Nov. 17—FAIRMONT — The quest for the state football championship continues through Rachel, as No. 1 North Marion hosts No. 9 Herbert Hoover in the quarterfinals in the WVSSAC Class AA football playoffs.
It's a rematch for these two Huskies, who met in week nine of the regular season. North Marion sent Herbert Hoover packing, winning a 21-14 nail biter.
"We did a really good job maturity-wise after we turned it over on our first two drives, fell behind seven nothing, and still didn't panic at all," North Marion Head Coach Daran Hays said. "Trusted ourselves, trusted our execution, were able to battle back into it and score down the stretch to kind of put it away and make a defensive stop when we really needed it."
North Marion made it back to the quarterfinals by beating No. 16 Lincoln in the first round 35-14. North Marion entered halftime up 28-0 over Lincoln before slowing it down in the second half.
"We came out really hot in the first half, and we just took care of business," quarterback Casey Minor said. "We did a really good job of running it and passing it when we needed to. We didn't come out in the second half and put them away like we wanted to, but a win's a win, we move on."
Herbert Hoover started its quest to get back to the state championship game like it did last year: as the highest seeded road team. They beat No. 8 East Fairmont 28-14 on a Saturday afternoon game on the legs of Dane Hatfield and Blake Fisher, who had 176 and 107 yards respectively.
Hatfield put up similar numbers against North Marion in the first meeting — 193 yards on 28 carries. In the East Fairmont playoff game, Hatfield had 37 carries, which, according to Hays, is about a third of the carries North Marion's leading rusher, Aaron Hoffman, has had all season (131).
"He's a really tough, hard runner," Hays said. "You saw his physical toughness in the East game just carrying it 37 times.... That's a beating. That's a lot of times getting tackled, a lot of times picking yourself up off the ground. He's a tough minded, tough nosed kid, and that's why he's one of the best in the state."
Along with stopping Hatfield and Herbert Hoover's run-heavy offense, North Marion needs to minimize the mistakes it made in the regular season matchup — a fumble and an interception on the first two offensive possessions.
"[We need] a better start," Minor said. "Really just taking care of the football and not letting Hatfield run all over us, so keep him contained."
Making the same defensive stops as it did in the first game will prove important for North Marion. Herbert Hoover scored 40 or more points in all but one of its seven regular season wins. In its three losses, however, Herbert Hoover failed to score more than 22.
North Marion's offense, meanwhile, has put up 35 or more points in all but one game, that being the win against Herbert Hoover. North Marion's defense gave up no more than 26 points in all of its wins. It gave up 54 in the loss to Fairmont Senior.
North Marion and Herbert Hoover kickoff the rematch on Saturday, Nov. 18 at 4 p.m.
Reach Colin C. Rhodes at 304-367-2548