ST. MARYS, W.Va.-All season long, fans have been trying to find the right way to compare the 2013 edition of the St. Marys Blue Devils' football program to the unbeaten team that missed the playoffs in 1984.
Following Friday night's 21-6 victory over No. 15 East Hardy (7-4), that comparison was understood by all-the defense.
"We kept shooting ourselves in the foot in the second half and our defense kept bailing us out," St. Marys head coach Jodi Mote said. "We give a lot of credit to coach (Chad) Williams and his players. They did a heck of a job on us offensively. But our defense came up big when we needed it most."
JEFF BAUGHAN Special to The Times
St. Marys’ Colby Brode, right, celebrates a touchdown against East Hardy Friday night.
JEFF BAUGHAN Special to The Times
St. Marys’ David Gray, center, runs to daylight against East Hardy Friday night.
Especially during the second 24 minutes of action as not once or twice, but three times the Blue Devils' came up with big defensive stops inside their 20-yard line to kill possible scoring opportunities by the visiting Cougars.
Offensively, the purple and gold rushed the ball 62 times for 332 yards with junior Corey Stewart running for a pair of one-yard scores as the hosts took a 21-6 lead into the locker rooms at the intermission.
From the start, it was apparent that both teams' defenses were up to the challenge of stopping the opposition's offense. The Blue Devils' D produced the first big break of the game when Noah Spitzer picked off an East Hardy pass at the SM 49 and returned it to the EH 13 with 3:41 remaining to be played in the opening frame.
CLASS A Playoffs
at Imlay Field
No. 2 St. Marys 21, No. 15 East Hardy 6
East Hardy (7-4) 0 6 0 0-6
St. Marys (11-0) 7 14 0 0-21
SM: Corey Stewart 1 run (Garret Furr kick), 1:55
SM: Stewart 1 run (Furr kick), 9:03
EH: Tyler Murphy 10 pass from Cole Collier (run failed), 7:24
SM: Colby Brode 15 pass from Michael Stout (Furr kick), 2:14
East Hardy: First downs: 12. Rushes/yards: 14 (-3). Passing yards: 196. Total yards: 193. Passing: 16-43-3. Fumbles/lost: 1-0. Punts/average: 5-35.0. Penalities/yards: 4-19.
St. Marys: First downs: 17. Rushs/yards: 62-332. Passing yards: 25. Total yards: 357. Passing: 2-9-1. Fumbles/lost: 3-3. Punts/average: 4-39.0. Penalties/yards: 9-70.
East Hardy: Rushing: Cole Collier 13 (-3). Passing: Cole Collier 16-41-3, 196 yards, TD. Receiving: Tyler Murphy 8-68. TD; Tyler Smith 4-102.
St. Marys: Rushing: Noah Spitzer 16-100, David Gray 19-67, Michael Stout 9-72. Passing: Michael Stout 2-9-1, 25 yards, TD. Receiving: Colby Brode 1-15, TD; Jeremy Pratt 1-10.
Next game: St. Marys will host No. 7 Greenbrier West in a quarterfinal matchup next weekend at a time and day that will be decided on Sunday.
Six plays later, Stewart, who finished with 24 yards on eight carries, bulled his way over from the one. Garrett Furr added the first of his three PATs and the Blue Devils had the lead for good with 1:55 showing on the clock.
The defense continued to set the tone for the No. 2-ranked Class A team as the Cougars were forced to punt the ball away to open the second quarter of action.
St. Marys, which will play host to No. 7 Greenbrier West-a 54-7 winner over No. 10 Notre Dame-next weekend, needed only five plays to double its advantage with Stewart again scoring from a -yard out and Furr connecting on the PAT with 9:03 remaining in the half.
Less than two minutes later, it appeared as if the defense was going to get into the scoring when David Gray picked off a Cougars pass at the SM 14 and raced 86 yards for an apparent touchdown. However, the Blue Devils were flagged for roughing the passer on the play, giving the visitors a 1st-and-10 at the SM 10.
Two plays later, East Hardy finally got on the scoreboard when senior quarterback Cole Collier hit junior receiver Tyelr Murphy with a screen pass and the Courgar player raced into the end zone for the visitors' only score.
A try for the two-point conversion failed, leaving the score at 14-6 in favor of the hosts.
St. Marys would take the ensuing kickoff, however, and march 68 yards in 10 plays with Colby Brode hauling in a Michael Stout pass from 15 yards out for the Blue Devils' third, and final, touchdown of the game with 2:14 showing on the clock.
Those would be the final points of the game as both defenses tightened and both offenses continued to commit turnovers as the rains drenched both teams in the final half.
Leading the ground attack for the Blue Devils was Spitzer with 100 yards on 16 carries. Stout added 72 yards on nine carries and Gray chipped in 67 on 19 totes of the pigskin.