It had been a long time since the Martinsville High School football team had the chance to play, and even longer since the team had the chance to celebrate a win.
So when the final whistle blew on the team’s 34-18 victory over Morehead High School Friday, the extended celebration was warranted.
Martinsville went 0-10 in 2019, the first season under head coach Bobby Martin, and didn’t play in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, meaning Friday’s win was not only the first in Martin’s tenure at the school, but the Bulldogs first victory since September 2018.
It was Martinsville's second game of the 2021 season.
“I’ve been coaching over 30 years. I’ve got a bunch of wins. I don’t even know how many I’ve got. That’s not important. What’s important is them. They need to feel what it’s like to win and learn how to win,” Martin said. “That’s what I’m excited about. I’m excited for them. They’ve put in all that hard work. Those 22 months of not playing and trying to get guys out and making phone calls, it’s been tough to get a win. If anything I’m more excited for them.”
It was apparent from the get-go Friday that the Bulldogs game plan was to beat Morehead in the run game, put together long drives, and control the clock.
They played that game plan to perfection.
On the very first drive, Martinsville went 76 yards in six plays, with runs of 32, 14, and 22 yards. The drive ended with a 1-yard touchdown run by quarterback Jaylon Long.
“It set the tone a lot,” quarterback Ray Dickerson said of the opening drive.
The Bulldogs longest drive of the night was a 12-play, 85-yard drive that sophomore Latrell Hairston finished with a 1-yard run to make the score 27-10 with 10 minutes to play.
Martinsville never punted in the contest. The only drives in which they didn’t score was a failed fourth down conversion attempt in the second and the end of the first and second halves.
“We had one of the best weeks of practice we’ve had since I’ve been here,” Martin said. “The guys just bought in. Even before the game the coaches were concerned because there wasn’t any noise. Nobody was making noise. And they just came out and played football. It wasn’t anything. They just played football. Played some of the best ball we have in a while.”
Dickerson had a 7-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter – the culmination of a 10-play, 80-yard drive – to make the score 14-3.
Martinsville led 14-10 at the half.
Dickerson added two more TDs in the second half. The first was a 2-yard score to cap off a 5-play, 63-yard drive. The second was a 15-yard run with 5:51 to play.
For as efficient as the Bulldogs offense was, the defense also came up with big plays to keep Morehead off the field. Martinsville had four sacks and three tackles for loss, and Tyheem Harrell had a fumble recovery.
Late in the fourth, after Morehead scored and converted the 2-point conversion to make the score 34-18, Martinsville fumbled the kickoff return, giving the Panthers possession at midfield with just over four minutes to play.
Martinsville’s Chavis Martin and Bryson Stokes halted Morehead’s momentum, though, coming up with two sacks, including one on fourth down, to give the Bulldogs possession and the ability to run out the clock for the win.
The Bulldogs finished the night with 387 total yards of offense. Jamal Jones led the way with 98 yards on nine carries. Long had 91 yards on seven carries, Dickerson had 85 yards on nine carries, and Hairston had 84 yards on 14 carries.
“I’m happy for the Martinsville community. I’m happy for these kids. They need a chance to feel good and I’m just happy for them,” Martin said. “Hopefully we can keep building on it.”
Martinsville (1-1) will go on the road to Dan River (0-3) on Friday for a 7 p.m. game.
Martinsville 34, Morehead 18
Morehead 3 7 0 8 - 18
Martinsville 7 7 6 14 - 34
Martinsville (8:36 1Q) - J. Long 1 run (kick good)
Morehead (6:00 1Q) - W. Twilla 40 kick
Martinsville (10:35 2Q) - R. Dickerson 7 run (kick good)
Morehead (0:52 2Q) - M. Hall 40 pass to B. Barnes (kick good)
Martinsville (7:07 3Q) - R. Dickerson 22 run (kick no good)
Martinsville (10:15 4Q) - L. Hairston 1 run (kick good)
Martinsville (5:51 4Q) - R. Dickerson 15 run (kick good)
Morehead (4:37 4Q) - M. Hall 25 pass (2-pt good)
Cara Cooper is a sports writer for the Martinsville Bulletin. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org