Winfield’s game plan Friday evening was simple but effective:
A. Find running room between the tackles for John Covert, its plowhorse running back; and B. Limit the running room for elusive Sissonville quarterback Will Hackney, keeping him bottled up between the tackles.
The Generals (3-4) were successful on both accounts, leaving Joe Sawyer Field in Sissonville with a 28-14 victory that keeps them alive for another week in the Class AA playoff chase.
Covert, a 6-foot-1, 215-pound sophomore, thrived in Winfield’s Ram offense, which resembles the old single wing, carrying 37 times for 144 yards and two touchdowns. His 25-yard scoring burst with 10:09 remaining in the third quarter gave the Generals a 21-7 advantage and they controlled the tempo the rest of the way, keeping Hackney and the Indians at bay.
“I think our defense played so well,’’ said Winfield coach Craig Snyder. “I think that’s why we won. We didn’t really let him hurt us. He had that one scramble and long touchdown pass, but other than that, I think our defense did a heck of a job. We mixed things up on them, and I think our defense is the player of the game. Super proud of their effort.’’
Hackney, who came into the game as one of the most productive quarterbacks in the state, accounting for 29 touchdowns and nearly 2,300 yards of total offense, was held to a season-low 192 yards passing. The Indians (4-3) had just one score and trailed 28-7 before Hackney found Patrick Murphy with a 16-yard touchdown toss with 3:57 left in the game.
After completing more than 70 percent of his passes through the first six games, Hackney went 17 of 34 on Friday with one interception and was sacked five times and had several passes dropped. Also the team’s rushing leader on the season, he was held to minus-9 yards on 14 carries.
“We just had trouble,’’ said Sissonville coach Marc Wilson. “We couldn’t catch the ball tonight. They’re a physical team and sometimes that physicality can screw up your timing, that sort of thing. But it comes down to our responsibility to beat whatever teams are going to do. I felt like we were a little bit too far off on offense to win a football game.’’
Sissonville entered the game No. 16 in the Class AA playoff ratings, with the top 16 in each class qualifying for the postseason. Both the Indians and Generals have made the playoffs each of the past two seasons.
In the first half, possessions were hard to come by, especially for Sissonville as Winfield put together clock-chewing touchdown drives of 14 and 15 plays.
Covert scored on a 1-yard run in the first quarter for the Generals and Nick Vance found Cameron Brooks with a 9-yard TD toss in the second quarter. That gave the Generals a 14-0 edge.
Sissonville, which previously saw successive drives end at the Winfield 29 and 30 on an interception (by Austin Arthur) and a fumble (recovered by Winfield’s Ethan Young), then finally found the end zone with 58 seconds remaining until halftime. Hackney went 5 of 6 passing for 61 yards on the possession, hitting Murphy with a 21-yard scoring toss to lower Winfield’s lead to 14-7.
In the first half alone, Winfield’s Covert carried 23 times for 73 yards. Then the Generals took it 48 yards on six plays with the second-half kickoff following a 20-yard return by Sam Ingram. That score on Covert’s 25-yard dash put the Indians squarely behind the 8-ball.
Covert had only two carries in the fourth quarter as Winfield sought to spare him more punishment and protect the lead.
“I think I’m prepared to do what needs to be done for the team,’’ Covert said. “I’m used to carrying 30 times a game. I think I’m ready for it.’’
Wilson said the length of Winfield’s time-consuming drives was a problem for his team. Four times the Indians got inside the Generals 40 without scoring.
“They did a good job,’’ Wilson said, “but I felt like there were times where we defended them well. What they do a real good job of is not only do they run the big guy, but they stretch the ball across the line of scrimmage and it’s difficult to figure out where to line people up and where to attack. Then they mix the ball enough to keep you on your heels.
“Kudos to them. It’s a ball-control offense and they were able to pound the ball and put us in situations where we felt like we had limited drives, whether we stopped them or not, because they were able to maintain the clock.’’
Vance also broke off a late 23-yard TD run for Winfield and found Brooks with a 9-yard scoring pass in the second quarter on a third-and-7 play. Vance was 4 of 10 in the air for 52 yards and the Generals did not turn the ball over.
Snyder realizes the Generals have to run the table with wins against Nitro, Scott and Mingo Central to have a chance at the postseason, but his team still has high hopes.
“We’re just having fun,’’ Snyder said. “We can get in with six [wins], but we’ve got three tough games left.’’
Covert concurred with his coach.
“Our minds are still to the playoffs,’’ he said. “We have not given up yet.’’
Both of Sissonville’s scores came on Hackney passes to Murphy, who caught six balls for 99 yards. The Indians were held to a net of 40 yards on 31 rushing plays.