Class AA No. 4 Fairmont Senior (11-1) at No. 1 Mingo Central (12-0), Saturday, 1:30 p.m.
A rematch of the 2016 Class AA state championship game highlights the semifinals this year.
Mingo Central capped an unbeaten season with a 32-7 victory over the Polar Bears at Wheeling Island Stadium last December.
“Coming that close (to a championship) and taking that loss, it drives you,” said Fairmont Senior junior receiver and defensive back Antonio Parsons. “It’s been driving me throughout the season, knowing we were one game away from being state champions.
“We matured, got stronger and faster in the offseason,” he continued. “We have had to come out and produce more than we did last year – because last year didn’t cut it enough.”
The Miners, meanwhile, are still yet to lose a game since reigning MetroNews Player of the Year and Kennedy Award winner Jeremy Dillon took over as starting quarterback in 2016.
Dillon threw for 178 yards and two touchdowns in the title game a year ago and rushed for 60 additional yards. This year, Dillon has accounted for 60 total touchdowns, while Mingo Central has scored 50-plus points in 10 consecutive games. The Miners have averaged 546 yards of total offense per game this season.
Fairmont Senior has its offense rolling, scoring 77 combined points in playoff wins over Keyser and Wayne. The Polar Bears have averaged over 43 points per game during a seven game win streak.
Fairmont Senior is coming off of a 43-8 quarterfinal win over Wayne from last week.
“We were just moving fast the whole game,” Parsons said. “It was our first game where all three phases of the game were solid with our offense, defense and special teams.”
The Fairmont Senior offense is balanced as the Polar Bears average 188 yards passing and 176 yards rushing for game. First year starting quarterback Connor Neal has 2,096 passing yards and 27 touchdowns with just two interceptions.
Parsons leads the team with 31 catches for 597 yards and nine touchdowns. Overall, six Fairmont Senior receivers have at least 11 catches on the season.
“We’ve been coming up (through the system),” Parsons said. “We shined on JV, have been playing (together) since eighth grade. This is our best year clicking together – we have a good connection.
“Our receiver depth keeps everyone going,” he continued. “We have four receiver spots and six great receivers. The (players) who shine the most (in practice) get to go out and produce.”
Fairmont Senior has reached the semifinal round of the playoffs three consecutive years for the first time in program history.
“We’ve had to stay focused throughout the week,” Parsons said. “We can’t overlook (Mingo Central), we can’t underlook them. We know what we have and we know what we have to do to win.”