SISSONVILLE – The Mingo Central High School football team saw their season come to a heartbreaking end with a 28-18 first round playoff loss to Sissonville at muddy Joe Sawyer Field on Friday night.
The Miners only trailed 6-0 at the half and tied the game early in the third quarter. The two teams, the No. 8 and No. 9 seeds in Class AA, battled it out on a wet and muddy field.
In the end Sissonville was left standing, but it was a record year for Mingo Central as they finished with their first winning season at 8-3.
Sissonville’s Jarred Wilkinson churned out 199 yards and two touchdowns to power the eighth-seeded Indians past No. 9 Mingo Central.
It was the first-ever home playoff football game at Sissonville High School. They had hosted two other games at Laidley Field in Charleston in the 1990s, but they’ve never been able to host one at Sissonville due to the facilities. Since then Kanawha County Schools has put in new bleachers and new lights.
A crowd of about 1,500 attended the matchup of Cardinal Conference foes who didn’t meet during the regular season.
Sissonville (10-1), which won its first post-season game since marching all the way to the state championship game in 1994, will get a rematch at No. 1 Wayne in next week’s quarterfinals. The date and time will be set on Sunday at the SSAC meeting in Parkersburg.
The Indians lost 58-19 at Wayne during the regular season.
“It really is a big deal for a lot of us,” said Wilkinson of the playoff win. “We made history. We pulled it together. We had to do something on defense. We ended up stepping it up.”
Wilkinson led a ground attack that galloped for 369 yards on 66 carries. Dominic Walker, Wilkinson’s running mate in the Indians’ backfield, added 135 yards on 20 carries for good measure.
“All year we’ve prided ourselves on being a second-half team,” said Sissonville third-year coach Eddie Smolder, a former standout at Ripley High School and Marshall.
Then the Miners (8-3) knotted the game at 6-6 on junior Chance Lester’s 57-yard TD jaunt on the second play from scrimmage to open the third period.
After that, Wilkinson ripped off a 39-yard score and Sissonville quarterback Nathan Miller scampered in from 12 yards out to put the Indians up 21-6 with 4:22 left in the third quarter as Mingo Central played catch up the rest of the way.
Senior split end Alex Lee’s 83-yard kickoff return following Miller’s TD gave the Miners new life as they closed within 21-12. Mingo shaved it to three points (21-18) with 9:54 to go in the fourth period on Lee’s 30-yard reception from quarterback Stevie Hammond.
Walker ripped off a 64-yard TD on the first play after Mingo Central’s scoring toss for a 28-18 advantage with 9:37 left.
Sissonville’s defense forced a fumble with the Indians’ Wilkinson recovering at his own 3-yard line after Mingo Central marched all the way from its own 7. The Indians then forced the Miners to turn it over on downs on their last two possessions.
On the Miners’ next-to-last possession, Lee came down with the ball in the end zone on a pass from Hammond, but when he hit the ground, it jarred loose.
“Sissonville was just tougher than we were,’” said Mingo Central coach Yogi Kinder, who had a sophomore-laden squad. “I didn’t think they were when I watched them on film. I thought we were a little tougher than that. We’ve just got so many little young ones trying to play. Nobody thought we would win four games this year. These kids have played hard.”
Mingo Central’s Lester finished with 135 yards on 15 totes with a 57-yard scoring run while Lee added 133 yards on five catches with a TD. Hammond, a sophomore, passed for 170 yards on 8-of-16 passing and a TD.
Game Notes: Mingo Central seniors Alex Lee, Brandon Blankenship and Austin Prater played their last game in a Miner football jersey…. Mingo and Sissonville will begin play in the regular season next year as the Miners will have a full slate of conference games. … The Miners will return most of their starters next season. …Sissonville’s head coach Eddie Smolder, a former Marshall standout, made the playoffs as a head coach for the first time at the school. Sissonville (9-1) was the No. 8 seed, while Mingo (8-2) was the No. 9 seed in a balanced match-up between the two Class AA Cardinal Conference schools.
— The Charleston Gazette’s and Tommy Atkinson and Rick Ryan contributed to this report.