— By Wes McKinney

GAMES TO WATCH

CLASS AAA

No. 3 Spring Valley (8-1) at No. 8 Huntington (5-4)

When: Friday, 7:30 p.m. 

Last Week: Each team put on stifling defensive displays in wins. Spring Valley recorded its fourth shutout of the season and second straight in a 35-0 win over a previous one-loss Ashland Blazer squad. 

“Our defensive coordinator, Frank Arthur, does a great job with those guys,” Spring Valley head coach Brad Dingess said. “He had them schemed up right. We have a bunch of no name kids on that defense. They swarm to the football. That’s one of the most physical football games we’ve played this year.”

Meanwhile, Huntington racked up seven turnovers and frustrated Parkersburg quarterback Bryson Singer in a 44-13 victory on the road against the Big Reds. 

“We felt like (Singer’s) ability to run with the football was far greater than his ability to throw the football — that’s not saying he’s not a good quarterback,” Huntington head coach Billy Seals explained. “We felt like (him throwing the ball) was what he was least comfortable doing. We changed our gameplan after the first couple of series and said let’s make him throw it.”

Why It’s Important: Over the last five seasons, Spring Valley holds a 4-3 edge including two playoffs victories over Huntington. The Timberwolves have ended the Highlanders’ season each of the last two seasons. While this week’s game won’t end anyone’s season, it will go a long way in determining the final playoff seedings. 

“I think if you look at the last eight years I’d say it’s probably .500 football between the two schools,” Seals said. “It’s physical football. Spring Valley is going to limit possessions based on what they do on offense. This year’s Spring Valley defense is probably one of the better defenses he’s had.”

Coming off a shutout, Dingess knows his defense — and offense —will have to be up to Huntington’s physicality 

“It seems like we’ve played them a bunch over the last three years,” he said. “Coach Seals does it the right way. He’s one of the top coaches in the state. He always has his kids ready to play and they play hard. They play good sound football. It’s always a good football game with us. It’s a fun rivalry. It’s probably 50-50 the last 10 years on who beats who.”

Who to Watch Spring Valley: Huntington knows all about the stable of running backs Spring Valley can run out there that includes Luke Christopher, David Livingston and even quarterback Nate Ellis as a runner. And the style will be similar to what the Highlanders just saw with Cabell Midland a couple weeks ago. 

“For three quarters, we played really at Midland,” Seals said. “We take a lot of pride in playing physical at the line of scrimmage. Obviously, they present some challenges with the number of backs they run at you. I expect our kids to be up to the challenge and to play really well in all three phases of the game.”

Who to Watch Huntington: It’s all about the table setting of quarterback Tay Blackwell. 

“You just have to limit big plays and keep him in the pocket,” Dingess said of Blackwell. “He’s probably most dangerous when he starts to scramble. Quarterbacks who are dual threat guys are a whole lot tougher to defend than trying to figure out guys who can just sit in the pocket. He creates a lot of problems.”

But Dingess also likes running back/linebacker Brocton Blair. “He’s just a big ol’ bruiser,” Dingess said. “I enjoy watching him play, but I’m not going to enjoy watching him play this week. He’s a great all-around football player and plays the game the right way.”

No. 2 Cabell Midland (9-0) at No. 13 South Charleston (4-5)

When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.

Last Week: Cabell Midland had an open week, but in week nine the Knights scored 28 straight points with 21 coming in the second half to break a 7-7 tie with Huntington on its way to a 28-7 win in the Battle for The Shield. 

“We got in a groove in the second half,” Cabell Midland head coach Luke Salmons said. “Our defense played good the whole game and the offense got moving and wore on them in the second half.”

Why It’s Important: Cabell Midland has several things to play coming out of the idle week. For starters, the Knights are trying to finish off their third undefeated regular season in school history and the first since 2015. Secondly, Cabell Midland would win the MSAC for the first time in four seasons with a victory over South Charleston.

And maybe most importantly, CMHS would clinch home field advantage throughout the playoffs something it hasn’t had since the 2015 campaign when they were knocked out in the semifinals as a one seed by Capital. 

“To be successful, you have to play home,” Salmons said. “It’s hard to go on the road in the playoffs and win. Our kids are hungry and confident. They enjoyed the open week, but we aren’t satisfied with anything yet.”

Who to Watch Cabell Midland: The Knights are getting some players back from early-season injuries, but everything starts with quarterback J.J. Roberts and his playmaking ability to run Midland’s triple option offense. 

Who to Watch South Charleston: Trey Dunn is a dual threat quarterback for the Black Eagles. 

We have to limit South Charleston’s big plays — that’s how they hurt you the most,” Salmons said. “The quarterback can make all the throws and his receivers make plays. They are capable of matching up with anyone in the state. South Charleston is going to be hungry.”

CLASS AA

No. 11 Mingo Central (7-2) at No. 11 Winfield (7-2)

When: Friday, 7 p.m.

Last Week: Mingo Central’s 49-14 win over Chapmanville went a long way to helping the Miners make the final field of 16 in Class AA when the postseason gets underway. 

Winfield also put up 49 points while posting a shutout of Scott to keep pace with Mingo Central. 

Why It’s Important: By winning this week, either team would clinch a spot in the Class AA Playoffs and with help a potential home playoff game next week. As crazy as it sounds, the loser would be left sweating out other games around the state Friday night to assure their place in the postseason picture. 

Who to Watch Mingo Central: Over the last two seasons, quarterback Daylin Goad has been clutch in big spots for the Miners. Mingo Central will certainly needs Goad’s best performance on the road against Winfield. 

Who to Watch Winfield: The Generals counter with their own playmaker at quarterback in senior Nick Vance who looks to will his team to a potential home playoff game. 

No. 14 Man (7-2) at Chapmanville (5-4) 

When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.

Last Week: Two short weeks ago, Man was 12 quarters away from an undefeated regular season. After last week’s loss against Tug Valley, 20-12, Man needs to defeat one of its biggest rivals to sew up a playoff spot in Class. 

Chapmanville was eliminated from playoff contention last week as it lost to Ming Central at home, 49-14. 

Why It’s Important: Despite being out of playoff consideration, all is now lost for the Tigers. With both Chapmanville and Man having already defeated Logan earlier this season, Logan County bragging rights are on the line Friday. 

Even though Man came up with an 18-14 win last year in the season finale against Chapmanville, it wasn’t enough for the Hillbillies to make the postseason with a record of 6-4. This year, a win over the Tigers would lock up Man’s first appearance in the postseason since an appearance in the 2015 Class A playoffs. 

Who to Watch Man: After putting up powerful numbers in the first seven games of the season, the Hillbillies’ offense has been stymied each of the last two weeks with just 12 points over the last eight quarters. 

Who to Watch Chapmanville: Friday night will be the final home game for quarterback Chase Berry who has had a stellar career for head coach Rob Dial. 

Point Pleasant (3-4) at James Monroe (6-3)

When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.

Last Week: A week after shutting out Man, Point Pleasant followed it up with a 27-10 win over Ripley to put the Vikings on the outside looking in of the Class AAA playoff picture. 

James Monroe hit a bump in the road with a 49-12 loss against Bluefield. 

Why It’s Important: While Point Pleasant is in foreign territory—being eliminated from the playoffs in Week 11, the Big Blacks can ruin a chance for James Monroe to make the postseason this season. 

While things haven’t gone as planned for the current group of Point Pleasant seniors, this class was freshmen when James Monroe defeated the Big Blacks in the second round of the playoffs in 2016. And now Point Pleasant can return the favor and leave a sour taste in the mouths of the Mavericks on their Senior Night. 

Who to Watch Point Pleasant: The Big Blacks defense has been lights out over the last two weeks against potent offense in Man and Ripley. James Monroe has been known to throw multiple formations at its opponents in past year, so Point Pleasant will need to prepare for everything. 

Who to Watch James Monroe: Do-it-all quarterback Monroe Mohler is a dual threat playmaker for the Mavericks. His favorite target is Xander Castillo who is also a threat to run the ball from the wide receiver position. 

Other games: Class AA No. 3 Poca (9-0) at Wayne (1-8); Logan (1-8) at Herbert Hoover (3-6); Sherman (1-8) at Lincoln County (0-9); Scott (1-8) at Nitro (3-6); Class A No. 6 Tolsia (6-3) at Hannan (1-8); Van (3-6) at Richwood (2-7)