— By Eric Little

The opening round features two regular season rematches at the big school level, plus a few schools that either haven’t been into the playoffs or hosted playoff games in a few years. Here’s a look at this week’s games:

Class AAA 

No. 9 Parkersburg (6-4) at No. 8 Wheeling Park (7-3)

When: Friday at 7:30 p.m.

Last Week: Parkersburg scored four second-half touchdowns on its way to a 28-10 win over crosstown rival Parkersburg South. Wheeling Park bounced back from its first shutout loss since 2010 to post a 35-7 win over rival John Marshall.

Why it’s important: Parkersburg defeated Wheeling Park 57-51 on a late hook-and-lateral in a game that set the tone for the remainder of both teams’ regular seasons. After the first time these teams met, Parkersburg went 3-1 and allowed a total of 31 points in its three wins. The Big Reds are also looking to erase the memory of a disappointing first round loss in last year’s playoffs.

Who to Watch for Parkersburg: Shane Miller might not have had the biggest contribution on the stat sheet in Parkersburg’s 28-10 win over Parkersburg South, but his presence almost certainly changed the complexion of the game. With the Big Reds struggling to run the ball with consistency, Parkersburg used Miller in a backfield tandem with Tyler Moler in a two-back set that kickstarted the PHS running game. Miller was critical in short yardage situations and forced South to take the Parkersburg running game seriously. He finished with just nine carries and 20 yards, but two rushing touchdowns.

Quarterback Jake Johnson connected with Brenton Strange for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter on a fourth-and-goal from the 7-yard-line. It wasn’t the prettiest day statistically for Johnson as a passer, but he ran for 105 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries and moved the offense as needed to allow the Big Reds to outscore South 28-7 in the second half.

No. 12 Greenbrier East (6-4) at No. 5 Ripley (9-1)

When: Friday at 7:30 p.m.

Last Week: Ripley won the “Battle for the Hatchet” 41-7 over in-county rival Ravenswood for a ninth straight victory. Greenbrier East finished a six-win season with a 44-24 win over Riverside. The Spartans won four of their final six games. 

Why it’s important: Ripley hasn’t lost since opening night and not only makes the field for the first time under head coach Eddie Smolder, but also earns a home game. These two teams also met October 12 in Lewisburg in a game the Vikings won 28-26 when Greenbrier East missed a two-point conversion with less than two minutes to play.

Who to Watch for Ripley: Cyrus Casto made it happen with his arm and legs for the Vikings in their rivalry game win. Two of Casto’s four completed passes went for touchdowns to Dalton Myers and Dawson Anderson, respectively. Casto also ran for 88 yards, including a 65-yard touchdown run on Ripley’s first play from scrimmage.

RJ Evans carried the ball just six times for Ripley, but scored a touchdown as part of a 114-yard night. Evans and the rest of Ripley’s running back stable have run behind a talented offensive line all year long. 

No. 11 Hedgesville (6-4) at No. 6 Parkersburg South (7-3)

When: Saturday at 1:30 p.m.

Last Week: Parkersburg South led 3-0 at the half, but fell 28-10 to crosstown rival Parkersburg. South scored its lone touchdown on a blocked punt in the fourth quarter. The Patriots ran just nine offensive plays in the second half until the game’s final two minutes. Hedgesville was shutout for the first time all season in a 7-0 loss to Spring Mills.

Why it’s important: Parkersburg South will host their first playoff game since 2004 and is in search of their first playoff win since 2011. Their seven wins are the most in a single season under sixth-year head coach Mike Eddy. The South defense didn’t allow a single point in the first quarter for the entire regular season. Hedgesville enters the playoffs off losses in three of their final four games — all to Class AAA playoff opponents. In those three losses, the Eagles failed to score more than seven points in any single game.

Who to Watch for Parkersburg South: Nick Yoho accounted for nearly half of South’s scoring during the regular season, but was kept out of the end zone in their regular season finale loss to PHS. In fact, with just ten carries and two catches against Parkersburg, his 12 touches were a season-low. With injuries in the receiving corps this week, Yoho will need to return to his season-long role of shouldering a lot of the load in the South offense.

Much of the rest of that load falls on quarterback Brayden Mooney’s shoulders. Mooney was held below 100 rushing yards against Parkersburg. It was his second straight week with less than 100 ground yards, after rushing for 100+ in back-to-back weeks. He and Yoho have combined to form an effective 1-2 tandem in the South running game.

Class A 

No. 16 Tyler Consolidated (6-4) at No. 1 Wheeling Central (9-1)

When: Friday at 7:30 p.m. (at Brooke High School)

Last Week: Tyler Consolidated picked up a 26-7 win over St. Marys, and got the help needed to get into the playoffs. Wheeling Central fell 21-12 to Magnolia for its first loss of the season.

Why it’s important: Wheeling Central opens its state title defense on a neutral site. With its regular home field unavailable at Wheeling Jesuit because of the Mountain East Conference Volleyball tournament, and with Wheeling Park playing at Wheeling Island Stadium on Friday, this game will take place at Brooke High School. Maroon Knights quarterback Curtis McGhee missed the Magnolia game with an injury, but is expected to return Friday. The seven points the Silver Knights allowed in Friday’s win against St. Marys tied a season-best for the Tyler defense.

Who to Watch for Tyler Consolidated: Jacob Rice is Tyler Consolidated’s leading tackler this season. He’s recorded six or more tackles in six of his last seven games and in all but two of the Silver Knights games this season. 

Mark Rucker has rushed for 1,463 yards and 21 touchdowns. He’s also caught 33 passes with four more receiving touchdowns. Griffin Phillips has thrown 11 touchdown passes this year for Tyler Consolidated and rushed for eight more scores.

No. 14 Ritchie County (7-3) at No. 3 Mount View (9-1)

When: Friday at 7:30 p.m. (at Princeton High School)

Last Week: Mount View recorded its ninth win of the season with a 26-12 triumph over Greenbrier West. Ritchie County won its third straight in a 50-30 shootout against Calhoun County. The Rebels finished with a 4-1 record at home this season.

Why it’s important: Ritchie County is in the postseason for the first time since 2014 under first-year head coach Rick Haught. All three Rebel losses came against teams also in the 2018 Class A playoff field, with two coming by a touchdown or less. Mount View has a potent offense, scoring 40 points or more in half its games, and also boast wins against playoff participants Summers County and Webster County. This game will be played on the artificial surface at Princeton High School.

Who to Watch for Ritchie County: Four different Rebel backs rushed for touchdowns in Ritchie County’s regular season finale win against Calhoun. Tre Moss picked up his second straight 100-plus yard performance since coming back from injury, with 160 yards and a touchdown for the Rebels. All told, Ritchie County rushed for 407 yards against the Red Devils last week. 

No. 11 Summers County (7-3) at No. 6 Williamstown (8-2) 

When: Saturday at 1:30 p.m.

Last Week: Williamstown enters the postseason off a bye week, following its 14-7 Week 10 loss at Doddridge County. Summers County knocked off Fayetteville 20-0 to keep the Pirates out of the playoffs and put Tyler Consolidated into the postseason. (And I’m sure they’ll receive a nice cookie tray or Edible Arrangement this holiday season from the Tyler Consolidated coaching staff as a thank you for their efforts. It’s the classy thing to do.)

Why it’s important: Williamstown will look to bounce back after a regular season-ending loss also quashed an eight-game winning streak. The Yellowjackets are also hosting a postseason game for the first time in a couple years. Summers County started its season 0-3, but has reeled off seven straight wins to get into the postseason as a No. 11 seed. 

Who to Watch for Williamstown: Donathan Taylor is always the guy to account for on Williamstown’s offense, but the passing game will need a strong effort to wash away the memories of the Doddridge County mud-fest of two weeks ago. Quarterback Carter Haynes has had little trouble connecting with guys like Eric Brown, Mason Deem and Nick Bondi all season long. Look for the Yellowjackets to try to get one or all of those guys involved early through the passing game. 

No. 10 Parkersburg Catholic (9-1) at No. 7 Sherman (9-1)

When: Friday at 7:30 p.m. 

Last Week: Parkersburg Catholic enters the postseason off a Week 11 bye. When last we saw the Crusaders, they were 43-0 winners at Hannan. It was the fourth time this season the Crusader defense has held an opponent to a touchdown or less.

Why it’s important: After finishing 0-8 a year ago, and struggling to find 11 healthy bodies to field a team, Parkersburg Catholic is back in the playoffs under second-year head coach Lance Binegar on the strength of a nine-win season. It’ll be the first playoff appearance for anyone on the team’s entire 17-man roster.

Who to Watch for Parkersburg Catholic: Ty Sturm and Jeb Boice have been the catalysts of a potent rushing attack. Each ran for two touchdowns in Parkersburg Catholic’s win against Hannan two weeks ago, while Boice returned an interception 80 yards for a score. The Crusaders also have an offensive line that’s stayed nearly intact for the last two seasons and provides plenty of room for the Crusader running backs to do damage.

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