By Eric Little – Seven Ranges Radio
As we enter the final weeks of the regular season, the year-long battle for supremacy in the Little Kanawha Conference will witness another chapter with a tremendous battle on Saturday night between two of the league’s best. Here are this week’s games (All games scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Friday unless otherwise specified):
Williamstown (6-1) at Parkersburg Catholic (6-2) (Saturday 7:30)
These two teams have been rivals for a long time, but it’s been a few years since both had so much at stake coming into this game. Williamstown is trying to cement a top-four spot in the Class A standings while Parkersburg Catholic would love to seal a spot and maybe even jump into the top-eight and host a playoff game.
The Yellowjackets swatted a long-time pest last week with a 20-7 win over Wirt County, a team that had defeated Williamstown three of the last four seasons. Jake Tracewell connected with Hunter Neely for a pair of touchdowns and ran for another in the win.
Parkersburg Catholic picked up its second loss of the year, falling 38-15 to unbeaten Valley Fayette. Jake Boice ran for 101 yards and a touchdown for the Crusaders in the loss. Peyton Sturm connected with Nick Roedershimer for Parkersburg Catholic’s only other score. This will undoubtedly create the toughest set of back-to-back games on Parkersburg Catholic’s schedule this season, with Williamstown following this week.
The key for Parkersburg Catholic in this game is to establish the ground attack. Even in their 20-7 win last week, Williamstown had issues stopping Wirt County’s running game up the middle. Despite the dominant performance in the win, the Yellowjackets only outgained Wirt County 250-199. The Crusaders can do this with the tandem of Boice and Kyle Bronski.
The Yellowjackets will need to play their most physical game of the year to get the win this weekend. Parkersburg Catholic, despite their low roster numbers, is a very physical team. However, attrition and fatigue has taken its toll on the Crusaders in big spots this season.
South Harrison (2-5) at St. Marys (7-0)
I have a confession I’m willing to make in this space. I hold a vote in the weekly MetroNews Power Rankings. For the first time all season, despite their No. 1 SSAC ranking in recent weeks, I voted St. Marys as the top team on my Class A ballot. I didn’t do it because I think the Blue Devils are necessarily the state’s best Class A team. I did it because the Blue Devils picked up the kind of win in their game Friday against Magnolia that elite teams SHOULD grind out over the course of the season.
There’s nothing about last week’s 11-9 win for St. Marys that suggests it was anything other than a grudge match. But the resiliency St. Marys showed with their backs against the wall in the game’s final minute to come out and deliver THAT drive to win the game against a good football team is what impresses me.
The Blue Eagles got on the board with a first half field goal, only to see St. Marys take an 8-3 lead later in the half on Jeremy Pratt’s five-yard touchdown run. When Magnolia took a 9-8 lead on Drew Keller’s 18-yard touchdown run with just over a minute left, St. Marys answered with a scoring drive that kept their record peerless.
Garrett Furr’s 27-yard field goal capped the drive and provided the winning points, but things were set up for the Blue Devils by a lengthy kickoff return and a long pass reception, both by David Gray. Gray didn’t score a touchdown for the first time in three games, but he did plenty to set the table for the Blue Devils. He also reeled off a 39-yard run late in the first half to set up the Pratt touchdown on a night where Gray finished with 130 rushing yards to lead all ball carriers.
This week, the Blue Devils play their final home game of the regular season against a reeling South Harrison team. For the Blue Devils, it’ll be back to fine tuning and using this game to prepare for tough road tests to wind down the season against Ravenswood and Doddridge County. This game can be heard locally on Lite Rock 93R (93.9 FM) or online at www.literock93R.com.
Tyler Consolidated (3-4) at Ritchie County (5-2)
The Ritchie County Rebels host Tyler Consolidated in their regular season home finale, but they’d sure like to grab another home game in the playoffs. A 44-31 win over Lincoln two weeks ago will go a long way to help with that goal. Now, the Rebels have had a week off as they look at a three-game stretch of winnable games that will go a long way to decide whether or not the Rebels host playoff action and how many games they might host.
After this game, the Rebels travel to Williamstown (no cakewalk, but a matchup of two really good football teams) before finishing against the struggling Grafton Bearcats – fresh off the state’s saddest game from last week, a 14-14 triple overtime tie with Liberty Harrison. (Seriously…these kids work hard all week to gear up for this game and play three overtimes and STILL no winner? The three overtime rule is weak sauce, but I digress).
First things first…this Tyler Consolidated team is MUCH improved over the past few years. The Silver Knights are coming off a 39-12 win over South Harrison that saw Jordan Baker run for two touchdowns, throw for another and return a punt 80 yards for a fourth score. First-year head coach Ryan Walton is working hard to instill a change of culture in Kidwell, but those things don’t happen overnight.
Often, programs that have struggled for a long time must overcome talent deficiencies to build a winner. Though the Silver Knights have good skill players, particularly a backfield force in Jacob Highley, they just don’t match up yet with the talent that Ritchie County boasts at the skill positions. The biggest obstacle the Rebels will have to overcome is an offensive line that’s proven a little weak in the running game.
Ritchie County can find the points to defeat Tyler Consolidated, and will probably be able to do so, but the bigger issue with this game is to see HOW the Rebels are able to move the ball and what successes or failures in each facet of their offense will set up their final two games. This game can be heard locally on WXCR-FM (92.3 FM).
George Washington (6-1) at Parkersburg (2-5)
After two straight near-misses on the road, Parkersburg was outmatched in a 55-14 loss to Class AAA #1 Huntington on Homecoming. Parkersburg never got things going in a short-handed running attack, picking up just 79 yards on 44 carries. Aaron Roberts and Josh Trembly both threw touchdown passes for the Big Reds in the loss.
Now, the Big Reds will need to win out just to break-even on the season, a task that looms large with George Washington barreling up Interstate 77 this weekend. The Patriots played last week without Draven Riffe – the second-leading rusher in the state and one of a handful of top candidates for the Kennedy Award – because Riffe was sidelined with an ankle injury. Jacob Jackson came out of the bullpen to relieve Riffe to the tune of three touchdowns and 250 yards. (See also: Pipp, Wally)
The Patriots fell to Cabell Midland in a shootout last week by a 49-40 score after trailing by 28 points in the second half. Even if Riffe isn’t able to go this week either, Parkersburg should be no match for George Washington.
Greenbrier East (4-4) at Parkersburg South (2-5)
In a game between two sinking teams seeking a lifeline for their subpar seasons, the Brooke Bruins bested Parkersburg South 41-28 last Friday night. As mentioned in this space last week, Brooke has played a tremendously tough schedule and the Bruins played like a team last week that was glad to have the chance to blow off some of that pent-up frustration.
The Bruins scored on their first possession and never looked back. Parkersburg South got all four touchdowns from Cody Smith and a 156-yard rushing effort from Brendan Schwendeman, but couldn’t stop the Bruin offense with any consistency. This week, Greenbrier East seeks a different kind of lifeline.
A 19-point loss to Logan last week means Greenbrier East needs to win out for a chance at the playoffs, a task that won’t be easy with a Week 11 matchup looming against Oak Hill. That game means nothing though for Greenbrier East without a win in this one.
Expect the Patriots to put up a game effort with an offense that’s beginning to find a little consistency, but won’t have the determined focus of a team like Greenbrier East that’s essentially already playing playoff games.
Clay County (2-5) at Ravenswood (4-3)
The Ravenswood Red Devils rallied from a 31-7 deficit against Point Pleasant to fall by just a 31-21 margin to the Class AAA unbeaten Big Blacks on Friday. Devon Crews, Hunter Burgess and Rhys Jelich all scored rushing touchdowns in the contest for the Red Devils. Regardless of the outcome, the Red Devils sent signals across the state with their performance, their comeback in the second half and the fact that they kept it as close as they did.
Ravenswood has this game against Clay County followed by a tough home test against unbeaten St. Marys before finishing with their matchup against one-win Ripley. Needless to say, the Red Devils are firmly in the portion of the year where they need to win the games they’re supposed to win, and that starts at home against Clay County.
You would think the Red Devils would be pretty good bets to make the playoffs with wins in two of those three games, particularly when you look at how many points remain on the table against St. Marys and Ripley. Expect the Red Devils to continue their march toward head coach Mick Price’s first-ever playoff berth with a win Friday.
Roane County (5-2) at Herbert Hoover (2-5)
Don’t look now, but after dropping two of their first three games, the Roane County Raiders have won four straight and are gunning for another trip to the playoffs. The biggest hurdle they still have to clear remains Williamstown in Week 11, so the Raiders are another team that needs to take care of business in games they should win.
In a win last week against winless Calhoun County, the Raiders got four touchdowns and 300 yards on just 18 carries from Luke Scott. There’s no reason to think that the tidal wave of momentum that’s carried the Raiders after those first few weeks of the season won’t still be going strong this week for Roane County.
The Raiders are a team that’s jelling at the right time of the season and no matter where they end up, they’ll be a tough out in the Class AA bracket.
Ripley (1-6) at Lincoln County (0-7)
Wirt County (2-5) at Calhoun County (0-8)