WISE — It was a defensive struggle that turned into an offensive explosion.
With his team trailing 7-6 in the fourth quarter, J.I. Burton’s Martinez Miles slashed his way to two touchdowns as the Raiders rallied to beat Clintwood 21-14 in the Region D, Division 1 championship game at Carl Smith Stadium on the campus of Virginia-Wise.
Miles, who finished with 236 yards on 29 carries, scored what proved to be the game winning TD on a 5-yard dash with 4:04 left in the contest. It was his third rushing touchdown of the game.
“Clintwood has a good football team,’’ said Miles, a senior. “Today we matched their intensity and that was the difference in the game.’’
With the victory, Burton (10-2) advances to the VHSL Group A semifinals next weekend. The Raiders will travel to take on Holston.
In a contest where both teams finished with nearly the exact stats, the outcome was decided by who could overcome their mistakes.
Burton, which had beaten Clintwood 36-0 in the regular season, was penalized seven times in the game while the Greenwave (9-3) fumbled the ball five times.
It was Clintwood that suffered the most from its mistakes. While the ’Wave lost only two of those fumbles, the others were momentum stoppers which cost them dearly in the end.
“The fumbles absolutely killed us today,’’ said Clintwood coach Rick Mullins. “Against a good team like Burton you just can’t put the ball on the carpet.
“I’m tremendously proud of our guys today and I wish Burton well the rest of the way.’’
After a scoreless first quarter, the Raiders got on the board first after a nifty 13-yard scamper by Miles out of the wildcat set. A high snap on the point after forced a pass attempt for the conversion that failed and left the score at 6-0.
Clintwood answered right away. Starting on their own 48-yard line, the Greenwave marched 52 yards in seven plays and took the lead when Austin Dotson scored from 3 yards out with 23 seconds to go in the first half. Nick Lewis’ point after kick gave Clintwood a 7-6 lead.
Taking the second-half kickoff, the ’Wave drove 47 yards before being halted by a determined Burton defense. Lewis’ 37-yard field goal attempt hit the crossbar, cruelly deflecting off the right upright and harmlessly back into the end zone.
After stopping the Raiders once more, the Greenwave again went on the march. Driving from its own 30 to the Burton 15, Clintwood felt the sting of another fumble, this time at the Burton 14-yard line.
With 2:05 left in the third quarter Burton took over. On a third-and-4 at the 20, Miles burst around his left end and raced 59 yards to the Clintwood 21.
Four plays later, Miles capped off the eight-play drive when he again ran out of the wildcat formation and followed his blockers into the end zone. His conversion run put the Raiders up 14-7 with 10:10 left in the fourth quarter.
“We’ve worked on the wildcat for some time in practice,’’ said Burton coach Jim Adams. “We just waited until the right time to use it. Martinez gave us just the spark we needed today.’’
After Miles gave the Raiders a 21-7 advantage, Clintwood raced 72 yards on 10 plays with Dotson, who finished with 136 yards on 21 carries, forcing his way into the end zone from a yard out.
Clintwood’s onside kick attempt was recovered by Burton’s Evan Stewart and the Raiders were able to run out the final 1:20 of the game and claim their sixth Region D title in the past 12 years.
“Clintwood is a stellar program and well coached. They came in with a good scheme and gave us fits all day,’’ Adams said. “We knew we’d have our hands full today.
“I thought we let some opportunities get away from us in the first half and was worried that would come back to haunt us. But our defense played great today. We couldn’t have asked more of them.’’