SHORT GAP — It was a clash of styles between Frankfort and North Marion at Frankfort Stadium on Friday night.
The Falcons — known for their ground-and-pound Wing-T offense — were matched up with the Huskies’ new-age Run Pass Option — or RPO — but the old-school attack rose to the top on this day.
Behind nearly 200 yards rushing from Cole Hiett, part of a 407-yard masterclass running the football, Frankfort gashed North Marion from start to finish to win 36-19 and improve to 7-1.
“I don’t think we’ve been playing a complete game the whole year (coming into Friday),” Falcons head coach Kevin Whiteman said. “I just tried to drive it into their heads, ‘We’re going to play for 48 minutes.’ And I thought we played for 48 minutes. That was a nice win against a quality football team, and we needed that.
“Coming in we were the underdogs, and people didn’t think we could win. That’s a nice win for us.”
Frankfort, ranked No. 2 in the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission Class AA point standings, was originally scheduled to hit the road to face Elkins on Saturday, but that game was canceled with Randolph County in the orange this week.
The Falcons found a worthy replacement in Class AA No. 6 North Marion (5-2), who are in a position to make back-to-back playoff appearances for the first time since 2002.
Frankfort has gotten the better of the teams in recent history, winning at home 35-13 in 2013 and taking the bout in Farmington 55-27 the season prior, and Friday’s contest was no different.
After trading three-and-outs on the opening two series, the Falcons scored touchdowns on 5 of 6 drives to take a commanding lead, as North Marion didn’t seem ready for their physicality.
North Marion head coach Daran Hays likened the challenge Friday to facing Bridgeport. Although teams know what’s coming on most plays, the Indians still find a way to grind you down and beat you.
Frankfort only threw the ball three times yet amassed 462 yards of total offense.
“It’s a little difficult to prepare for, because your kids, especially up front, aren’t used to that white knuckle pull trap type blocking,” Hays said. “We’re more of a zone scheme team, so we don’t see that downhill, physical style in practice everyday which makes it pretty tough.
“The first drive was probably the best we played defensively. It’s just the longevity of pounding the rock that they’re really good at. A lot of people want to be a Wing-T team, but they don’t have the patience that a Coach Whiteman team has.”
Hiett carried the ball just 14 times but rushed for 191 yards on a 13.6 yards per attempt average and three scores.
On the senior’s last touchdown, Whiteman pulled a page out of Keyser’s playbook, running a weave handoff to start the fourth quarter. After handing the ball off once, the rock quickly shifted into Hiett’s hands, and North Marion’s defense was completely fooled by the counter.
Hiett scampered 54 yards to the end zone untouched to give the Falcons a 36-13 lead and put the game out of reach.
“He had some nice runs,” Whiteman said. “There were a couple there where I thought his extra effort sprung him forward. And I’m proud of his effort and the way he kept churning his legs.”
Peyton Clark also eclipsed the 100-yard threshold with 13 carries for 113 yards and the game’s opening score, a nine-yard touchdown. Jansen Moreland added 13 carries for 56 yards, including a seven-yard TD in the third quarter.
The plethora of rushing options, something that has characterized this Frankfort team, gave North Marion fits defensively.
“It’s kind of hard because you don’t have a guy to key on,” Hays said. “I really like (Peyton Clark), but most of their offense runs through (Jansen Moreland), and then (Parker VanMeter) or (Hiett) is out there. They have so many different guys coming in and out, so it really forces you to focus on the scheme versus the player.”
Husky quarterback Brody Hall had an up-and-down night, completing 13 of 28 passes for 186 yards and adding 26 more on the ground on eight carries. Gavan Lemley was the team’s leading rusher with Hunter Kuhn banged up, rushing it 10 times for 77 yards. He converted a 24-yard burst for a touchdown in garbage time.
Overall, the North Marion offense moved the ball well for 318 yards, but it struggled to finish drives.
The dagger came trailing 22-7 late in the second quarter, when a 7-play, 63-yard drive — which featured a dime pass from Hall that fell perfectly into the hands of Tariq Miller down the sideline for a 44-yard gain — ended with a fourth-down stop on Frankfort’s nine-yard line.
“We didn’t turn it over, but we did have a couple of self-inflicted negatives,” Hays said. “We weren’t able to get the running game going quite like we wanted to.”
On the other side of the ball, North Marion’s defense couldn’t chase the Falcons off the field.
Hiett went over 100 yards in the opening half alone on just seven carries, as a pair of 27-yard touchdowns during the second quarter allowed the Falcons to enter halftime up 18.
Peyton Clark set up the latter TD with a 38-yard punt return to the North Marion 27-yard line, where Hiett found a hole between the center and right guard to burst to the house two plays later.
“I always challenge them to win the physical game, and I like to be known as a physical football team,” Whiteman said. “I can’t say enough about the effort. Just great all-around effort in all three phases of the game.”
Clark added eight carries for 60 yards on the ground himself during the opening half, including a nine-yard burst to cap off an eight-play, 55-yard drive that gave the Falcons a 7-0 lead with 4:44 left in the first quarter.
Frankfort nearly went into the halftime locker room up by an even greater margin, when an Andy Westfall halfback pass completed to Brock Robinette ended up a yard short of the end zone as time expired.
The drive, though it yielded no points, was the Falcons’ best spanning 11 plays for 90 yards.
North Marion’s lone score of the first half came on a quarterback sneak by Hall, who fell over the line to tie it up 7-apiece with 1:26 left in the first quarter.
The Falcons now turn to another tough test at home against Oak Glen, with the Mineral Bowl against Keyser looming to close out the regular season. Whiteman hopes the win over the Huskies will give his team some momentum down the stretch.
“You come into a game like this, two ranked teams, top five or six in West Virginia in AA and you pull off the win. It can’t do anything but help your confidence,” Whiteman said.
North Marion returns home to face Robert C. Byrd on Friday.
Alex Rychwalski is a sportswriter at the Cumberland Times-News. Follow him on Twitter @arychwal.