By GARY DOVE
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
NEW RICHMOND —
The Nicholas County Grizzlies used a little bit of trickery, a little bit of luck, a little mud wrestling skill and a large dose of Wil Mayes to record a 35-14 opening round playoff win over host Wyoming East in Class AA playoff action last evening under rainy skies.
The contest started under a light mist that turned more pronounced during halftime, making the field muddy in spots for the second half action.
Mayes, the Grizzlies' junior tailback, scored three times and ended his night's work with 132 yards rushing on 23 carries to pace the NC offense.
Senior quarterback Tyler Sagraves scored one TD, as did senior tackle Austin Hill, who scooped up an offensive fumble and sloshed 32 yards for the opening touchdown of the second half.
East senior fullback Coty Bishop found the endzone for both Warrior scores, on runs of one and six yards, with both coming in the second quarter.
Nicholas County took a 7-0 advantage with 2:38 left in the inaugural frame when Sagraves raised up and walked behind his offensive line, toward the Grizzly sideline, as if to get a play change.
With this diversion, the NC center snapped to ball directly to Mayes, who rambled 40 yards around left end for the touchdown. Hill added the conversion kick, as he would do four more times on the night.
Bishop's burst of one yard with 9:35 left in the half tied the count at 7 after Tristan Jones added the bonus point kick.
The big play of that scoring drive was a 53 yard aerial from quarterback Aaron Griffith to a wide open Christian Hedinger that carried to the Grizzly 4.
Sagraves and the Nicholas County eleven answered with a 10 play, 67 yard effort and was capped on a 17 yard Mayes scamper off left tackle after taking the handoff.
Joe Amendola intercepted a Warrior pass and returned 42 yards to the WE 12 to set the stage for Sagraves' 12 yard TD with 2:50 showing in the second.
East cut the deficit to 21-14 at intermission on Bishop's second bell ringer with 36.9 seconds before the break.
Junior Nik Walker had a 52 yard kickoff return to lay the ground work for that touchdown, bringing the score to 21-14 at halftime.
The second half featured a ground attack that allowed Nicholas County to run 29 plays, while East could manage but 15 snaps.
Related the Grizzlies' head coach, Gene Morris, of the second half plan, "We like to spread it out and throw it a little more, but in conditions like that (rain and mud), you just have to play it a little closer to the vest and run the ball."
He continued, "It's very important that you can ground it out when you have to."
With 5:56 remaining in the third, Hill recorded the six points when he picked up an offensive fumble on the eleventh play of the Grizzlies' opening drive of the second half and returned 32 yards to increase the advantage to 28-14.
Hill set the table for the final points when he blocked an East fumble and recovered at the Warrior 19 midway through the fourth.
Mayes closed out the scoring with a 7 yard burst up the middle for the win, making the Grizzlies 9-2 on the year and allowing them to advance to next weekend's quarter-final game against tonight's Bluefield-Ravenswood winner.
Assessed Warrior fifth year head coach Gary Poindexter of Nicholas County, "They're really a very good AA football team. We knew what we were up against. They shut down our run game."
The usually potent East ground attack was held to 75 yards on 27 rushes by the Grizzlies.
Wyoming East concludes its season at 9-2.
Nicholas County................7 14 7 7 — 35
Wyoming East...................0 14 0 0 — 14
NC - Wil Mayes 40 yd run (Austin Hill PAT kick) 2:38
WE - Coty Bishop 1 yd run (Tristan Jones PAT kick) 9:35
NC - Mayes 17 yd run (Hill PAT kick) 4:50
NC - Tyler Sagraves 12 yd run (Hill PAT kick) 2:50
WE - Bishop 6 yd run (Jones PAT kick) 0:37
NC - Hill 32 yd fumble recovery return (Hill PAT kick) 5:56
NC - Mayes 7 yd run (Hill PAT kick) 4:09
First Downs NC 17 WE 9
Rushing NC 42-211 WE 27-75
Passing NC 9-13-67-0-1 WE 5-17-53-0-2
Total Yardage NC 278 WE 128
Penalties NC 9-85 WE 1-5
Fumbles - Lost NC 4-0 WE 3-0
NC: Wil Mayes 23-132, Tyler Sagraves 14-56
WE: Aaron Griffith 8-25, Jacob Summe 9-23
NC: Sagraves 9-13-67-0-1
WE: Griffith 5-16-53-0-2
NC: Josh Gregory 3-36, Mayes 2-13, Jared Price 2-12
WE: Christian Hedinger 2-50, Casey Saunders 1-5, Jacob Dulcie 1-5