GAMES TO WATCH
Class AA No. 3 Bridgeport (3-0) at Class AA No. 1 Fairmont Senior (3-0) — Thursday, 7 p.m.
Fairmont Senior head coach Nick Bartic was quick to admit this week’s game is different from most.
“You’d like to say it’s the same as any other week but it’s not,” Bartic said prior to practice on Monday. “Our program has a long history with Bridgeport and so the Fairmont/Bridgeport game is unique in the rivalry it presents with our teams. “It’s very tense within our communities so it’s always a little bit different then just your standard prep week.”
Fairmont Senior has won two in a row in the series, 14-10 in the regular season last year and 22-21 in double overtime from the semi-final round of the 2016 playoffs.
“That always helps,” Bartic says about the win streak in the series. “But both of those games were one possession games. Our guys understand they can’t get comfortable because this game will be extremely intense and probably come down to the end again.”
The keys against Bridgeport?
“We need to have good gap control like we did against them last year,” Bartic said. “The two or three times we had an error in assignment is when they had big runs. That’s how intense it is. Any mistake leads to a big play. We have to play very physical and tackle well.”
The game, which will be shown live on AT&T SportsNet and wvmetronews.com, will be a contrast in offensive styles with Bridgeport’s ground game compared to the five wideout attack favored by Fairmont Senior.
“It’s going to be a challenge for our defensive backs,” said Bridgeport coach John Cole. “We’ve been thrown on some, but nothing like Fairmont Senior will try and do with (Quarterback) Connor Neal and all the athletes they have who can catch the ball.
“It’s no secret that we want to keep everything in front of us,” Cole added. “We have to limit the big plays and that is a big chore against this team with the talent and experience they have. We’ve got to get pressure on the quarterback as well. We’ve got to keep him contained and not let him set up and throw.”
Fairmont Senior or Bridgeport has played for a state championship at Wheeling Island Stadium each year since 2013.
Lincoln (1-2) at Class AA No. 9 Nicholas County (3-0) — Thursday, 7:30 p.m.
Lincoln has yet to score an offensive touchdown in three games. Lincoln struggled with turnovers and big plays last week in a loss to rival Liberty. Lincoln allowed a score on the opening kickoff and then later on a 47 yard run and a 95-yard screen pass.
Nicholas County’s Jacob O’Dell ran for three touchdowns in a 42-6 Grizzlies win at Wyoming East last week.
Nicholas County is off to a 3-0 or better start for the fourth consecutive year. The Grizzlies combined August/September record is 12-1 the last three seasons.
Class AAA No. 8 Wheeling Park (2-0) at Class AAA No. 9 University (2-1): UHS coach John Kelley called the 2017 matchup between his Hawks and Wheeling Park one of the best high school football games he has even been a part of. His Hawks blocked an extra point attempt with 33 seconds remaining to preserve a tie.
UHS would then move down the field in the final seconds to win the game on a Jonah Phares 32-yard field goal as time expired, 37-34, as the Hawks recovered to win a game in which they lost a 28-6 lead.
This season, the Hawks have won two in a row following a season opening loss to John Marshall but they’ve struggled with injuries during the early portion of the season.
Running back Logan Raber and left offensive tackle Liam Scardina-Fowler are out for this game.
“That’s what life is all about,” Kelley said. “You have to deal with adversity and that is what we are doing. We’re hurting a little bit, but it’s next man up. Other guys have been practicing so they can hopefully step right in.”
The Hawks have won two in a row in the series and three of the last four against Wheeling Park.
As part of the game Friday, the first class of the University High School sports Hall of Fame will be inducted. The class includes former UHS football standouts Rich Braham and Marc Magro, current MLB player Jedd Gyorko and former UHS and WVU women’s basketball standout Rebecca Burbridge.
Morgantown (1-2) at Brooke (0-2): The Mohigans will play their third consecutive road game following close losses at Steubenville, Ohio and Fort Hill, Maryland.
“You look back and evaluate the film and you see all the chances you had,” MHS coach Matt Lacy said concerning last week’s 16-7 loss at Fort Hill. “We had the ball at their 15 and had a bad snap. We get it down to the 1-yard line and can’t punch it in. Another big pass play was negated when we turned the ball over at the end of the play.”
“Realistically, we are four or five plays away from being 3-0,” Lacy added. “You’ve got to take the positives out of it. We will definitely be battle tested as we move forward now and get into our (Two Rivers Athletic) Conference schedule.”
MHS will play Brooke in its league opener this week. The Mohigans have won eight in a row in the series, including the last two years by a combined 71-6 score.
Brooke’s last win in the series came back in 2009.
Class AA No. 7 Grafton (2-0) at Oak Glen (1-2): Grafton received an unexpected week off last week after traveling to Petersburg to take on the Vikings. There was a scheduling conflict with the game officials and no one showed up to referee the game.
Petersburg Athletic Director Kevin Board said the game was been ruled as a “no contest” which means neither team gets credit for a win, a loss or a tie.
Grafton will now play back to back road games at Oak Glen this week and then at Liberty prior to its scheduled bye week September 28.
Preston (1-2) at Class AA No. 14 Robert C. Byrd (2-1): Robert C. Byrd earned a huge road win after traveling to Keyser and having to sit through two weather delays. The Eagles rushed for 371 yards in a 20-14 win against the Golden Tornado.
RCB head coach Josh Gorrell credited both the offense and defensive lines with pushing RCB to the victory. The win should prove to be valuable considering the playoff points accumulated and RCB now gets a shot at a Class AAA opponent this week.
Preston has allowed 103 points in back to back losses to North Marion and John Marshall.
Class AA No. 16 Liberty Harrison (2-1) at Philip Barbour (0-3): Seth Davis led a big-play Liberty team in a victory over Lincoln last week. Davis had a 95-yard kickoff return, a 47-yard run and a 95-yard screen pass all for touchdowns. Liberty suffered a significant injury in that game as fullback/inside linebacker Seth McIntyre hurt his wrist. He will be out for several games.
Philip Barbour lost a rivalry game at Buckhannon-Upshur last week to fall to 0-3 on the season.
South Harrison (0-3) at Class A No. 14 Notre Dame (2-1): South Harrison continues a tough early season schedule as the Hawks first four opponents are a combined 11-1 so far.
Notre Dame was able to establish the run in a 27-6 win over Bridgeport, Ohio last Saturday night. The Irish averaged 5.0 yards per carry as they totaled 220 yards on the ground. Eight different players carried the ball. Quarterback Nick Helm was an efficient 5-7 passing as three of those completions went for touchdowns.
Other games: North Marion (1-2) at East Fairmont (0-3); Braxton County (0-2) at Lewis County (1-2); Clay-Battelle (1-1) at Valley Wetzel (0-2)