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Matewan holds off Notre Dame rally

by Mike Nutter

SPORTS WRITER

CLARKSBURG -- As Tyler Musgrave's final heave fell to the grass, Matewan coach Danny "Yogi" Kinder let out a deep breath, shook his head and went to midfield to shake hands.

The No. 11 Tigers (8-3), who with 11 minutes to play had total control of their first round game with No. 6 Notre Dame, survived an Irish fourth-quarter rally to move on to the second round with a 20-14 victory Saturday at Hite Field.

Matewan will now face No. 3 Wahama, a 71-6 winner against Doddridge County.

"I thought we dominated that game except for the last quarter," Kinder said.

"Then for about 11 minutes, they kicked our butts. We had one series down (at the goal line) that turned this whole game around."

Leading 20-7 with the ball at the Notre Dame 1 and first down, the Tigers were penalized five yards. Two players later, Josh Johnson came up with his second interception of the game in the end zone, giving the Irish the ball with 2:40 remaining.

Musgrave took Notre Dame 80 yards in 10 plays, going 5 for 6 and connecting with Joey Brunetti on an 11-yard TD pass with 32 seconds remaining. Trey Simmerman's second successful PAT kick cut the lead to 20-14.

The Irish had one final shot, successfully recovering an on-side kick at the Tiger 35. An illegal block pushed the ball back to the 49 where Musgrave had three attempts, each getting batted down in the end zone.

"He's a heck of a quarterback," Kinder said. "He threw that ball over 50 yards in the air three times. I don't know of too many high school kids that are going to do that. Other than the kid from Moorefield (Tyler Sherman), he's the best single A quarterback in the state."

Musgrave finished the game 13 of 23 for 190 yards and a pair of touchdowns. His first, a 19-yarder to Trey Simmerman, cut the Matewan lead to 20-7 with 9:08 left in the game.

However, the 124 rushing yards were the second fewest for Notre Dame this season. Musgrave led the team with 58 yards on 16 attempts, but was sacked four times. Simmerman added 56 yards on 15 carries.

"They had two guys who just completely clogged up everything in there," Notre Dame coach Sam Alvaro said. "They didn't fire off the ball real hard, but you just couldn't move them anywhere. It made it tough to run."

Alvaro was referring to down linemen Chris Burns (6-foot-4, 332 pounds) and Michael Martin (5-11, 340).

Behind them offensively, Matewan rushed for 219 yards. Tigers all-state receiver Terrence Pruitt, who entered the game with 956 yards and 10 touchdowns, was held to three catches for 44 yards and a touchdown.

But the Tigers made the most of some early Notre Dame mistakes.

The Irish, who drove inside the Matewan 30 on their first possession, seemed poised for another scoring opportunity on their second. With the ball at the Tigers 26, Josh Holt stripped the ball from Simmerman and into the waiting arms of Josh Smith, who returned it 74 yards for a touchdown and 6-0 lead.

"Holt really made the play easy for me," Smith said. "The ball came out and it seemed like it was just hanging there for a while. Once I got my hands on it there was no one in front of me."

It wouldn't be the first time Smith hurt the Irish. He put his team ahead 12-0 on a 23-yard touchdown run with 3:08 left in the first half and set up his team's final touchdown with an interception at the Irish 49.

Eight plays later, he found Pruitt on a short pass, and the senior receiver broke one tackle and eluded another for a 25-yard touchdown. The two-point conversion pass from Smith to Pruitt gave Matewan a 20-0 lead with 11:04 left to play.

"I guess it was a pretty good day all-around," Smith said. "On the (touchdown) run, we caught their ends crashing down and thought we could get it around the end. I got some good blocks and was able to take it in.

"Now we just have to get ready for next week and try to win another one on the road."

The loss ended Notre Dame's season at 9-2. The Irish's 9-1 record in the regular season was the school's best since finishing 10-0 in 1980.

"We did some things that I thought we had to do with us being a little nervous and not knowing what to expect," Alvaro said. "Hopefully we learned something from this. Hopefully this gets these kids to work that much harder for next year."

Sports writer Mike Nutter can be reached at 626-1444 or by e-mail at mnutter@exponent-telegram.com