PDT Sports Writer
OBETZ — From the word go Saturday night, Wheelersburg meant business and two-toned Martins Ferry was the unfortunate recipient to find out the hard way.
The No. 3 Pirates dominated throughout the Division V, Region 17 Semifinal at Columbus Hamilton Township and secured its first regional final berth since 2004 with a 45-0 win over the No. 2 Purple Riders. Wheeleresburg will take on top-seeded Columbus Bishop Hartley, which eliminated No. 5 Baltimore Liberty Union 14-7 in Saturday’s other semifinal, in next weekend’s regional championship. The Pirates finished with a 514-161 advantage in total yards for the contest.
“A great job by our coaching staff preparing these kids, a great job by our kids executing themselves out there on the field and listening to the coaches,” Wheelersburg coach Rob Woodward said. “Again, they won this game throughout the week of practice. They did a great job of preparation.”
The night began with an 11-yard strike from Eddie Miller to Dylan Miller as two minutes had not yet elapsed from the clock. On the ensuing kickoff, Dylan Miller’s onside kick paid off as Cole Cunningham fell on the pigskin at the Martins Ferry 34.
“We want as many offensive possessions as we could get and we’re looking to score every single time,” Woodward said. “We’re always looking to try and take advantage of that if we get an opportunity.”
However, the drive was cut short when Eddie Miller was intercepted by Marcus Sutton at the Purple Rider 25. It was the only mistake made by the two-time Associated Press Division V Southeast District Offensive Player of the Year. He finished 12-0f-20 passing for 249 yards with two touchdown passes to go along with the lone interception.
Martins Ferry, which started the game wearing its alternate black jerseys after warming up in its primary purple tops, showed promise in the first possession but the drive ended when Bruce Burger coughed up the ball on the Pirate 4 and Sam Hall was able to corral the ball.
The turnover turned into Wheelersburg points as Eddie Miller found Tyler Claxon on a 42-yard touchdown pass. The play capped off a 3-play, 96-yard drive. Claxon finished with 115 yards receiving on seven catches.
Another Purple Rider rumble in the next drive, this time by quarterback Austin Styles and recovered by Michael Staggs, put the Pirates in a position where 35 yards was between them and pay dirt. Both fumbles were caused by Christian Ellis.
“He’s so quick with his reaction to the ball and makes plays happen and made some big plays happen,” Woodward said.
Woodward was also pleased with the play defensively of Sam Robinson. Throughout the season, the senior has been battling injuries and is able to get into the regular rotation.
Wheelersburg took advantage of the miscue and scored on the first play of the second quarter thanks to an 18-yard tally by Austin May. After Martins Ferry punted for the first time in the contest, Dylan Miller scored the first of his two rushing touchdowns of the game in from 3 yards. The Pirates closed out the half with a 1-yard run by Camron Parsley.
“That’s what we’ve got to have in the playoffs,” Woodward said.
Having matched their season total in points allowed, the Purple Riders switched back to their purple tops but were not able to get any magic from the change. Martins Ferry tried a fake punt on its first possession of the third quarter but Sutton was stopped at the line and forced the change of possession.
Dylan Miller’s second 3-yard touchdown scamper put Wheelersburg up 42-0 and set the new mark for points allowed by the Purple Riders all season. A Daylor Lewis 29-yard field goal with 9:39 to go closed the scoring. Woodward liked how his freshman kicker was able to get back onto a positive note after a series of recent misses.
“The boy has got the mechanics and he’s got the strength in the leg,” Woodward said. “He’s just been working on honing in on that mental capacity of it. We’re going to continue to give him some opportunities as we feel it presents itself.”
Dylan Miller had a game-high 132 yards receiving on seven receptions while Eddie Miller had 118 yards rushing on seven totes.
With the Hawks standing in the way between the Pirates and their first regional championship since 1998, Woodward is ready for the game.
“That’s what we want, the opportunity to play in that game and compete,” Woodward said. “Week 13, we’re only going to get the best and that’s what we want.”
Cody Leist can be reached at 353-3101, ext. 294, or email@example.com. For breaking sports news, follow Cody on Twitter @CodyLeist.
W 14 21 7 3 — 45
MF 0 0 0 0 — 0
W — D. Miller 11 pass from E. Miller (Lewis kick) 10:18
W — Claxon 42 pass from E. Miller (Lewis kick) 2:41
W — May 18 run (Lewis kick) 11:54
W — D. Miller 3 run (Lewis kick) 7:08
W — Parsley 1 run (Lewis kick) 4:07
W — D. Miller 3 run (Lewis kick) 5:05
W — Lewis 29 FG 9:39
First Downs 19 11
Rush Att.-Yds. 38-265 37-102
Pass Att.-Comp.-Int. 20-15-1 17-8-0
Pass Yds. 249 59
Total Yds. 514 161
Fumbles-Lost 1-0 3-2
Turnovers 1 2
Penalties-Yds. 6-42 3-23
Punts-Avg. 1-44 4-38
RUSHING: W —E. Miller 7-118, Howard 9-48, Ellis 5-43, May 5-32, McAllister 8-15, D. Miller 2-6, Claxon 1-2, Parsley 1-1; MF — Styles 19-35, Burger 6-28, Joyce 6-23, Watts 1-7, Sutton 3-6, Fitch 1-2, Burress 1-1.
PASSING: W —E. Miller 15-20-1 249; MF — Styles 8-16-0 59, Edwards 0-1-0 0.
RECEIVING: W — D. Miller 7-132, Claxon 7-115, Cunningham 1-2; MF — Barritt 6-43, Vargo 1-9, Watts 1-7.
Records — Wheelersburg 11-1; Martins Ferry 10-2.