An impressive streak in West Virginia high school athletics came to an end on November 29.
Martinsburg High School entered the season as the 4-time defending West Virginia Class-AAA Football Champions.
The Bulldogs (9-1) were the No. 4 seed in the playoffs. They won their first two post-season games and took the trip to Charleston to play No. 1 Capital High School.
However, Martinsburg lost, effectively ending the quest for an unprecedented fifth-straight WV football title.
The streak was over.
The streak started in 2010.
Martinsburg, coming off a tough loss to end its season the year before against South Charleston in the second round of the playoffs, won all 10 regular season games in 2010; and in impressive fashion, no less.
Junior quarterback Brandon Ashenfelter, senior running back David Gladden, and standout sophomore wide receiver Cedric Brown led the team on offense.
That Bulldog team was overpowering. They defeated opponents by an average of 29.5 points per game during the regular and post seasons.
During the playoffs, Martinsburg rolled past Lewis County, 54-0. The Bulldogs then made quick work of Bridgeport and Morgantown high schools to reach the championship game.
Head coach David Walker was trying to capture his first title in four attempts.
They got it.
Walker and Martinsburg defeated Brooke High School, a team surrounded by controversy after advancing to the championship game – due to South Charleston playing ineligible players against Brooke in the semi-final game and thus having to forfeit – by a score of 30-0. The defense didn’t allow a first down until late in the first half and yielded just 125 yards of offense to the Bruins.
Ashenfelter got the scoring started with a 15-yard pass to Brown for a touchdown and then also threw a 55-yard touchdown in the first quarter. Gladden added a score in the third quarter to put Martinsburg ahead 23-0.
That was the first title.
The Bulldogs were even better in 2011.
In my opinion, the 2011 Martinsburg football team was the best high school team I’ve ever seen and should be looked at as one of the best teams in state history.
Ashenfelter, Brown, and the entire offense was explosive. The defense was lights out all year, led by Josh Harwood and Logan Jenkins, completely dominating the opposition.
Bulldog defenders posted six shutouts that season, including two in a row to start the season in a tight 7-0 victory at Sherando (Va.) High School and the following week against HD Woodson (D.C.) High School in a 48-0 routing. Three more shutouts came in succession against Morgantown, Hedgesville, and Washington high schools.
The Bulldog defense allowed only 103 points that season through all 14 games.
And while the defense stopped every opposing offense, the Bulldogs’ own offensive attack couldn’t be derailed as it scored 610 points, 507 more than the defense allowed.
Martinsburg scored at least 33 points in 12 of the 14 games, scoring at least 45 eight times and over 50 five times. The Bulldog offense put at least 35 points on the board in each of their last seven games – a streak that spanned over the last three games of the regular season and all four playoff games.
Woodrow Wilson and Huntington high schools both proved to be no match in the first two playoff games, as Martinsburg scored 49 and 46 points in those games, respectively, and only gave up a combined 20 points. A rematch against Morgantown was more competitive than the meeting earlier that season, but still ended in a 24 point Bulldog victory.
That win propelled No. 1 Martinsburg into the championship game for the second year in a row, this time taking on No. 3, also undefeated, George Washington High School, led by Kennedy Award winner Ryan Switzer.
The defense held Switzer to 3.5 yards per carry, although he did score three times.
Martinsburg running back Justin Arndt ran for 141 yards and two touchdowns, while Ashenfelter ran for 134 yards and two scores, and threw a touchdown to Brown.
Two in a row!
This year saw the first big streak get snapped – the consecutive games winning streak. Twenty-eight games in a row Martinsburg had won entering the season.
Martinsburg won convincingly in each of its first four games to extend the streak to 32 wins in a row.
The offense, led by senior quarterback Justin Clinton, Brown, playing in his senior season on the outside, and newcomer, sophomore Trey Boyd, at running back, put up insane numbers from the start of the season.
Martinsburg scored 38 points in its opener versus Sherando, followed by two 60-point performances, and a 56-28 win in Morgantown on a rainy night. That was the 32nd win in a row – the seventh-longest winning streak in the nation at the time.
That streak came to an end, though, on September 21 at Westminster (Md.) High School.
Despite 164 yards through the air and 154 yards on the ground by Clinton, the Dogs couldn’t find enough offense to out-do the Owls, who gained 405 yards in the 36-33 defeat of Martinsburg. The first loss in over two years.
However, Martinsburg responded by winning the remaining five games of the regular season by an average of 50.4 points per game, including a 73-0 victory to finish the season over county-rival Musselman High School. During that same stretch, the defense allowed just 5.6 points per contest.
For the second year in a row, the Bulldog offense scored at least 30 points in every game of the playoffs, opening post-season play with a 39-point victory over Woodrow Wilson.
Martinsburg put 50 points on the board in an easy defeat of Musselman in the second round, and then, in a rematch of the previous year’s championship game, demolished George Washington 63-14.
The Bulldogs were simply too much to handle in the championship game, as well, this time taking on undefeated Cabell Midland High School.
Brown caught and ran for the first two touchdowns of the game. Boyd put his team up by three scores with a 77-yard run, a big chunk of his 193 yards on the day. Boyd scored another touchdown later in the game that, for all intents and purposes, sealed the victory.
This may have been the most intense year for Martinsburg. Close games surrounded by questions of eligibility, which the WVSSAC ruled in favor of Martinsburg late in the season, made it a bit more stressful of a campaign than previous years.
But the Bulldogs still got the job done.
The first three games were each decided by less than 15 points, including a gut-wrenching win at State College (Pa.) High School.
Martinsburg trailed late in the game before quarterback Malique Watkins threw a pass to wide out Tory Lee, who was wide open in the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown with just 50 seconds left in the game.
The next week proved to be just as tough for the Bulldogs, but the result was different. That game ended in a one-point loss.
Martinsburg traveled to Tuscarora (Va.) High School, the third game outside of West Virginia in the first four weeks.
The Bulldogs again were behind late in the game. Watkins and tight end Troy Walker connected in the fourth quarter for a touchdown and the 2-point conversion to pull within one score.
Following a defensive stand, Martinsburg got the ball back and scored again, getting within one point. However, the Bulldogs went for the win instead of the tie, and the gamble didn’t pay off.
Martinsburg lost 35-34.
But, like they did the year before, the Dogs rebounded nicely after the lone loss of the season.
Martinsburg won a close game over Morgantown, and then easily took care of its area opponents. It also breezed through the first two games of the post season.
The Bulldogs then hosted Capital in the semi-final round, winning by 14 points after a great performance by running back Deamonte Lindsay, who ran for 110 yards, had 58 yards receiving, and three total touchdowns.
The next week, Martinsburg made history.
Scoring only one touchdown in the game, a short pass from Watkins to Walker, and getting a safety on a punt blocked by Tyler Miller, the Bulldogs played enough defense to defeat No. 1 seed and undefeated Huntington High School 9-7.
History was made that day; an unprecedented streak in West Virginia high school football.
Four in a row.
The streak came to an end this year, sadly. Martinsburg was fast and athletic, but was smaller overall than it had been in years before.
Boyd, who traveled back to his hometown in Florida for his junior year, returned to Martinsburg for his senior season, creating a three-headed monster in the backfield of Boyd, Brown and Lindsay.
It was a given that the offense would put up numbers one way or another. However, the main question surrounding the team heading into the season was would the defense be able to hold the opposition to, basically, fewer points than what the offense could score?
After two strong performances by the defense in the first two games, it was challenged three games in a row in games against State College, Tuscarora and Morgantown.
Martinsburg, for the second year in a row, gutted out a win against State College, needing its defense to step up, which it did. The Bulldogs wouldn’t be as fortunate the next week, however, against Tuscarora, losing at home 40-21.
Martinsburg then needed a second-half comeback by the offense, and multiple defensive stands, to pull out a four-point win in Morgantown that looked unlikely going into the fourth quarter.
The Bulldogs’ final five games of the regular season were all blowout victories over area competitors.
The first round of the playoffs was a blowout, too: a 49-point win over Buckhannon-Upshur High School in which the defense held the Buccaneers to only three points.
Martinsburg’s second-round game was deceiving, as Point Pleasant High School seemed to not understand exactly what to do.
The few times the Knights threw the ball forward, instead of laterally which they did more often, they gained positive yards and scored. However, they continued to run and throw laterals, resulting in stalled drives that turned into Bulldog points in a 49-28 Martinsburg victory.
Martinsburg’s next test, and what became the final test of the season, was in Charleston against No. 1 Capital. The game was played in the same stadium that resulted in the last Martinsburg loss to an in-state opponent.
History repeated itself at Laidley Field. Martinsburg turned the ball over and gave up big play after big play in a game that ended in a 35-7 defeat.
Multiple streaks came to end that day on November 29.
The loss ended a 43-game win streak against in-state opponents, an 18-game win streak in the playoffs, and, obviously, four years in a row of state titles.
Those four titles were confirmation of what was being called “Dog Dynasty” – the last 16 years of Martinsburg football dominance.
16 years. 174 victories. 16 playoff appearances. 10 conference championships.
9 semi-final appearances. 8 state championship appearances and 4 state titles.
109 WV All-State players. 4 All-Americans. 3 Kennedy Award Winners.
3 Gatorade State Players of the Year. 2 Huff Award and 2 Hunt Award Winners.
No matter what happens on the field next year, no one can take away those four championships. As a student of Martinsburg all four years that resulted in football titles, it was a great time to go to that school.
Even though the streaks have ended, it just means one thing. It’s time for another one to start.
NOTE: The numbers above for player awards does not include 2014 winners because those names were not released at the time this was published.
*Credit to The Journal sports staff for covering all of these games.