The home stretch of the 2013 regular season is winding down in West Virginia’s Kanawha Valley where several teams appear secure in their postseason chances, while at least one remains on the bubble.
SOUTH CHARLESTON AT HUNTINGTON
Each week, opponents of the Huntington Highlanders have been described here and elsewhere as having “a tough test on Friday night.” Truthfully, not enough credit has been given to the Highlanders who remain unbeaten and ranked No. 1 in the state.
They too have faced some “tough tests” along the way – and have passed them all. Huntington has beaten No. 4 Capital, No. 8 Cabell Midland, No. 14 Spring Valley and No. 16 Hurricane. This week, the Highlanders will face another challenge when No. 10 South Charleston arrives at Bob Sang Stadium.
The Black Eagles had a couple of missteps along the way, including two close losses, but are set for the postseason as they close out the year on the road.
Coach Donnie Mays has motivated his team with his “faceless opponent” speech, while facing struggling teams for several weeks. He admits, that isn’t necessary this week as his team could land a load of points for postseason implications. Still, Mays calls it “the next game on the schedule” and expects a tough, physical contest, especially from Huntington’s defense.
HURRICANE AT CAPITAL
Hurricane may have played one of the toughest schedules in Class AAA this season. The Redskins have faced No. 1 Huntington, No. 8 Cabell Midland and No. 4 George Washington. The problem for the Redskins is, they haven’t beaten any of those teams and the wins they have compiled have come against teams with losing, or barely above .500 records.
Hurricane has two more chances to get a win over a playoff team – No. 4 Capital and No. 14 Spring Valley loom on the schedule.
The visit to Laidley Field this Friday won’t be an easy task. Capital’s spread attack features a wealth of speed and talent. The Redskins secondary has struggled to matchup with speed.
Offensively, however, the Redskins posses a dual threat with the arm of Austin Hensley and the athletic ability of Zach Pate. Hensley is the top passing quarterback in the state with 1,954 yards, 24 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Pate is second in Class AAA with 33 of those catches and 652 yards, he’s also second in scoring with 24 touchdowns.
Capital’s Tyrhee Pratt has thrown for 1,285 yards and 11 touchdowns, along with four interceptions. Cougars’ running back Kashaun Haley has racked up 946 yards on 111 carries. Haley has a dozen touchdowns.
Hurricane comes into this week as the No. 16 team in Class AAA.
RIPLEY AT GEORGE WASHINGTON
Much of George Washington’s success is being credited to physical and aggressive line play. The front wall for the Patriots has been effective in moving the sticks and scoring points.
GW however, continues to hope for the return of standout senior running back Draven Riffe who has missed two games, and is questionable for this Friday’s home encounter with the Vikings. Even with missing two games, Riffe is still the second leading rusher in AAA with 1,379 yards and has 18 touchdowns.
Coach Steve Edwards Jr. this week commended Jacob Jackson who has picked up the slack in Riffe’s absence. The Patriots’ defense will need to keep an eye on Ripley’s Kade Harrison who comes into the game as the state’s leading receiver with 31 receptions for 779 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Although peaking ahead on the schedule hasn’t been a problem all year for the Patriots, it’s always a concern. Ripley comes into the game with a record of 2-6 and GW has cross town rival Capital on the horizon for the season finale next Friday night.
POCA AT SISSONVILLE
Sissonville coach Eddie Smoulder has stressed to his team all season of taking care of the task at hand. So far, the Indians have responded and continued to mow down opponents. This week shouldn’t require motivation as longtime rival Poca visits Joe Sawyer Field.
Dominic Walker is among the top five in rushing in Class AA for the Indians. Poca has struggled through injuries and attrition, and will have to contend with Sissonville’s confusing shifts, formations, and fast paced style which rapidly wears down a defense if they don’t get a quick stop.
The Indians haven’t had a home playoff game in nearly a decade. Wins this week and next week against Braxton County could secure an opening round hosting.
Elsewhere in the Kanawha Valley:
Riverview at Lincoln County
Nitro at Logan
Parkersburg at Riverside
Winfield at St. Albans
Herbert Hoover at Mingo Central
Symmes Valley, OH at Buffalo