VIENNA, W.Va. — When Class A No. 10 Parkersburg Catholic travels to Zontini Field to take on No. 7 Sherman, it will mark the Tide’s first home playoff game in nine years and a third straight postseason appearance for the first time in school history.
While the two teams had just one common opponent this season and have little familiarity with each other, Crusaders coach Lance Binegar doesn’t believe there are many secrets leading up to Friday’s matchup between 9-1 teams.
“They love to run the ball and we love to run the ball,” Binegar said. “It might be one of the fastest games in playoff history.”
Indeed, controlling the line of scrimmage will be key as the Tide seek a 10th straight win since a season-opening loss to Magnolia.
“They’re a really, good physical team and those running backs run hard,” Sherman coach Mike Showalter said of the Crusaders. “We’re going to have to come ready to play and going to have to swarm the ball defensively and play physical. That’s how we like to play too.
“They’re a good physical football team, but so are we, and I think it’s going to be a great game.”
Since a 24-0 loss at Magnolia to start the season, Sherman has won nine straight games and hardly been tested. The Tide has held four opponents scoreless during the win streak, while two others combined for a total of nine points.
A 30-13 win against Fayetteville marks Sherman’s closest victory of the season, while the Tide wrapped up its regular season with a convincing 30-0 win against Van, the No. 12 seed in the Class A playoffs.
“We changed some things in terms of our scheme after that first game and kind of went back to what we had done in years past,” Showalter said. “Our kids are comfortable with where they’re at. It all starts up front. We’ve had great play out of our defensive line and linebackers all year and we’re going to need it again Friday night. If we expect to beat a very good and very physical Parkersburg Catholic team, they’re going to have to show up and play as good as they’ve played all year.
“If you can get great play up front, then you give yourself a good chance to win this game Friday night.”
The Crusaders, meanwhile, enjoyed a turnaround season as much as any team in the state. After finishing 0-8 last year and having little direction toward a positive future for the program, Parkersburg Catholic won each of its first eight games before losing at Williamstown in Week 9.
“These kids have worked hard. After last year, going 0-8 and just an ugly, ugly season, nobody knew where our program would go,” Binegar said. “But those kids went out there and talked up our program even though we were 0-8, and got more kids out and they’re just excited and hopefully it continues on and next year we have more.
“I think it’s amazing we make the playoffs with 17 kids. It’s pretty crazy.”
Senior quarterback J.T. Hensley and senior running back Tommy Harper lead the Tide offense and each has rushed for more than 1,000 yards while combining for 39 touchdowns on the ground.
For the Crusaders, the 1-2 punch of Ty Sturm and Jeb Boice key an offense that’s scored 384 points — just four fewer than Sherman.
Cameron (70 points allowed) is the only team in the state that has surrendered fewer points than Sherman’s 78, meaning something has to give in the clash of one-loss teams.
“We score a lot of points but we don’t look to play in shootouts,” Showalter said. “We want to go out there and shut people out and they take a lot of pride in doing that.”