By Eric Little – Seven Ranges Radio for WVMetroNews.com
Hard to believe we’ve reached the final week of the high school football regular season, but here we are already. Several games are on tap with teams that need wins to ensure/strengthen playoff berths, while the matchup of Parkersburg’s Class AAA teams will always be relevant, regardless of record. Here’s the full schedule. All game dates/times listed:
Parkersburg (6-3) at Parkersburg South (3-6) – Friday 7:00
It’s clear to see that a winning pedigree is back at Parkersburg under head coach Mike Byus. In his first season, Byus has instilled a positive attitude and has made changes that have led to defensive improvements over past seasons.
But he’s also pushed the right buttons on offense to make PHS competitive once again in the Mountain State Athletic Conference. The Big Reds have scored 30 points or more in all but two of their games this year, winning all but one of those contests.
The Big Reds have won five of their last six games, with the latest coming in a 44-30 win over Riverside in a game that was moved to Ripley at the last minute as a result of the Parkersburg industrial fire.
PHS racked up 265 of their 375 total yards on the ground. Shane Miller scored twice, as did Tyler Moler – who picked up 216 yards on 21 carries.
Parkersburg South has shown growth under Mike Eddy this season. The Patriots, with a win, still owns an outside shot of making the playoffs – Parkersburg South is one of three teams vying for the final spot in Class AAA (along with St. Albans and South Charleston).
The simplest way for the Patriots to get into the top 10 would be to beat the Big Reds and then have South Charleston lose to Woodrow Wilson and St. Albans lose to Hurricane. Wins by both South Charleston and Parkersburg South (plus a St. Albans loss) would come down to bonus points and potential tiebreaker for the final playoff spot.
Last Friday at Wheeling Island Stadium, South put together a late rally that fell short in a 35-28 loss to Wheeling Park. Along the way, the Patriots showed a resiliency they didn’t show early in the season – rallying to tie the game at 14 before halftime after falling behind by two scores in the first quarter.
After Park snapped a 21-21 tie with two touchdowns in the closing minutes of the 4th quarter, Brayden Mooney connected with Brett Hearn on a 12-yard scoring strike with :20 to play. But South was unable to recover an onside kick that would’ve given the Patriots another shot at the end zone and Wheeling Park was able to come away with the pivotal win.
Though South has lost six games this season, they’ve been within a score of the lead entering the final quarter – one way or another – in four of those games.
One of the changes Byus has made this year – in the eyes of more than a few observers – is to emphasize putting more athletes on the defensive side of the ball. The end result is a fast group that can seal the edges on opponents in the blink of an eye. The Big Reds have limited opponents to ten points or fewer four times this season.
South has a lot of backfield weapons and has opened the playbook a little deeper in recent weeks to find creative ways to share the football. 412 total yards against Wheeling Park last week was a season-high. If the Patriots are to pull the upset, they’ll need to show this same variety on offense early – and be effective at moving the football in a number of ways.
If PHS is to keep to its winning ways, they’ll need to try to run the ball down South’s throat. For reference, Byus would be best-served to watch film of South’s game against Point Pleasant. With a possible first round home game on the line, it’s likely the Big Reds defense will rise to the occasion.
As with any rivalry, weird things always tend to happen – no matter the record or the team with the homefield advantage. Though the Big Reds have a large advantage in the overall series record, Parkersburg South has won this game in back-to-back years.
This game can be heard locally on V96.9 FM and online at www.v969radio.net.
Tyler Consolidated (5-4) at St. Marys (7-1) – Friday 7:30
It wasn’t pretty, but for St. Marys, its 20-10 win over Ravenswood was just what the Blue Devils needed after a rough loss to unbeaten South Harrison two weeks ago. Leading 7-3 at the half, Dylan Gray and Matt Eichorn ran for touchdowns that opened the gap for St. Marys. A Jake Greene touchdown run early in the 4th quarter pulled Ravenswood closer, but that’s as close as they’d get.
You wouldn’t imagine this St. Marys team to be one to win when outgained in total yards by its opponent, but that’s what Ravenswood did at a 327-302 clip. This bunch of Blue Devils has needed to show resourcefulness with running back Jaiden Smith still nursing a wonky ankle.
After a shocking loss to Magnolia two weeks ago, Tyler Consolidated needed to come out and take out their frustrations on the first team they saw in opposing clothes. Unfortunately for the Valley Lumberjacks, they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Mark Rucker ran for three Tyler touchdowns, while catching another and returning a kickoff 65 yards for a fifth score. Of Rucker’s four scores from scrimmage, three were on plays of more than 40 yards. That led to the statistical anomaly of the Silver Knights winning 51-8 over Valley with just eight first downs, but nearly 400 total yards of offense.
The Silver Knights need this game far worse than St. Marys, but the Blue Devils still want it so they can stay home for as long as possible during the playoffs. Because of this, expect Tyler Consolidated to be the team that rolls out a wrinkle or two in hopes of breaking the game open at a pivotal moment.
Early in the season, you wouldn’t think it would be St. Marys that would need to win this game by controlling offensive tempo and time of possession, but that’s the kind of team these Blue Devils have become without Smith.
If Tyler Consolidated can wear down the Blue Devil defense, they’ll make it tough for St. Marys to hang around into the second half. But a hallmark for St. Marys over the last few years is not losing games like this – where they face a stiff challenge from a highly-motivated opponent with a lot on the line.
Time after time in the last few years, the Blue Devils have risen to challenges like these. If they can do it one more time, the Silver Knights will be turning pads in next week instead of practicing football.
This game can be heard on Lite Rock 93R (93.9 FM) and online at www.literock93r.com.
Ravenswood (5-4) at Ripley (3-6) – Friday 7:30
This year’s Battle for the Hatchet comes loaded with playoff implications for the Class A team. Ravenswood lost 20-10 to St. Marys last week, so for the Red Devils, this is a must-win in order for Ravenswood to secure a playoff berth.
If things had gone a little better for Ripley in 2-3 of their early season games, this matchup would likely have playoff implications for the Vikings as well. After starting the season 2-0, Ripley lost back-to-back games by four points or less.
A team with loftier expectations at the start of the season now must defend home turf against a Class A team in order to secure four wins – a total that looked far more reachable in early September.
The Vikings unloaded the frustrations of six-game losing streak on Roane County in a 44-14 win a week ago. Ripley can run the ball as well as anyone, but struggles to gain headway through the air on a consistent basis.
Ravenswood’s best bet is to defend the middle and force the Vikings to run for the edges. But for that to be successful, the Red Devils will need to tackle well in the open field.
If Ripley can show diversity on offense and control the tempo, the Vikings stand a solid chance to earn back-to-back wins to wrap their 2017 on a winning note.
Tolsia (2-7) at Williamstown (4-4) – Friday 7:00
Williamstown head coach Terry Smith probably hasn’t ever dealt with a two-week layoff with one game to play, but thanks to a Parkersburg-fire induced cancellation of their matchup with Parkersburg Catholic, these Yellowjackets have needed to patiently await their next opponent.
At 4-4, Williamstown will need to win and get a fair amount of help to get into the playoff field of 16. The Yellowjackets need losses from teams like Tyler Consolidated, Summers County, Clay-Battelle and/or Pocahontas County. Regardless, Williamstown needs to win and hope for the best. The Yellowjackets actually enter this week in the No. 16 spot in Class A.
Tolsia has lost six of their last seven games and have just one loss by fewer than ten points all season. Most recently, the Rebels fell 54-12 last week to Pikeville, Kentucky.
Expect the Yellowjackets to have a few new wrinkles baked into this week’s gameplan, given the extra time they’ve had to prepare.
If nothing else, Williamstown teams will always play with pride, and for pride, and regardless of whether or not this season ends with a trip to the playoffs for the Yellowjackets, Williamstown’s effort will solid in Week 11. And if Williamstown DOES get a bid? Well, I wouldn’t want to be the coaching staff that has to gameplan for this bunch in a first round matchup.
Wirt County (5-4) at Sherman (7-2) – Friday 7:30
Wirt County deserves a lot of credit for weathering a midseason three-game losing streak. Sitting at 3-4 in mid-October, Wirt County has picked up back-to-back wins to pull back into the playoff discussion. And the points will certainly be on the table this week on the road against seven-win Sherman.
Defense has been a huge part of Wirt County’s back-to-back wins. The Tigers have allowed an average of just over ten points per game in those wins.
Sherman has played their share of strong defense this year, with three shutouts and three more games holding opponents to just one score. But the Tide doesn’t have an abundance of quality wins this year. Sherman lost by six to Tug Valley in Week 1 while South Harrison took the Tide to the cleaners in a 50-7 beatdown on October 13th. Sherman can gain a lot of respect and solidify their spot in the top-16 with a win.
Wirt County will need a balanced attack on offense and more of the same defense from the last two weeks in order to pull the upset on the road. If they get the win, the Tigers will likely find their way back in the playoffs next weekend.
Doddridge County (7-2) at Parkersburg Catholic (0-6) – Friday 7:00
Valley Wetzel (5-4) at Paden City (2-7) – Friday 7:00
Roane County (0-9) at Independence (5-4) – Friday 7:30
Wahama (4-5) at Buffalo (2-7) – Friday 7:00
Calhoun County (0-10)
Ritchie County (2-8)