HAMLIN, W.Va. — Now that’s starting your season in style.
The Point Pleasant football team rolled to its state-best 34th consecutive regular season victory on Friday night, defeating host Lincoln County by a 44-6 margin in the season opener for both teams.
The Big Blacks (1-0) got things going earlier, as sophomore signal caller Cason Payne connected with Jason Wamsley for a 21-yard scoring pass, at the 9:35 mark of the first quarter. PPHS senior Jason Schultz knocked home the point after attempt and gave the guests a 7-0 advantage.
Lincoln County (0-1) answered right back, however, as a defensive mishap let LCHS quarterback Jake Ashley connect with Nate Spencer for a 75-yard touchdown, with 8:43 left in the first. The Panthers failed to tie the game up, however, as the point after kick failed.
The Big Blacks gained some breathing room with 3:49 left in the first quarter, when sophomore Josh Wamsley found paydirt with a three-yard run. Schultz added the point after, making Point Pleasant’s lead 14-6.
PPHS expanded its lead to 11 with 8:54 remaining in the first half, as Schultz connected on a 27-yard field goal.
Point Pleasant added seven more points with 1:48 left in the half, as senior Grant Safford ran into the endzone from nine-yards out and Schultz followed with a successful extra-point kick. Point Pleasant’s lead on the scoreboard was 24-6 at halftime.
PPHS was held scoreless for the better part of the third period, but with 1:31 remaining in the canto, Safford scored his second touchdown of the night, this time on a five-yard run. Schultz knocked home the point after kick and the Big Blacks led 31-6 through three quarters.
Point Pleasant scored two more touchdowns in the final quarter, starting with a two-yard run by Payne at the 11:24 mark. Big Blacks’ junior Justin Brumfield got in on the action with 4:41 to go, scoring on a one-yard run. Schultz hit 1-of-2 extra points in the fourth quarter, capping off Point Pleasant’s 44-6 victory.
Point Pleasant outgained the Panthers 491-to-117 in total offense, while holding a 25-to-5 advantage in first downs.
Safford carried the bulk of the load for the PPHS offense, which in total had 418 rushing yards on 50 attempts. Safford had 24 of those carries, gaining 167 yards to go with two touchdowns.
Payne — who was 5-of-14 passing for 73 yards and one score — proved to be a dangerous runner as well, rushing for 111 yards and one score on 12 attempts.
Sheb Harris, a PPHS senior, gained 104 yards on six carries, while Brumfield added 34 yards and a score on six carries of his own. Josh Wamsley had one carry for a three-yard score, while Jared Icenhower ran one time and lost one yard.
Josh Wamsley was the leading pass catcher for PPHS, hauling in two passes for 42 yards. Jason Wamsley had one catch for 21 yards and a touchdown, while Keshawn Stover and Dakota Booth each had one reception for five yards.
Point Pleasant’s offense — which only punted once — wasn’t all smooth sailing, as the Big Blacks lost three fumbles on the night.
The Big Blacks defense was as dominant as ever, backing the Panthers up 11 yards on 17 total rushing attempts. Payne picked off a pass for the PPHS defense, while Zach Wamsley and Brian Gillispie each recovered a fumble. In all, Point Pleasant forced four turnovers, while making LCHS punt six times in the game.
Andrew Roach marked one sack for the PPHS defense, while Tucker Mayes and Joe Clark combined for another sack. Mayes, Colton Carr and Alec Smith each were part of a blocked punt for Point Pleasant’s defense, as well.
Ashley completed 8-of-16 passes for the Panthers, recording 128 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Spencer led the LCHS pass catchers with 86 yards and one touchdown on two receptions. Cory Rusk caught two passes for 32 yards, while Darrell Dirickson led the LCHS rushing attack with eight yards on three attempts.
The Big Blacks were penalized nine times for a total of 65 yards, while LCHS had five penalties totalling 32 yards.
Point Pleasant has now won six consecutive season openers, with the last four coming over Lincoln County.
The Big Blacks will go for their 19th consecutive road win next Friday, as they visit Ripley in the Battle for the Oaken Bucket. The Vikings are coming off a 14-7 victory at Parkersburg South.
LCHS hosts Roane County next Friday, as the Panthers look to bounce back from this loss. RCHS defeated South Point 42-22 on Friday.
Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.