Point hosts Huskies in playoff opener


By Bryan Walters - bwalters@civitasmedia.com



Point Pleasant senior lineman Seth Stewart (50) knocks a Logan defender out of the way for running back Grant Safford during a Week 4 football contest at OVB Field in Point Pleasant, W.Va.


Bryan Walters/OVP Sports

Point Pleasant quarterback Cason Payne (7) releases a pass attempt during a Week 4 football contest against Logan at OVB Field in Point Pleasant, W.Va.


Bryan Walters/OVP Sports

POINT PLEASANT, W.Va. — Some old hats never go out of style.

The Point Pleasant football team will be making its ninth consecutive appearance in the WVSSAC postseason this Friday night when the third-seeded Big Blacks welcome 14th-seeded North Marion to Ohio Valley Bank Track and Field for a Class AA opening round playoff contest in Mason County.

The Big Blacks (10-0) — who own a state-best 43-game regular season winning streak — are fresh off their fourth straight unbeaten regular season, which serves as a first in school history. PPHS — which is making its 14th playoff appearance overall — is also making its first Class AA playoff run since finishing as the state runner-up in 2011.

Point Pleasant was once again dominant in the 2016 regular season after outscoring opponents by a sizable 469-132 overall margin, which included a single shutout of Man (41-0) back in Week 9.

The Big Blacks defeated no playoff qualifiers this fall, but the Red and Black did record wins of at least 20 points in all but one of their 10 regular season outings.

Following another tremendously successful campaign, 10th-year PPHS football coach David Darst — who owns a career mark of 85-22 at Point Pleasant — noted that the 2016 gridiron season went as well as any year that he has been in charge of the program.

Darst — who is 7-8 all-time in playoff contests, which includes at least one victory in each of the last three postseasons — also mentioned that a lot of this year’s successes came from having like-minded individuals that were all aiming for a greater cause.

“Honestly, it’s just been another one of the great football seasons for us here at Point Pleasant. This group has really responded the way we wanted them to, and what can I say about a great group of senior class of kids that have never lost a regular season game?” Darst said. “This year has been what we have called a fun football season for us. There haven’t been any issues and the kids are just having fun playing football. They are all just such good friends on this team.”

One of the major keys for the Big Blacks this fall has been its ability to claim leads in the first half of games. Point Pleasant has outscored opponents 282-50 before halftime this year, which includes a 128-9 advantage in the opening quarter of those 10 games.

PPHS has nearly a 2-to-1 edge in first downs (200-106) and is also plus-17 in turnover differential on the season. The Big Blacks have also outgained opponents by a 4,620-2,388 overall margin in total yards of offense, which includes a sizable 3,163-1,289 advantage in rushing yards.

And with a group hungry to get back on the field for yet another postseason game, Darst noted that his troops are eager for Friday night to get here.

“The kids have picked it up a little bit this week in practice because they are excited to be playing in a playoff game,” Darst said. “I think the expectations are pretty high for us this postseason and the guys are already fired up and ready to go. It’s that time of year when you have to buckle down, play a little harder and be a bit more focused on the task at hand.”

The task at hand, this week, is North Marion — which finished the 2016 campaign with its first winning record in more than a decade. The Huskies (6-4) — who previously won state titles in 1980, 1981 and 1997 — will also be making their first postseason appearance since the 2002 season.

The Silver and Black outscored opponents this year by a 330-226 overall margin, which also included one shutout victory over Preston (41-0) back in Week 5. The Huskies own a 1-3 record against playoff teams this fall, with the lone win coming against Class A opponent Buckhannon-Upshur (35-14) in Week 3.

NMHS dropped decisions to playoff qualifiers Fairmont Senior (37-15), Bridgeport (35-7) and Lincoln (56-49), as well as losing a 40-30 contest against Robert C. Byrd back in Week 9. The Huskies — who have 22 seniors on their roster — have lost three of their last four decisions entering postseason play.

Senior quarterback Kyle Elliott (5-foot-11, 165 pounds) has been the main offensive weapon for the Huskies after producing more than 2,000 yards of total offense this season.

Elliott has rushed 136 times for a team-high 700 yards to go along with 13 touchdowns. The senior has also completed 82-of-155 passes for 1,375 yards, throwing 14 touchdowns and nine interceptions.

T.J. Starsick (5-7, 140) is the team’s second leading rusher with 328 yards and three touchdowns on 68 attempts, followed by Adam Gaines (5-10, 160) and Tanner King (5-11, 155) with respective rushing totals of 195 and 188 yards.

Brett Mays (5-9, 170) is the Huskies’ top wideout with 24 catches for 522 yards and eight touchdowns. Zach McIntire (6-1, 180) is next with 23 grabs for 395 yards and six scores, while Micah Parrish (6-0, 170) has 14 grabs for 160 yards.

Darst noted that with a dual-threat quarterback and a handful of offensive weapons spread around, North Marion reminds him an awful lot of a team that he knows all too well — his own.

“What people need to know is that we have a really good football team in North Marion coming in here. They have played some really good football teams and they are in the playoffs for the first time in a long time, so they will be excited to be here,” Darst said. “Honestly, North Marion runs a lot of our stuff offensively — I’d guess close to somewhere around ninety percent of what we use on offense.

“The good thing is that our defensive guys see a lot of their offense in practice every day, but they also score a lot of points using that offense. It will be interesting to see how well we can defend our own offense.”

The Big Blacks own an all-time record of 8-13 in the postseason and also have a career mark of 45-5 at OVB Field, which includes a 7-3 record in the playoffs. PPHS has also won 17 of its last 18 decisions in the friendly confines of home.

Darst believes that opening the playoffs at OVB Field will pay huge dividends for his troops, given the familiarity of going through regular routines at home. He also thinks that having the 12th man at his advantage won’t hurt as the night progresses either.

“Being at home to start the playoffs is an advantage, and I really feel that it is a big advantage for us because of the atmosphere seems to be a little more heightened than it is in other places,” Darst said. “Our community gets excited for this time of year, and our kids do feed off of walking out on to that field and seeing a huge crowd waiting to support them. I’d imagine our tremendous support won’t be any different this Friday night.”

Kickoff between the Big Blacks and Huskies will happen Friday night at 7:30 p.m.

Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.

Point Pleasant senior lineman Seth Stewart (50) knocks a Logan defender out of the way for running back Grant Safford during a Week 4 football contest at OVB Field in Point Pleasant, W.Va.
http://aimmedianetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/24/2016/11/web1_11.11-PP-Stewart.jpgPoint Pleasant senior lineman Seth Stewart (50) knocks a Logan defender out of the way for running back Grant Safford during a Week 4 football contest at OVB Field in Point Pleasant, W.Va. Bryan Walters/OVP Sports

Point Pleasant quarterback Cason Payne (7) releases a pass attempt during a Week 4 football contest against Logan at OVB Field in Point Pleasant, W.Va.
http://aimmedianetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/24/2016/11/web1_11.11-PP-Payne.jpgPoint Pleasant quarterback Cason Payne (7) releases a pass attempt during a Week 4 football contest against Logan at OVB Field in Point Pleasant, W.Va. Bryan Walters/OVP Sports

By Bryan Walters

bwalters@civitasmedia.com