University (8-1) at Morgantown (8-1) Thursday
The annual MoHawk Bowl returned to campus in 2008 after nine years of games played at Mountaineer Field. Morgantown has won nine of the last ten regular season games played between the two teams. UHS has recovered, however, to make deep runs in the playoffs. University has reached the state semi-finals three consecutive years and four times in the last five seasons.
"People don’t like what I have to say, but my approach to this game is that it is 1/10 of the season," University coach John Kelley said. "We will get evaluated by most fans on this game, but the bottom line is that both teams are going to the playoffs with an opportunity to win a state championship. I would rather focus on that."
University’s last win in the series came in 2007. The Hawks won that night 35-0 then they went on to beat MHS in the playoffs as well.
The 2008 game at Pony Lewis Field was won by Morgantown 27-14 as Jeff Allen of the Mohigans rushed for 169 yards and a touchdown. Mohigans quarterback Ben Miller threw for a touchdown and ran for another score.
Last year at UHS, the Mohigans won 7-6 as a first quarter 21-yard touchdown pass from Matt Saab to Anthony Vecchio held up after the Hawks scored a touchdown mid way through the 4th quarter and then failed on a two point conversion attempt. Morgantown held the ball for the final seven minutes to preserve the victory.
This year, the Hawks hope to get enough big plays out of a balanced offense. Senior tailback Micah Wilson went over the 1,000 yard rushing mark last week as he rolled up a career high 243 yards and three touchdowns in a victory over Preston. Kelley believes his team will have to incorporate the passing game in an effort to keep MHS off balance.
"We’ve got about four sets we are going to try and throw at them," Kelley said. "It won’t fool them, but we will try to get our people in position to use their athletic ability and try to force them to tackle us in space."
Wilson has averaged 134 yards over his last six games. UHS will also try to utilize sophomore receiver Deion Cunningham who has averaged 16.8 yards per reception. He has three receiving touchdowns and can also take direct snaps in the Wildcat formation. Senior receivers Joe Lane and Sterling Springgate need to have big games as well. Springgate leads the team with 20 receptions. Lane has come on with his play making ability as a receiver and a runner.
University expects senior right guard Conar McVicker to return from an ankle injury. McVicker missed the Preston game last week. His return would give the Hawks four senior starters up front as he would join 350 pound tackle Tyler "Tank" Turner on the right side. Seniors Kyle Favro and Tommy Gaspar have started all season long on the left side.
The strength of the University defense is up the middle with the emergence of sophomore tackle Jon Lewis. Lewis and seniors Demetrius Dixon, Sterling Springgate and Wes Payne have formed a very solid front four.
Kelley says the UHS defense will get challenged significantly on Thursday.
"They have (so) many weapons," Kelley said of the Morgantown offense. "You think that maybe you can take this away or take that away, but they have an arsenal."
Senior Joey Musick leads with 1.326 yards with 15 touchdowns on an average of 10.7 yards per carry. Chris Glover is next with 610 yards and nine touchdowns on an average of 10.1 yards per carry. Morgantown often times snaps it directly to one of these two players.
"Glover and Musick are both Kennedy Award caliber candidates," Kelley said. "They go east and west and get on the edge and let their great athletes take over.
"Then you have their defense," Kelley continued. They are rock solid. They have equally good athletes on that side of the field as well."
The MoHawk Bowl usually comes down to the winner finishing in the top four in AAA and earning some home games in the playoffs. With a loss, Kelley believes his Hawks would start the post season on the road.
"We definitely want to win and finish in that top four and stay home," Kelley said. "We figure we would drop to at least No. 9 with a loss. The playoff ramifications are big.
"But my life is not predicated on how we do against Morgantown because we’ve only won just a few times against them," Kelley concluded. "I just play it year to year. It is another great game against a great opponent at their venue. Hopefully everyone comes out to the game to support us and has a great time."
Robert C. Byrd (5-4) at Lewis County (7-2)
Senior night at Lewis County will be special this year as one of the most accomplished groups in the history of the school will be honored.
"It is one of the most successful groups that has been through the building," Lewis County coach Eddie Vincent said. "They’ve had winning seasons three years in a row and I think that has happened only one other time at Lewis County.
"This group of guys has always been good," Vincent said. "They were good in youth league. They were good in middle school. I think we have them in the right position and I think they can finish strong and do something that’s never been done before at the school.
Last year’s Lewis County team matched the school record with seven wins. So the 2010 Minutemen could be a school record setting team if they can get to that eight win plateau.
"We also understand that is a must win for us," Lewis said. "We could get into the playoffs as a seven win team, but there are no guarantees. If we lose, we could get bumped out at 7-3 with our schedule. So we are preparing like it is a playoff game and a must win."
But the task is a tall one.
"We’ve only beat them once in the history of our school," Vincent said of the RCB match up. "They beat us last year in a game we led most of the way.
"They are so big up front and we are a relatively small team," Vincent said of the Eagles. "They are a very talented team. I’ve said often that after Morgantown and University, you have to look at RCB as far as physical talent.
"They’ve had a tough couple of weeks, but this is the only team that has beaten Bridgeport," Vincent pointed out. "From a talent stand point, they are a scary team to face."
Bridgeport (7-1) at Fairmont Senior (6-2)
The Polar Bears are coming off a wild 53-52 overtime win over Wheeling Park.
"We were down 22-3 and the kids could have packed it in," Fairmont Senior coach Jared Mileto said. "They dug deep and came back on a couple of occasions. I couldn’t be more proud of my kids after accomplishing that."
Fairmont Senior has won three in a row now following a one point loss at University in a game were the Polar Bears had three kicks blocked, a field goal and two extra points.
"Things could have gone south after that game," Mileto said. "We went into that locker room after the game and the captains were standing there saying ‘we are not going to lose again, what do we have to do?
"That was a goal they set that night for themselves together," Mileto said.
To reach that goal, Fairmont Senior will have to get past Bridgeport this week.
"We need to get stops on them which is very hard to do," Mileto said. "And you have to take advantage of your chances to put points on the board. When you don’t, they get into a comfort level were they just keep rolling at you and you can’t get the ball back.
"The first goal is to get into the playoffs," Mileto continued. "Then hosting a playoff game is still on the table for us just like it is for Bridgeport. Their coaching staff is outstanding and they will have them ready. Their players are confident and they are outstanding. We’ve got to match all of that.
"Playoff wise, this is the biggest game of the year for us, without a doubt," Mileto said. "This late in the year, things are starting to fall into place for the playoff positions and this is a big one for us."
Grafton (4-4) at Liberty (6-3)
A key play in Grafton’s 27-24 win at Berkeley Springs last week was a 33-yard interception return for a score by Steven Hunt of the Bearcats. Grafton squared its record with the victory. The Bearcats have two more road games to close the season at Liberty this week and then at AA power Magnolia.
Liberty will try and bounce back from a suprising loss 32-23 to Lincoln. The Mountaineers will play their regular season finale trying to get to that seven win plateau. Then they will hope that will be enough for them to gain a playoff spot.
South Harrison (4-4) at Lincoln (3-4)
Lincoln is playing its best football of the season at the end of the year. The Cougars scored 26 unanswered points to pull off the upset last week. The game changed on a 4th down stop by the Lincoln defense at the Liberty 48 yard line early in the 4th quarter. Lincoln hit on a big pass play to set up a touchdown. Then the defense came up big again forcing a fumble after Liberty had driven down to the one yard line. Devin Heitz would then cap an 80-yard drive with a five yard touchdown run for the winning score. Heitz finished with 93 yards and four touchdowns running and one receiving.
Lincoln has now won three of its last four games.
South Harrison earned its biggest win of the season last week as well. The Hawks knocked off a ranked St. Marys team 30-29 as they rallied from a 16-0 deficit.
The Hawks kept their playoff hopes alive as they will finish the regular season with games at Lincoln and at Wirt County.
Clay-Battelle (4-4) at Notre Dame (2-6) Saturday
The Cee-Bees will try and finish the season strong as they’ve won two straight with two road games remaining this season. Senior Jordan Hockenberry played his final home game last week as he rushed for 188 yards and two touchdowns.
Other games this week:
Braxton County (6-3) at Calhoun County (1-8)
Roane County (6-2) at Philip Barbour (3-5)
Buckhannon-Upshure (1-7) at Preston (0-8)
Elkins (3-5) at North Marion (3-5)