MARTINSBURG - If the sports adage is true that defense wins championships, Martinsburg finished its second straight undefeated Class AAA championship season in the only manner possible.
On the last play of the title game against George Washington, the Bulldogs strip-sacked the quarterback, resulting in the Patriots' fifth turnover.
It was the penultimate symbol for a team having the claim to fame as a superlative defensive unit all season long.
While Martinsburg delivered a strong offense throughout the season, too, the defense led the way as the Bulldogs finished with a second straight 14-0 campaign and won their 28th straight game in a 35-27 victory against George Washington in the championship game earlier this month at Wheeling Island Stadium.
Although Patriots running back Ryan Switzer, who is the captain of the Class AAA all-state first-team offense, ran for 115 yards and three touchdowns, he was held somewhat in check by the Bulldogs. He entered the game averaging 10.1 yards per carry, but could only manage 3.5 per rush against Martinsburg.
Appropriately, linebacker Marqus Burrell managed the championship-game-ending sack, one of two sacks he had that resulted in fumbles.
He's one of five Martinsburg players, three of them linebackers in the Bulldogs' defensive alignment, on either the first- or second-team Class AAA all-state unit announced today by the West Virginia Sports Writers Association.
Nose guard Josh Harwood and linebackers Logan Jenkins and Justin Arndt, all seniors, claimed positions on the first-team defense, while Burrell and defensive back Chris Perkins, as a utility player, have been named to the second-team defense.
Jenkins, who is the defensive captain, is Martinsburg's all-time leading tackler, breaking the previous record held by former Kennedy Award winner Nate Sowers.
For good measure, the Bulldogs also have a pair of offensive players on the first team: junior wide receiver Cedric Brown, who played the championship game a week after dislocating his hip on game's first kickoff, and senior quarterback Brandon Ashenfelter, who played the championship game with a dislocated shoulder suffered in the first half.
Ashenfelter only ran for 134 yards and touchdowns and threw a scoring pass to Brown despite the injury. Arndt also scored two touchdowns as he rushed for 141 yards and won his team's most valuable player award in the final against George Washington.
An integral part of the offense, Arndt was an integral part of a defensive unit that yielded 103 points in 14 games. Until the championship game, nobody scored more than 14 points against the Bulldogs, and a bundle of those points came against special teams and the deep-reserve defense. George Washington's success in the return game helped the Patriots achieve excellent field position to begin several drives.
Beside Switzer, who will to be one of the state's most-sought recruits in recent seasons, George Washington also put two other players on the first team.
They include defensive linemen Austin Rosencrance and linebacker Dustin Crouser. Linebacker Trevon Johnson and defensive back Malik Hampton earned second-team honors for the Patriots.
Bridgeport, which was undefeated until facing George Washington in the state semifinals, earned three spots on the first team running back Brett Hathaway, offensive lineman Garrett Stanley and kicker Connor Kornbrath, who gave a verbal commitment to Iowa earlier in the season.
Players from playoff qualifiers dominated the first-team offense.
In fact, just Brooke running back Tim Faulkner is the only player not to see postseason action.
At the skill positions, the other wide receiver is Jeremy Bell of Parkersburg, while utility honors on the first team were earned by Cody Carter of Cabell Midland, Andrew Johnson of Woodrow Wilson and Clayton Collett of Elkins.
Beside Stanley, the first-team offensive linemen include John Weber of Parkersburg, Eli Stewart of Wheeling Park, Josh Baisen of Cabell Midland, Garrett Campbell of Hurricane and Daniel Berry of Morgantown.
Weber is a veteran first-team all-stater.
The first-team defense includes a healthy dose of playoff participants, as well.
Vinnie Fusco of Robert C. Byrd is the only returning first-team all-state defender, though Switzer was named as the unit's punter in 2010 as a sophomore.
Beside the multiple players from Martinsburg and George Washington, both of which had staunch units, Spring Valley is the only other team possessing more than one athlete on the first-team defense.
Linebacker Elijah Wellman and punter Sean Hayton represent the Timberwolves.
Christian Allen of Morgantown and David Hicks of Ripley are the other first-team interior defenders, while Ryan Reidel of Cabell Midland rounds out the linebacking corps and defensive backs include Logan Cox of Parkersburg South, D.C. Banks of Wheeling Park and David Gaydosz of Winfield. Trevor Malnick of Fairmont and David Toney of Logan are utility players.
Winfield's Andy Ellington, who set a state record with 14 field goals, is the second-team Class AAA offensive captain, and linebacker Ryan Echard of Bridgeport has been named captain of the second-team defense.