CHAPMANVILLE — It could be a game-changer.
A possible turning point to the season.
It was a comeback thriller.
It was like two games in one.
Friday night’s 34-33 overtime win at home by the Chapmanville Regional High School football team over Poca was all that.
Facing a 27-7 deficit late in the third quarter and a possible 1-3 record heading into next week’s game at county rival Logan, Chapmanville rallied and controlled the rest of the game against the tiring Dots to win the annual Hall of Fame Game at Tiger Stadium in Chapmanville.
The Tigers, 2-2 overall and 2-2 in the Cardinal Conference, scored the eventual game-winner in overtime as senior tailback Dustin Smith bulled up the middle for a 20-yard touchdown on the first play of the extra period. Dustin Conley’s extra point made it 34-27 Chapmanville.
No. 13-ranked Poca (2-2, 0-1) then responded with Jacob Payne’s 2-yard TD run, pulling the Dots to within 34-33.
Poca then had a decision.
Kick the PAT and put the game into a second overtime?
Or go for the win?
Conventional wisdom says go for the win since the Dots were on the road, however, Poca initially showed signs of going for the extra point.
The Dots then called time out and decided to go for two and the win.
That’s because Payne was stuffed on a run up the middle on the two-point conversion and the Tigers were able to celebrate their thrilling come-from-behind win over the Dots in overtime.
It was a long but rewarding night of football for the Orange and Black.
The game ended around 11 p.m. but started 21 minutes late as a Health Net helicopter had to use the Chapmanville football field as a landing pad to fly out a victim of a nearby car crash.
Chapmanville coach George Barker said he was happy to see his team battle back from adversity and even up its record.
It was another classic Chapmanville-Poca showdown.
Two years ago when the two teams last met at Tiger Stadium, Chapmanville and Poca put up Arena Football-like numbers as the Tigers won a 69-66 shootout in a game which featured 1,100 yards of total offense and 20 touchdowns.
The Tigers improved to 5-1 overall against the Dots since joining the Cardinal Conference. CRHS has now won the last five meetings.
“When it comes down to overtime and an extra point against Poca anything is possible,” Barker said. “We’ve had some great finishes and that was another great one.”
The Tigers trailed 20-0 at halftime and looked sluggish but were a different team in the second half.
“We just came out in the second half and played with heart,” Barker said. “We were lack-luster and we had all of that stuff going on before the game. I didn’t have much time to spend with my team. We came out and we were flat. We dropped the ball and things didn’t go our way. We scored a touchdown but it was called back and nothing was going our way. In the second half we had questioned their manhood. They came out and responded in the second half.”
Barker said Friday’s win could be the focal point of the season if the Tigers are able to move on to greater things.
“It’s a big difference going into the game next week at 2-2 instead of 1-3,” he said. “It’s going to help us out a little bit. Our kids are young and they don’t have a lot of snaps. They just have to play and they just have to believe. This week’s theme was to band together. In the second half we did that and banded together. We did what we had to do. This week we need to believe.”
Smith had a monster game for the Tigers as he scored four touchdowns on runs of 7, 1 and 20 and a catch of 12 yards and ended up with 27 carries for 194 yards. He finished with four catches for 52 more yards.
“He’s all guts and he’s a great team player,” Barker said of Smith, who also passed for 29 yards on a gadget play. “He’s been here for four years and he plays like it. He’s a great kid and he had a great performance again. He leaves it all out on the field. We mixed it up with him passing the ball. They (Poca) are a team of trickery and we used a trick here and there. That helped us out.”
Down 27-7, Chapmanville got back into the game with a circus play.
That’s when quarterback Max Spradlin fired a 36-yard touchdown pass to Zac Casto down the sideline.
But it wasn’t your ordinary catch-and-run.
The streaking Casto caught the tipped ball off a Poca defender’s hands, reeled it in, then raced down the sideline for a touchdown. Conley’s PAT closed the Tigers within 27-14 with 41 seconds left in the third quarter.
Poca had gone up by 20 at the 3:35 mark with Payne’s 7-yard touchdown run.
“I was worried because when Poca scored their fourth touchdown I was thinking, ‘Are we going to give up?’” Barker said. “But we stayed positive and did everything that we had to do. When we scored we got some momentum. We had the momentum the whole second half except for that one drive that they had.”
After Casto’s touchdown, the Tigers kept up the pressure by successfully executing an on-side kick as Paul Workman fell on the ball at the Dot 48-yard line.
Smith’s halfback pass to Casto gave the Tigers a first-and-10 at the 19 but Chapmanville was eventually stopped on a fourth-and-3 play at the 12 as Brandon White, running out of the “Tiger formation,” took a direct snap and was stopped for no gain.
White, though, recovered a Poca fumble at the Chapmanville 34-yard line and the Tigers were in business again.
Twelve plays later, the Tigers were in the end zone again as Smith bulldozed in from 1-yard out. Conley’s extra point kick was good and the Tigers were down just 27-21 with 5:21 to play in the game.
Conley then tried another on-side kick on the ensuing kickoff but the Dots recovered at midfield. Poca was three-and-out, however, and was forced to punt.
The Tigers took over on their own 10-yard line after the punt but then drove 90 yards in seven plays, culminating with Spradlin’s 12-yard TD pass to Smith to tie the game up 27-27 with 56 seconds left.
Chapmanville tried to go ahead with the PAT but the snap was bad and Conley’s kick was partially blocked.
The game-tying drive was set up by a 28-yard pass to Castro, a big 39-yard run by Smith to the Poca 19 and a 16-yard run by Devin Wiley to the 3.
The Dots’ luck then ran out on a fourth-and-one play as Payne was sacked with only two seconds left in regulation.
Chapmanville threw incomplete and time ran out.
Then it was time for the Tigers’ heroics in overtime.
Barker said he thought all along the Dots would try to go for two to win it in OT after matching Chapmanville’s extra period touchdown.
“After the timeout they changed their plan,” Barker said. “I didn’t think they were going to kick it. I thought they might fake it at first. I knew that when we scored and us getting the extra point that put the pressure on them. Conley has been doing a good job kicking for us. He kicked three out of four tonight. That’s pretty good.”
The Dots had went up 6-0 on the first drive of the game as Payne ran in from 22 yards out at the 10:05 mark. The PAT failed.
Poca then took advantage of a Chapmanville fumble and scored again with 7:37 to go in the first quarter with T.T. Loudin’s 19-yard touchdown run. Loudin ran in the two-point conversion to make it 14-0.
The Dots then made it a 20-0 lead at the half with Payne’s 20-yard TD pass to Andrew Gibson with only five seconds left.
Smith put the Tigers on the board at the 7:02 mark of the third period with a 7-yard TD run. Conley’s kick was good as CRHS trailed 20-7.
Several Tigers had good games.
Casto had three catches for 92 yards and a score. Spradlin was 9-of-18 passing for 144 yards, while Wiley had seven rushes for 33 yards and a catch for 17 yards.
White ran four times for nine yards and grabbed two passes for 10 yards. Chapman had one rush for three yards.
Wiley led the Chapmanville defense with seven tackles. Matthew Dingess had six solo tackles, two assists and a sack, while Trevor Payne finished with six solos, two assists and a caused fumble. Chapman had six solos and two assists.
White and Austin Watts each had five solos and two assists for the Tigers. Smith had four solos and two assists. Zach Pridemore had four total tackles for the game.
Dakota Sowers had three solos and one assist. Andrew Workman and Brent Bigley each had two stops. Tanner Dillon had one tackle.
Conley also punted twice for an average of 35.5 yards a kick.
CRHS was penalized seven times for 40 yards. Poca had six flags for 30 yards.
Chapmanville is scheduled to have a short road trip next Friday night as the Tigers travel to Class AAA county rival Logan. The Wildcats won 22-21 last year at Chapmanville to break a four-game losing skid to the Tigers.
Logan and Chapmanville have played every year since 2001 and the Cats own a 6-5 all-time advantage.
Chapmanville senior running back DaShawn Alexander, recently declared eligible to play, is expected to suit up for the first time this season next week against Logan. He transferred to Chapmanville from St. Albans last year. Alexander will wear No. 28 this season. He wore jersey No. 31 last year.