No. 9 Parkersburg (7-4) at No. 1 Martinsburg (11-0)
When: Saturday, 1:30 p.m.
Last week: The Big Reds prevailed at Wheeling Park 28-21. Martinsburg used a dominant defensive effort to defeat Hurricane 35-0.
Why it’s important: While the Bulldogs are the class of the state, the Big Reds get an opportunity to dethrone the two-time defending state champs. Parkersburg overcame a 1-3 start to reach the playoffs and should have a loose approach in a game it enters as a clear underdog.
Who to watch for Parkersburg: Tight end Brenton Strange, tailback Tyler Moler and quarterback Jake Johnson form a talented trio that provides the offense with countless big plays.
But Parkersburg has also gotten major contributions of late from wideout Kionte Peacock, who had the game-winning kickoff return for a touchdown last week, and short yardage back Shane Miller, who has four rushing touchdowns in the last two games.
Who to watch for Martinsburg: While the Big Reds have faced their fair share of quality opponents, it’s safe to say they’ve yet to play a team the caliber of the Bulldogs. Martinsburg’s speed and talent can create mismatches all over the field.
The Bulldogs rely heavily on quarterbacks Grant Harman and Elijah Banks, while Naieem Kearney is a standout in the running game. Wideout Jarod Bowie is a consistent threat in the passing game, while Chelo Teneval, Teddy Marshall and Matt VanDuzer often make plays through the air as well.
No. 11 Hedgesville (7-4) at No. 3 Capital (10-1)
When: Saturday, 1:30 p.m.
Last week: In perhaps the best opening-round game across the state, the Eagles rallied from a 21-0 halftime deficit to edge Parkersburg South, 35-29. No rally was needed from Capital, which handled Morgantown 42-0.
Why it’s important: Hedgesville isn’t your normal No. 11 seed with its wealth of talent. While the Eagles have four losses, one was to Martinsburg, and the other three were by a combined 17 points. Still, this will be quite a difficult test for the Eagles following a lengthy road trip, as the Cougars’ variety of weapons make them a legitimate state title contender. Capital’s only loss of the season came Sept. 28 against unbeaten Spring Valley 21-13.
Who to watch for Hedgesville: Hunter Coe delivered in a big way in his first start of the season at quarterback against Parkersburg South. Coe’s best chance at success is to find big-play threats Malakai Brown and Niyjere Smith often. Smith returned a kickoff 70 yards for a touchdown in the game’s final seconds last week which allowed the Eagles to move on.
Who to watch for Capital: Any chance at knocking off the Cougars starts with containing dual threat quarterback Kerry Martin Jr. Martin threw two of his four touchdown passes last week to Chance Knox. Kalai Clark is a force on the defensive line often used to carry the ball in short yardage situations. However, the Cougars will have to play this week without standout defensive end Breece Hoff after he was ejected in the win over the Mohigans.
No. 5 Ripley (10-1) at No. 4 Musselman (10-1)
When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Last week: Both teams handled business with convincing wins at home. Ripley handled Greenbrier East 43-15. Musselman eliminated John Marshall 60-14.
Why it’s important: A pair of teams with idential records hoping to reach the state semifinals and make already memorable seasons all the more enjoyable. The Applemen’s lone loss came against Martinsburg, while the Vikings have won 10 consecutive games since a season-opening defeat at Parkersburg South. Each team has similar points scored and points allowed totals, with the Vikings outscoring opponents 403-200, while the Applemen have scored 441 points and surrenderd 202.
Who to watch for Ripley: The trio of quarterback Cyrus Casto, running back R.J. Evans and fullback Jeremy Harper was a big part of the win over the Spartans. Against the stingy Musselman defense, Ripley will need those three to deliver if it hopes to notch an 11th straight win.
Who to watch for Musselman: The 1-2 punch of quarterback Tre Beard and tailback Blake Hartman is problematic for opposing defenses, and the Vikings must find a way to limit both players, who can hurt teams in a variety of ways. Ethan Wilson is a player Beard often looks for when passing.