By Wes McKinney
No. 8 George Washington (9-2) at No. 1 Huntington (11-0)
Huntington scored 24 unanswered points to run away from a pesky, upset-minded Lewis County club last week as the Highlanders went on to win 31-7 in the opening round of the Class AAA playoffs.
“Lewis County is a real good football team,” Huntington head coach Billy Seals said. “I’m definitely glad to move on with a win, regardless if its 60-0 or 2-0.”
Despite playing in the MSAC together, the Highlanders and George Washington haven’t met since the 2006 regular season.
“Year in, year out, (George Washington is) always in the discussion to win a state championship,” Seals said. “They are big and physical along the offensive line. (Running back) Draven Riffe is a north-south runner. Jacob Jackson is a little bit quicker. Their defense is big and physical as well and they pursue the football.”
Throughout the regular season, Huntington had to navigate past five teams that eventually made the postseason in Class AAA.
“I think we’re battle-tested,” Seals said. “When get in the playoffs – especially in the second round – everyone is good. We have been in situations throughout the regular season where we were in tight game and hopefully that helps us out against George Washington.”
No. 7 Cabell Midland (9-2) at No. 2 Martinsburg (10-1)
This game will be a rematch of last year’s Class AAA state championship game that Martinsburg won 38-14.
Cabell Midland has already disposed of one team from the eastern panhandle in beating Washington in the first round, 35-6.
Running backs Teran Barnitz and Donte Hendricks managed to reach the century mark in rushing with 103 and 140 yards respectively.
“I felt like we won all three phases of the game,” Cabell Midland head coach Luke Salmons said. “We were very physical on the defensive line and got after the quarterback.”
However, the Knights won’t have the confines of playing at home for their second round game. But, making a 325-mile journey to Martinsburg doesn‘t concern Salmons
“After going to the state championship game last year, the kids understand it’s not a trip, but it’s a game,” Salmons said. “They have that experience of playing in big games on the road.”
Cabell Midland expects to see some of the same players for Martinsburg from last year’s title game.
“Our kids respect their talent,” Salmons said. “I think it helps that we played them last year. Every good team is physical. You can’t win unless you’re physical. They run the spread offense and they play good defense.”
Martinsburg quarterback Malique Watkins finished last week with over 200 rushing yards and another 84 through the air in the Bulldogs’ 36-0 win over Spring Valley. The Bulldogs held Spring Valley to just 142 offensive yards in the win.
No. 5 Wheeling Park (10-1) at No. 4 Point Pleasant (11-0)
Point Pleasant made quick work of Logan in the first round of the playoffs.
The Big Blacks blocked two punts in the first half that led to 14 points and they never looked back as they won 41-14.
However, this will be the biggest test to date for the Big Blacks as they welcome in Wheeling Park, who defeated South Charleston 55-34 in the opening round.
“They have pretty good athletes everywhere,” Point Pleasant head coach David Darst said. “We will have to have a tremendous effort to beat a school like that. They had a tough schedule.”
For Point Pleasant, it will be all about neutralizing the speed and athleticism of Wheeling Park with a patient, ball-control offense.
“We like to be able to run the ball effectively and shorten the game and use the extra helmet to our advantage,” Darst said.
A huge crowd is anticipated in Pt. Pleasant – the Big Blacks have outscored opponents 356-99 in eight home games this year.
“It’s an atmosphere where our kids are comfortable,” Darst said. “Our home crowds are big. The kids seem to rise up and play big in these situation.”
No. 8 Sissonville (10-1) at No. 1 Wayne (11-0)
Wayne dealt Sissonville its only loss of the season back on Sept. 27th, 58-19.
Fullback Mason Hodge and quarterback Grant Ferguson both eclipsed the 100-yard mark. The bruising junior ran for 154 yards and four touchdowns, while the Pioneers signal caller scampered for 148 yards in the previous matchup.
Last week against No.16 Philip Barbour, Hodge, Nathan Spurlock and Cody Stiltner ran wild against the Colts. The trio combined for 327 yards and five touchdowns in a 53-25 rout of Philip Barbour.
“We had some guys step up and fill critical roles for us last week,” Wayne head coach Tom Harmon said. “It’s nice to move on. The opponents will keep improving so we need to as well.”
Now, Wayne will focus on their rematch against Sissonville.
“The stakes are higher now and they are more comfortable with their team than the last time,” Harmon said. “They have all the pieces to play a great elimination game. That’s all it is at this point.”