As we open the penultimate weekend of regular season high school football in the Mountain State, parity seems to be the operative trend. Of the 15 teams routinely mentioned in this space, only one of them (Ravenswood) is unbeaten in the season’s second-to-last week and no one else has more than six wins. Six teams have reached or surpassed the six-win plateau at this point in the campaign while eight teams have either virtually clinched playoff spots or remain in contention to do so over the next week and a half. It should be a fast and furious race to postseason play in the Mid-Ohio Valley. Here are this week’s games:
Capital (6-2) at Parkersburg (6-3)
Defense has been the knock on the Parkersburg Big Reds for the last couple years but last week Parkersburg showed they can put the clamps on when needed in a 62-28 win over Riverside. The Big Reds allowed all 28 Riverside points in the first half before pulling away to their third straight win and their fifth in their last six games. Alex Ash threw four touchdown passes – three to Jeremy Bell – and returned an interception for another touchdown in the contest. Allan Wasonga ran for two touchdowns and returned a kickoff 85 yards for a third score. The Big Reds will face a Capital team that fell in the final minutes to George Washington last week. Defense has contributed greatly to the Cougars’ success this year as Capital has held opponents to single-digit scoring totals on four occasions this year with one shutout. Capital has lost two of their last four games though, but those losses have been to very strong George Washington and South Charleston teams. That Capital defense must find a way to handle a PHS offense that’s scored an average of 45 points in their last six games. Otherwise, Parkersburg may again prove that as long as they can put up prolific amounts of points each week, defense is of secondary importance.
Wheeling Park (2-7) at Parkersburg South (4-4)
The Parkersburg South Patriots snapped a three-game losing streak and kept their playoff hopes alive with a 36-21 over Robert C. Byrd. South’s 36 points nearly topped their combined 40-point output of their previous four contests. In the win, the Patriots returned to a tried and true formula for success – the running game. With 385 ground yards against Robert C. Byrd, South got big efforts from Jordan Quiocho (211 rushing yards, two touchdowns) and Jacob Douglas (125 rushing yards, two touchdowns), filling in for an injured Jeffrey Kidder. This week, they’ll host a struggling Wheeling Park team in their first home game since September 11th. In an odd scheduling quirk, the Patriots hosted their first three contests at the Erickson All-Sports Facility before five straight road contests and a bye week. South went 2-3 in their midseason road stretch but at home, they’re 2-1 on the season. The Patriots will need wins in their last two games for a shot at the playoffs and if they can keep up the good work on the ground, they stand a solid chance to get there. Wheeling Park comes in as losers of four of their last five games, but as a team that’s scored more than 50 points in each of their last two contests. Yes, in case you were wondering, that means one of those games in which Park scored more than 50 was a loss – suffered last week to Fairmont Senior by a 53-52 margin. Last week’s game was Wheeling Park’s third loss by ten points or fewer so if a few things along the way had gone in Park’s direction, the entire complexion of their season could be vastly different. Parkersburg South had better prepare for a Wheeling Park team that will be motivated for their final contest of the season – and the last game ever for their seniors – and that has played better at times than its two wins would indicate.
Ravenswood (8-0) at St. Marys (5-3)
For sailors at sea, the initials S.O.S. means “Save Our Ship”. For the St. Marys Blue Devils, the same initials mean “Save Our Season”. St. Marys’ playoff hopes were dealt a devastating blow last week in a 30-29 loss to South Harrison. The Blue Devils blew a 20-point second quarter lead and by all accounts, were outplayed in the final three stanzas of the contest against the Hawks. A playoff berth now likely means that St. Marys will need wins in each of its last two contests and although both will be home games for the Blue Devils, the first comes against an unbeaten Ravenswood Red Devils team that is the top-ranked squad in Class AA. After an odd first half where the Red Devils and the 2-6 Clay County Panthers were scoreless going into the locker rooms at the half, Ravenswood put up 58 second-half points en route to a 58-23 win over the Panthers. Cole Starcher ran for 144 yards and two touchdowns while throwing for another. Luke Corley and Jeremy Lawrence both ran for a score each and each returned a kickoff for another as the Red Devils scored 17 points on Clay County special teams lapses. For the Blue Devils, Derek Renner ran for a pair of touchdowns and returned a kickoff for a third score. Defending the passing game appeared to be the biggest problem for St. Marys headed into last week’s game, but of the 414 total yards the Blue Devils surrendered against the Hawks, 316 of them came on the ground. This matchup comes down to a battle of speed as Ravenswood boasts speedsters like Starcher, Corley and Lawrence while St. Marys boasts its own solid backfield trio of Renner, C.D. Cox and Noah Spitzer as well as quarterback K.D. Arnett. The only chance the Blue Devils have for the upset involves slowing the Ravenswood rushing attack by winning the time of possession battle. Forcing a couple turnovers and making a big play or two on defense wouldn’t hurt the Blue Devils case either. Fans can hear this game locally on Lite Rock 93R (93.9 FM) or online at www.literock93r.com.
Wirt County (6-2) at Mount Hope (4-4)
The Wirt County Tigers followed up their biggest win of the season against Williamstown with a victory against the Calhoun County Red Devils last week. Dalton Brindo ran for 219 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Tigers to victory against the injury-riddled Red Devils. Now Wirt County hits the road for the final time in the regular season to open a tough final stretch of their season with South Harrison looming next week. Both games should be valuable playoff preparations for the Tigers as Mount Hope and South Harrison will be bringing their best with winning seasons on line in both contests. Mount Hope is 2-4 in their last six games and all their losses have one thing in common – none have been by blowout fashion. All four of their setbacks have come by fewer than 20 points with three of the four losses by 15 points or fewer. If Wirt County can get yet another big effort out of Brindo and maintain the level of punishing defense that’s been their hallmark all year, victory should be in the cards for the Tigers.
Parkersburg Catholic (6-2) at Gilmer County (2-7)
After a week off, the Parkersburg Catholic Crusaders likely need at least one win in their next two games to qualify for the playoffs this season. With Williamstown looming next week, added emphasis is placed on this week’s matchup with the Gilmer County Titans. Counting a forfeit win over Trinity, the Crusaders have won five straight and earned their second shutout win of the year two weeks ago against Valley Fayette. Parkersburg Catholic, like every other team that plays Gilmer County, will need to tighten up their pass defense for a game against a team that throws the ball better than most 2-7 ballclubs. Titans quarterback Luke DeMarino threw for two touchdowns and 201 yards against Williamstown last week. The game was knotted at 14 in the first quarter, but the Yellowjackets took advantage of a rash of Gilmer turnovers en route to a 27-point outburst in the second quarter to gain some distance on the Titans. The Crusaders need to be on the lookout for takeaway opportunities and could make a couple big plays on defense to boost a solid running game in what should be the game Parkersburg Catholic needs to spring Danny Tennant’s squad to the postseason. Parkersburg Catholic must also remember that last week’s tight first quarter was not the first time this year that Gilmer has stayed close with a heavily-favored opponent as the Titans trailed St. Marys by one point after three quarters a couple weeks ago.
Williamstown (6-2) at Ritchie County (2-6)
Fans listening to score updates on the radio last Friday may have been somewhat shocked to hear that Williamstown and Gilmer were tied at 14-all after a quarter of play. However, the Yellowjackets took advantage of five Gilmer County turnovers in the following three periods and rolled to a 74-22 win over the Titans. Williamstown has the rare distinction of scoring 11 touchdowns twice this season, as the Jackets also punched the ball into the end zone 11 times against Calhoun County. Cody Britton returned a punt and a kickoff for touchdowns while catching another in his three-touchdown night to lead the Yellowjackets against the Titans. Lane Knost intercepted his counterpart Luke DeMarino three times. This week, Williamstown goes on the road for the final time in the regular season against a Ritchie County Rebels team that lost 35-12 to Tyler Consolidated in the first official game under interim head coach Brian Powell. The Rebels never got a consistent ground game going the Silver Knights but boasted a solid passing attack that led drives deep into Tyler territory twice during the second quarter. One drive ended with an interception while another stalled on fourth down so Ritchie County must finish drives more efficiently. The Rebels also need to shore up a pass defense that allowed three touchdowns through the air last week if they are to pull the upset.
Roane County (6-2) at Phillip Barbour (3-5)
There might not be a team in the state that’s lost two closer games this year than the Roane County Raiders. Both of Roane’s losses have come by a combined five points, including a one-point loss last week to Herbert Hoover in a game that saw the teams combine for six touchdowns in the fourth quarter. Roane County quarterback Dylan Cottrill ran for two touchdowns and threw for a third in the shootout loss. Running back Nathan Reynolds ran for 221 yards (taking him over 1,100 on the season) on 32 carries. Expect the Raiders to take care of business against Phillip Barbour in the final road contest of the season. If they can do so, the Raiders will finish the road portion of their slate with a peerless 5-0 record.
Braxton County (6-3) at Calhoun County (1-8)
For Calhoun County, the arrival of Game #10 brings a merciful end to a heartbreaking season. Devastated by injuries, the Red Devils have dressed fewer than 20 players for most of the season. That doesn’t mean that Calhoun doesn’t play with heart as nearly every opponent they’ve played has said one thing about the 2010 Red Devils – they don’t quit. Bronson Clark ran for both touchdowns in last week’s 47-14 loss to Wirt County. This week the Red Devils finish up against a strong Braxton County team, led by strong-armed quarterback Jordan Lacy, which appears to be headed to the playoffs. The Eagles boast a strong defense that has pitched a pair of shutouts this season and held Webster County to just seven points last week. The Eagles should get valuable reps from a competitive Calhoun County squad before a bye week prior to the playoffs.
Clay County (2-6) at Tyler Consolidated (1-7)
Paden City (2-6) at Valley (Wetzel) (3-5)
Ripley (2-7), Doddridge County (3-6)