-RIVALRY- The Axe Bowl – PCHS Warriors vs Richwood Lumberjacks

Aaron Pugh
Contributing Writer

There is no other game on Pocahontas County High School’s schedule like Richwood. We have other great rivalries – the decades long uphill battle against Greenbrier West; the trans-Cheat Mountain feud with Tygarts Valley; the battle of the Virginias flares up from time to time when Bath County, Virginia, schedules us; and certainly the grudge match with the other PCHS, the Pendleton County Wildcats.

But there is something special about the Richwood game. We have no other game, no other rival, that we’ve faced as many times – more than 40 games in the 50-year history of Warrior football. Plus, it’s the Axe Bowl!

Since 1999, the Warriors and Lumberjacks have competed for a double bladed axe. A unique trophy, school mascots painted on the blade, wins, losses and scores are tallied on the handle. In 2020, good rivalry tradition would reign, and the two teams would battle the whole night in a dynamic and disorienting game.

The Warriors received the opening kickoff, and early on things were chaotic. A couple plays into their series the Warriors would go for a nicely set up screen play out to senior RB #24 Logan Ryder. But, on one of those flukes in football, a Richwood defender managed to strip the ball right out of his hands and go tearing up the field toward the end zone. Luckily for the Warriors, senior QB #10 Keaton Baldwin was able to down the runaway Lumberjack. A few plays later, Richwood went for a field goal, but #12 Camden Lawrence’s kick was blocked by junior LB #1 Cash Keating.

Setting up shop the Warriors began marching back down the field – but would turn over the ball yet again! A deep, jump ball into the end zone, intended for senior WR #14 Jacob Davis was claimed by the Lumberjacks instead, and that set up the Richwood offense.

The first quarter continued back and forth. Midway through the second quarter though, the Lumberjacks would finally strike a blow. Senior QB #1 Caleb Jantuah would punch in a run from 8 yards out; point after by Lawrence was good.

Score 7-0 Lumberjacks.

The Warriors, despite the muddling of the first quarter, were quick to respond. Putting together a drive and marching down the field in 1:34 and capping it off with a 5-yard run by Baldwin; point after by Jacob Davis was good.

Score 7-7

The last minutes of the half would be spent going back and forth and with one second left the Warriors would kneel the football and go to the locker room to make their adjustments. Coming back out after the half, the Warriors kicked off, and the Lumberjacks capitalized on it. Senior RB #32 Doye Ward would plow in from 26 yards out for a touchdown; point after by Lawrence was good.

Score 14-7 Lumberjacks.

The Warriors would respond just over a minute later. On the third play of their drive senior RB #8 Haiden Gladwell would take the ball on a sweep 41 yards for a touchdown; point after by Davis was good.

Score 14-14.

On the third play after Richwood received the kickoff, #24 Logan Ryder would redeem himself. This time picking off Jantuah from the Outside-LB position, bringing the Warrior offense out, with good field position on the Lumberjack 40 yard line. Four plays later, including a big 30 yard run from Ryder, Baldwin would pitch the ball to Gladwell, who did his best impersonation of a squirrel and scrambled between Richwood defenders into the end zone from 5 yards out; kick after by Davis good.

Score 21-14 Warriors.

The Lumberjacks would rebound, following the kickoff with a four play drive of their own, capped by a 7 yard touchdown by #40 Triston Miller. Baldwin, however, would take umbrage and plunge through the point after team and block the kick by Lawrence.

Score 21-20 Warriors.

Despite the injury to starting sophomore D-Tackle /Guard #77 Austin Morgan late in the third quarter and another turnover on a muffled handoff that gave the Lumberjacks another chance, the Warriors would continue to rally and stiffen, stalling the Lumberjacks with a fumble. The Warrior offense failed to get any momentum, but Baldwin booted a 50 yard punt to pin Richwood deep in their own territory. The Warriors would force a 3 and out, and then, early in the fourth, Baldwin would strike again. On play two, Baldwin had a 27 yard, pin-ball run to the Lumberjack one yard line. On the next play, he would take the ball the rest of the way for a touchdown; point after by Davis was good.
Score 28-20 Warriors.

Matt Buzzard’s defense would immediately force another three-and-out and rattle the punter, causing a very short punt. Couch Doug Burns’ offense would complement this and take the ball on a quick two play series from the Richwood 28 yard line. The second being a 9- yard touchdown by Gladwell for his hat-trick, third touchdown; point after by Davis good.

Score 35-20 Warriors.

The Lumberjacks would have one last gasp, by skill, luck and determination sustaining a 15 play drive that was capped off by a 4-yard touchdown by Jantuah; but Baldwin denied them the point after yet again.

Score 35-26 Warriors.

The Lumberjacks would try to onside kick, but the Warrior hands-team had it covered up when senior D-End/Center #66 Jesse Bostic secured the ball. Following this, Baldwin and company would set up shop, with three and a half minutes left in the game. Proving that sometimes the best defense is a good offense, Baldwin and crew would march from the 50 yard line down to the Lumberjack nine on seven plays, and with 11 seconds left on the clock; let time run out and claim the victory over the Lumberjacks.

The night was one of ups and downs for the Warriors, facing determination and no small amount of talent, and dealing with – missing players due to illness and injuries, 95 yards of penalties, 3 turnovers and a -31 yard punt. It seemed like they set themselves the Herculean task of winning against the Lumberjacks and keeping the axe; while having nearly every imaginable problem occur. A testament to their resilience and ability to improve through a game, even when everything goes wrong.

It was a game of offense and big yardage. The Warriors racked up 354 yards of offense on 47 plays, while the Lumberjacks stacked up 305 yards on 64 plays. The Warriors would only go to the air five times with two completions for -5 yards and a turnover. So, they stuck with the powerful ground game and the backfield senior trifecta dominated the night.

RB #8 Haiden Gladwell led the night with 172 yards and 3 touchdowns on 16 carries. QB #10 Keaton Baldwin would have 133 yards and 2 touchdowns on 18 carries. RB #24 Logan Ryder would take his pound of flesh out of the Lumberjacks, too, with 56 yards on 7 carries.

There is a lot to work on with the penalties and ball security. But, with the hopeful recovery of some players and more of that determination that they exhibited, the team will continue to build.

The Warriors will have to bring their A-game as they are set to host the, 2-1, #4 ranked, East Hardy Cougars on October 2.

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