No. 14 Morgantown (5-5) at No. 3 Capital (9-1)
When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.
An incredible late season turnaround has Morgantown in the playoffs with momentum.
“This is week three of the playoffs for us,” MHS coach Matt Lacy said. “We started with a must win at John Marshall and then turned around and won again over University when we had to. We’ve been in playoff mode for a few weeks now.”
Morgantown looked far from a playoff team following three consecutive mid-season losses to Mussleman, Wheeling Park and Parkersburg by a combined score of 79-14.
But the Mohigans got some key players back from injuries and it helped in wins over John Marshall and University as they scored 104 points in those two games.
“Most teams are battling injuries at this point of the season,” Lacy said. “We hit our injury spell midway through the season and we’ve been getting guys back. Our offensive line has solidified and some of our playmakers are healthy again.”
MHS is in the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season. Last year, the Mohigans lost at state champion Martinsburg in the opening round.
This year, it’s another very difficult assignment.
“They have so many guys who can score on any play,” Lacy said of Capital. “They are big along the line as well. It comes down to the basics. We have to tackle very well. We might play a little more zone (defense) than usual because we have to try to keep their guys in front of us.”
The big concern is West Virginia recruit Kerry Martin Jr. at quarterback.
“Their offense goes through Martin,” Lacy said. “We might not be able to do some of the things we’ve been doing, turning our backs in man coverage. We can’t let him escape coverage and get 15, 20 yards up the field before anyone even realizes he is running with the football. He’s a special athlete.
“Our biggest asset will be moving the football,” Lacy continued. “We’ve been running it well lately and we’ll have to do that in order to possess the ball as much as we can and keep (Capital’s offense) off the field.”
No. 1 Fairmont Senior (10-0) vs. No. 16 Lewis County (6-4)
When: Saturday, 1:30 p.m.
Fairmont Senior completed its first unbeaten regular season since 1978 with a record 11th consecutive win over rival East Fairmont in that longtime series. Now it’s on to the playoffs as the Polar Bears will attempt to reach the state championship game for the third consecutive season.
Fairmont Senior fell to Mingo Central 32-7 at the 2016 Super Six. Last year, it was a tough 29-26 setback at the hands of Bluefield in the AA title game.
The obvious goal this season was to get back to Wheeling and finish the job.
The focus has been extraordinary as no team was within three touchdowns of the Polar Bears in any regular season game. Fairmont Senior scored at least 36 points in every game and beat its 10 regular season opponents by an average score of 49-10.
“This has been a very disciplined group,” Fairmont Senior coach Nick Bartic said. “They embraced the off-season and the in-season grind. They understand the competition is fun, but you have to go through a lot that is not fun to get to this point.”
The first round presents a rematch as Fairmont Senior beat Lewis County 53-7 back on Aug. 31.
In te regular season matchup, the Fairmont Senior defense was dominant against the Lewis County Wing-T attack. Fairmont Senior had tackles for loss on eight of the first 15 plays from scrimmage and Lewis County finished the first half with just 13 yards of offense.
Quarterback Connor Neal threw for 264 yards in the contest.
Neal has the Fairmont Senior career record for touchdown passes. He threw four in last week’s win over East Fairmont to give him 70 in his career.
The season for Lewis County was highlighted by a pair of three-game win streaks following an 0-2 start.
The Minutemen made great strides in 2018 following a 1-9 season a year ago.
“Getting a playoff game is huge for our program,” Lewis County coach Dustin Cogar said. “It’s a big positive considering what we went through last year. Obviously, Fairmont Senior is the No. 1 seed for a reason. They are talented sideline to sideline. We saw them Week 2, now we get to see if we have gotten any better.”
It’s the first playoff appearance for Lewis County since 2014. At the AAA level that season, the Minutemen lost 35-3 in the first round to Wheeling Park that season.
No. 3 Bridgeport (9-1) vs. No. 14 Frankfort (8-2)
When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Bridgeport has reached at least the Class AA semifinals every season since 2012 — the year the Indians dropped from AAA to AA.
The Indians won state championships in 2013, 2014 and 2015, including a 37-7 win over Frankfort in the 2014 title game.
“This is a very deep Double-A field,” Bridgeport coach John Cole pointed out. “Frankfort has won eight games and they are the 14 seed. They are familiar with what we do. They know how to defend us.”
Bridgeport is 3-1 against playoff teams this year with victories over Lewis County, Keyser and Robert C. Byrd. The loss came at the hands of No. 1 Fairmont Senior, 45-14 back on Sept. 13.
That was one week prior to a close 41-35 victory over RCB.
“We were very inexperienced early in the season,” Cole said. “We had a brand new offensive line, and really only two starters back on defense. We had seniors, but they didn’t have any playing experience. It took us awhile to get a little bit better.
“Our guys started to understand after some close games in the middle of the season what it takes to play both ways in a varsity football game,” Cole continued. “That was an education in itself and they’ve improved since then. But we are going to have to continue to improve if we want to stay in the playoffs.”
Bridgeport’s Jake Bowen begins the playoffs as the Indians’ all-time rushing leader with 3,814 yards. In last week’s win against Lincoln, Bowen passed Steve Stout, who held the mark for over four decades.
No. 6 Robert C. Byrd (8-2) vs. No. 11 Shady Spring (8-2)
When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Robert C. Byrd coach Josh Gorrell is thrilled to have a true home playoff game on the three-year old turf at Robert C. Byrd High School.
The Eagles are home for the first round for the first time since 2014. The game against Keyser that season, which RCB was victorious in, was moved to Lincoln’s Stydahar Field as the-then natural grass surface at RCB was ruled unplayable.
“It’s not only nice for us, it’s nice for the community,” Gorrell said. “The community support this year has been outstanding. We are glad to be at home because it is a show of success.”
RCB was 3-2 at the midway point of the season, but the Eagles closed the regular season with five consecutive wins.
“We are playing very well all the way around,” Gorrell said. “Our strength all season long has been the five guys up front on both sides of the football. Line play is our strength and that’s what is going to take us where we want to go.”
The stout play of the offensive line has allowed RCB senior Ghovan Davidson to become the Eagles career rushing leader. Davidson recently passed Juwan Jones-Wright at the top of the list.
It will be an important week of preparation for the Eagles as they will face an unfamiliar opponent in Shady Spring.
“It’s time to go to work to find out who we are what we can do,” Gorrell said.