-and-29 from their own 16-yard line on the opening possession of the second half. After Penn mishandled a snap and was sacked for a 21-yard loss on second down, he calmly fired down the middle of the field on third down and hit Levi Rice, who was streaking a couple of yards behind the Black Eagles defense. Rice sprinted from midfield on to put South ahead 35-7 out of the halftime break.
“It was huge,” Tanner said. “After halftime the goal was to come out and execute and score. It’s third-and-29 and as a play-caller, I don’t have anything for that. But they stayed in a man-to-man defense and brought heat and we dialed up one of our bread-and-butter plays and Brandon and Levi just made a good play.”
Devin Gaines spearheaded the ground game for South, rumbling for 108 yards on 18 carries including touchdown jaunts of 10 and 2 yards in the second half. Penn would have had a more impressive rushing total if not for four sacks including two of minus-23 and minus-21 yards. Day led the receiving effort, catching four balls for 92 yards.
Demarius Turner led South Charleston with 67 yards on 15 rushes playing in only his second game of the season. The sophomore missed the first four games and was injured in his first game back against Woodrow Wilson.
For Dunn, it was a struggle as he hit on 8 of 19 passes for 65 yards and was 3 for 10 for 3 yards in the opening half. But Dunn, Turner, backfield mate Mondrell Dean and a slew of other Black Eagles will return next year. Mays said the work begins tomorrow for his young ball club that loses just six seniors.
“I feel bad for the seniors right now, you always want to send them out the right way but it always doesn’t happen,” Mays said. “Now we’re back to the drawing board with the underclassman.
“We’re getting in the weight room with the young guys. That’s what we need. We need to get strong.”