SHORT GAP, W.Va. — The Frankfort Falcons owned the airways during the first half before controlling the ground in the second to hammer Summers County 38-7 Saturday night at Frankfort Stadium in the opening round of the West Virginia Class AA playoffs.
Thane Cutter caught four balls for 89 yards and two touchdowns in the first 24 minutes, and Damian Morgan ran for 113 yards and two touchdowns in the final 24 as the sixth-seeded Falcons kept the 11th-seeded Bobcats guessing most of the evening on the defensive side of the ball.
It was Summers County (7-4) who had the Falcons a little rattled early on, taking the first drive right down the field for the first points of the night.
Isaiah Brown returned the opening kickoff to the 50 and the Bobcats moved to the 33, getting a handful of yards on each carry, to face a fourth-and-four. Quarterback T.J. Smith picked up six yards on a keeper for the first down before Brown took a direct snap from the center and finished the drive with a 27-yard run with 8:52 remaining in the first quarter.
“We didn’t panic after that first drive, though, that’s something I might normally do after a drive like that,” said Kevin Whiteman, Frankfort Head Coach. “I told everyone on the sideline not to worry about what just happened and go out, run the offense, get us some points and we’ll be okay.”
That’s basically what the Falcons did after Brady Watson had the first big play for Frankfort when he returned its first kickoff all the way down to the Summers County 25. The Falcons offense struggled to get anything and they settled for a 36-yard field goal from Josh McNeil to cut the lead to 7-3.
The lead was trimmed even further when the Falcons picked up a safety on the next Bobcat possession. The snap sailed over the Summers County punter and into the end zone, where the Bobcats fell on it for the safety.
After getting the ball on the free kick, Frankfort went 68 yards in 10 plays to take its first lead when Cutter caught a five-yard touchdown from Gage Shaffer in the right corner of the end zone.
Summers County moved down to the Frankfort 30 on its next drive before turning the ball over on downs. Three plays later Shaffer went to Cutter again and the area’s second-leading receiver threw a stiff arm to get past one tackler then outran the rest for 69 yards and a touchdown to give the Falcons a 20-7 advantage with five minutes to go in the first half.
“Thane had some great catches for us tonight, and he’s been making them all year. He allows us to do a lot more on offense than we could without him in there. Of course, it’s easier for him to make those catches the way Gage has thrown him the ball.”
Cutter had a total of five catches for 93 yards and Shaffer finished 8 of 10 for 133 passing yards.
Frankfort added another score right before halftime when Shaffer dumped it off to Watson in the flats, and Watson made three men miss before spinning out of a tackle and into pylon with 30 seconds left.
Cutter, who added a second interception in the third quarter, picked off Smith’s pass at the end of the first half.
The second half was much slower than the first, but was owned by the Falcons.
Morgan broke off a 55-yard run on a trap near the end of the third quarter and scored from a yard out with nine minutes to play in the fourth to make it 38-7.
Besides Cutter’s two picks, Jimmy Howard helped lead the Frankfort defense with 10 tackles. Randy Wiley and Morgan each added nine.
Frankfort (9-2) will play at Bridgeport at 7:30 p.m. on Friday in the second round. Bridgeport has some familiarity with Mineral County, having played Keyser three weeks ago at Alumni Field. The Golden Tornado won 25-0.
“I’m excited about the challenge,” said Whiteman. “I’m excited about watching film on them tomorrow. I’m heartbroken that this is our last game at our field, but I’m ready to get going with Bridgeport. We know they like to pound the ball, so we’ll have some adjustments to make, but we’ll give them something to worry about as well.”
Chris Appel is a sportswriter for the Times-News. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.