The final week of the regular season gives several teams the opportunity to finish on a high note and others a chance to be the spoiler in the Kanawha Valley.
No. 1 George Washington (9-0) vs. St. Albans (2-7)
The Patriots seemingly unstoppable offensive attack has one hurdle left to clear enroute to a perfect season. Coach Steve Edwards Jr. says that should be motivation enough for his team to play well this week.
"There’s not too many opportunities you get in a lifetime to go undefeated at anything," said Edwards. "You always deep down inside think anything is possible, but to do that is such a great feat. These kids have done a really great job because we’ve done it in a tough schedule and against some tough opponents."
The youthful Red Dragons of St. Albans will roll into Steve Edwards Senior Field Friday night knowing the odds are stacked heavily against them. But it’s also a chance to turn it loose one more time with nothing to lose and lay it all on the line.
"If you go in and pull an upset, man what a great way to kick off the off season," said Coach Derrick Christian. "We’re just hoping to come in, not turn the ball over, maybe put a touchdown or two on the board, and maybe catch them looking ahead to the playoffs. It’s the number 1 team in the state and this could be like a playoff game for us."
No. 4 South Charleston (8-1) vs. Riverside (4-5)
The Black Eagles have been driving a steam roller since halftime of the Parkersburg game in week three. Coach John Messinger says they need to keep it cranked and rolling on Friday night because they can ill-afford a letdown now.
"It’s been the kind of year that we’ve been getting better every game of the year–maybe more than any other year," said Messinger. "We went through some periods when we got rust on us, but as the year has progressed. We can’t lose focus and can’t lose sight of how important it is to win this football game."
Some of Messinger’s concern comes amid a resurgence of the Warriors in the latter half of the season. Riverside, should they pull the upset, would finish the season with a .500 record–avoiding a losing season. More so, they could mathematically still slip into the No. 16 slot and make the playoffs.
"Well, that’s what they keep telling me," laughed Ralph Hensley. "But I’m just worried about South Charleston."
The wily, veteran coach knows it will take a Herculean effort from every single member of his team, mistake free football, and some amazing luck.
"You have to take care of the ball. When you get the opportunity to score, you better do it," said Hensley when asked the keys to beating South Charleston. "…and you better tackle Tyler Harris."
No. 6 Capital (7-2) vs. Huntington (4-5)
Capital needs to finish the season with a road win over the upstart Highlanders to complete what would be a strong season. The Cougars blew out Parkersburg at Stadium Field a week ago–a rare feat for sure. They are also the only blemish on the record of the playoff bound Hurricane Redskins.
"It’s good to be 7-2 in the first year, but we get a Huntington team that’s woke up. They win this they’ll be 5-5 and that’s the best record they’ve had in a while," said Carpenter. "They’ll be pumped up and ready to play."
Carpenter said he worries about Huntington’s quarterback plays and believes his defense needs to stop the run and force him to throw the ball. Offensively, establishing the running game is the most important aspect for the Cougars.
Carpenter doesn’t worry about a lack of focus, in fact it’s been one of the lease concerns all season.
"Looking back, we haven’t taken anybody lightly," he said. "South Charleston was better than us, but we were probably over-excited. Every week we’ve come with the same kind of attitude and mentality. That’s the part we’ve been most pleased with."
No. 5 Hurricane (8-1) vs. Cabell-Midland (3-6)
The Redskins defense has risen to the occasion in the last three weeks and blow up offensive game plans. They’ll be called upon to do that again this Friday night as they travel one exit west on I-64 to face rival Cabell-Midland.
It’s the last regular season for a sizeable senior class for Hurricane. It’s a class that is tremendously special to Coach Willis May.
"I’ve watched them since they were C-teamers. I sat in the stands through midget league and middle school," said May. "It’s been fun watching them grow up. It’s gone by fast."
The Knights have struggled, but May worries they always bring their best effort against the Redskins. A year ago, Cabell-Midland won the game on Hurricane’s home-field and it’s another of those paybacks Hurricane has wanted to deliver in 2010.
"They always play us well," said May. "We’re going to definitely have to play good football to beat them on Friday night."
No. 5 Buffalo (7-2) vs. No. 1 Wahama (9-0)
The Buffalo Bison knew the home stretch of the schedule would be the toughest for them–and last week against the Man Hillbillies it caught up with them. The loss on the road wasn’t easy to swallow for Putnam County’s smallest high school, but Coach Mike Sawyers is hoping it served as a wake-up call.
The Bison travel into a difficult situation Friday night. They’re on the road facing the undefeated and top ranked White Falcons. A win would give Buffalo a huge boost going into the post-season.
Other Games in the Kanawha Valley:
Tolsia at Poca
Sissonville, Nitro, Winfield, and Herbert Hoover have finished the regular season.