By Philip See for WVMetroNews.com
Class AA No. 11 Winfield (7-3) at No. 6 James Monroe (8-2)
The Winfield football bus should certainly know how to make its way to Lindside. For the second consecutive season, and for Winfield’s third consecutive playoff appearance, the Generals will travel to James Monroe.
The Generals made the trip to Lindside in the opening round of the playoffs last year, also in the 6-11 matchup, and lost 38-28. The Mavericks went on to the semifinals where they lost to eventual champion Mingo Central.
Before last season, the last time Winfield had advanced to the playoffs was 2005. That time, the Generals were the No. 15 seed with a 5-5 record and lost convincingly to James Monroe in the opening round.
With the way Winfield has played in the second half of the season, especially on the offensive side of the ball, the Generals certainly feel they have a chance to end their skid against the Mavericks.
Winfield closed its season by putting a scare into undefeated defending state champion Mingo Central. The Generals battled before falling 56-50.
“It was an awesome game. It was wild,” Winfield quarterback Andrew Huff said of the contest with the Miners. “It really just went back and forth, two powerful offenses that couldn’t stop each other.
“It was a fun night. It gave us confidence to move forward into the playoffs.”
James Monroe will again prove to be a tough test for Winfield. After a five-year hiatus, the Mavericks are back in the playoffs for the third consecutive season, earning the No. 6 seed in all three. They also return some key pieces from their semifinal squad a year ago.
“They’re a tough team,” Huff said of the Mavericks. “They’ve got some speed. We went down there last year and they beat us. We’re coming in this year to hopefully get some revenge.”
Class AAA No. 11 Wheeling Park (6-4) at No. 6 Capital (7-3)
For the third time in four seasons, Capital and Wheeling Park will square off in the playoffs.
In 2014, the two squads squared off in the quarterfinals in Charleston. Undefeated Capital took the contest 35-14 on its way to a state championship.
The following season, they faced each other in Wheeling in the state championship game. The Cougars were unable to defend their championship as Park held on for the 23-15 win.
While many of the faces for both teams have changed since that last matchup, a few key ones remain, including Wheeling Park senior quarterback Cross Wilkinson. Wilkinson, who is one of the state’s top players and has committed to play at Toledo, started as a sophomore on that title squad.
“We’re tickled to death to see that dude graduate,” Capital coach Jon Carpenter said of Wilkinson. “He threw a couple over our head the last time we played him.”
Capital has its own standout quarterback in junior Kerry Martin, who is starting to pile up Division I offers himself. Martin has already eclipsed the Capital school record with 26 touchdown passes for the season. The Cougars will need a big game from him if they are to knock off another stout Wheeling Park team.
“They have a system, and that is what they’re going to do,” Carpenter raved of the Patriots. “Well-coached. Super-coached. They make it real hard on you to hunt and find a weakness to get a shot to beat them.”
Class AAA No. 9 Hurricane (6-4) at No. 8 Hedgesville (7-3)
After navigating a tough MSAC schedule to a 6-4 record, Hurricane narrowly missed out on hosting a playoff game. Instead, it will make the long trip to the eastern panhandle to take on Hedgesville.
“They look like us,” said Hurricane coach Jeremy Taylor. “They have some size, some speed and they spread the ball out and throw it around. It’s going to be a heck of a game. I’d rather have played it at home, but if you have to go on the road, you might as well travel halfway across the state and see what happens.”
The scenario, however, is not all that unfamiliar for Hurricane. Last season, the squad finished the regular season at 6-4 and claimed the No. 12 seed before going on the road to pick up a win at University.
As is often the case in 8-9 matchups, there appears to be no clear favorite in this game. Hedgesville knocked off one West Virginia playoff team (Spring Mills) in the regular season while losing convincingly to the other two it played (Musselman, Martinsburg).
Hurricane, meanwhile, is very battle-tested. Its regular season schedule included eight teams that made the playoffs (6 AAA, 1 AA, 1 in KY), and it knocked a ninth team out of the playoffs by beating St. Albans in the final week of the season.
Class AAA No. 16 South Charleston (4-6) at No. 1 Huntington (10-0)
Class AAA No. 13 George Washington (5-5) at No. 4 Spring Valley (8-2)
Class AA No. 12 Sissonville (7-3) at No. 5 Wayne (9-1)