RED JACKET — Chalk up another Mingo County championship for the Burch Middle School football team.
The Bulldogs closed out their season 8-1 and won their second straight county title with Thursday night’s 44-24 victory over Lenore Middle School at Mingo Central’s Buck Harless Stadium in Newtown.
Burch, the No. 1 seed for the Mingo County playoffs, had advanced to the finals with a 52-22 victory last week over No. 4 seed Matewan. Lenore, which closed out with a winning season at 5-4, moved on after winning 8-6 in its semifinal game at Gilbert last week. The Rangers were the No. 3 seed.
Thursday night marked the second time this season Burch had beat Lenore.
It in the earlier regular season meeting, the Bulldogs blew past the Rangers 50-8 at Delbarton.
This time it would be much closer.
The Rangers held the lead twice on Burch in the first half and trailed only 22-16 at the intermission.
The Bulldogs, led by quarterback Drew Hatfield, then dominated the final two quarters, outscoring Lenore 22-8 to win the county title.
Just like the regular season meeting with Lenore, Hatfield was again the dominant player on the field as he scored five of Burch’s six touchdowns. Earlier in the season against Lenore, Hatfield scored six touchdowns and passed for another.
The Rangers had no answer for him.
Coach Fred Russell’s Lenore team, however, made it interesting early on.
Burch drew first blood as Hatfield scored on an 84-yard, first-quarter touchdown run to put his team up 6-0.
Lenore then came right back as Parker Brewer scored on a touchdown run to tie it up. He then tacked on the two-point conversion run as the Rangers led 8-6.
Hatfield then electrified the crowd with a 56-yard TD run and fired a pass to Isaac Moore on the conversion play as Burch retook the lead at 14-8 in the opening quarter.
Lenore later got the ball back after a short punt by the Bulldogs, taking over at the Burch 36-yard line.
The Rangers eventually scored as Ethan Varney ran the ball in from 3 yards out to tie the game up 14-14 with 2:08 left until halftime. Brewer then bulled his way into the end zone on the two-point conversion to put the Rangers back on top 16-14.
The Lenore touchdown was set up the play before on a 16-yard run by Caleb May to the 3. Also during the drive, the Rangers were able to convert on fourth down as Brewer ran for 5 yards between the tackles on a fourth-and-one play at the 28-yard line.
The Rangers tried to get the ball back on the ensuing kick but an on-side kick went out of bounds at midfield.
Only a few snaps later, Burch was able to reach pay dirt again with Hatfield’s 28-yard touchdown run on the last play of the half as the Bulldogs led 22-16. The two-point conversion was good.
The touchdown ended up being the game winner. It was set up on a 25-yard keeper by Hatfield to the Lenore 28-yard line.
Burch then poured it on the second half.
Hatfield took the opening kick of the third quarter to the house for a 59-yard touchdown. The two-point conversion failed but the Bulldogs led 28-16.
Hatfield then intercepted Lenore quarterback Easton Davis, giving Burch the ball at its own 49. Following a 20-yard run by Robert Farley, Hatfield was able to score again on a 1-yard plunge with 3:08 to go in the third. Burch ran in the two-point conversion as well as BMS grabbed a commanding 36-16 lead.
Lenore would score one more time with 6:41 left in the game on Brewer’s 6-yard touchdown run. He also tacked on the conversion run to make it 36-24.
Burch added one more touchdown with 4:47 left in the game on a 28-yard run by Chris Toops. The conversion was also good as Coach Tony Davis’ team closed out the 44-24 win and the county crown.
(Paul Adkins is the Sports Editor of the Logan Banner. He can be reached at 304-752-6950 ext. 1730, by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @PAdkinsBanner).