MARTINSBURG -- Freshman Nathan Sowers ran back the opening kickoff for a touchdown, and the Martinsburg Bulldogs never looked back en route to a 47-6 win over Philip Barbour in the first round of the Class AAA state high school football playoffs.
"That was just a butt-whipping," PB coach Mike Michael said. "That (the kickoff return) certainly put us on our heels right from the get go. We needed to have some positive things happen, and for them to take that kickoff and run it back that quick just put us back on our heels right from the start of the game."
The Bulldogs may have been caught as much by surprise as Michaels with the 6-foot, 165-pound backup quarterback's score to open the game.
"I felt like we'd get pretty good field position," Martinsburg coach Dave Walker said. "They haven't kicked deep all year. That was one of the reasons we wanted the ball (from the coin toss), but you never count on a kid running a kick back."
The No. 4 Bulldogs (10-1) went on to rack up 444 yards of total offense, including 379 on the ground. Running back Steve Weatherholtz carried 20 times for 168 yards and a touchdown to lead all rushers, while wingback Jesse Keyser turned only six carries into 113 yards and three scores -- all on the same play.
The inside handoff to Keyser went for touchdowns of 7, 11 and 54 yards in the first half. A 26-yard burst by Keyser also set up a 15-yard pass and catch between quarterback Joey Yurish and Brandon Barrett in third quarter.
"It's just a misdirection play," Michael said. "We were just standing up and getting blocked. Anybody could have ran through those holes. We were not taking care of our responsibilities."
The Colts' (7-4) lone score came when Mike Poling found Scott Mayle open for a 45-yard touchdown pass with 10:09 left in the third.
Mayle, who rushed for more than 1,600 yards during the regular season, spent much of the evening boxed in by the Martinsburg defense. He finished with 17 carries for 71.
"Anytime a team has a 1,700-yard rusher, you don't want him to get loose," Walker said. "We didn't want him to have a big night. The games that they've lost, teams have done a good job of keeping him bottled up."
Sowers added a second touchdown with 5:02 remaining when he ran a quarterback draw into the end zone from 3 yards.
The win was only the second for Martinsburg in playoff history. Their last win was in 1990 over Logan High School.
The loss marks the second-straight year Philip Barbour has been bounced from the opening round of the Class AAA playoffs.
"Last year, we sort of came out of nowhere," Michael said. "This year, we had higher expectations than that. But it was a great year. These kids are great kids. They worked awfully hard and did everything we asked of them.
"We have nothing to be ashamed of."
Sports writer Chris Vannoy can be reached at 626-1444 or by e-mail at email@example.com