CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Back on Sept. 28, Capital welcomed Spring Valley to University of Charleston Stadium at Laidley Field for a Week 6 contest between a pair of unbeaten teams.
That night, the No. 2 Timberwolves came away with a 21-13 win — and because of that result, they’re able to stay home for the rematch against the No. 3 Cougars in Friday’s 1:30 p.m. Class AAA semifinal.
Spring Valley (12-0) was faced with a 7-6 halftime deficit in the regular season contest before Graseon Malashevich began lining up at quarterback. Malashevich rushed for a pair of second-half touchdowns that allowed the Timberwolves to prevail.
The Timberwolves also successfully ran 7:22 off the clock to end that game, utilizing 12 consecutive running plays to pick up four first downs and prevent the high-powered Capital (11-1) offense from having a chance to tie it late.
“They didn’t trick anybody. You know what they’re going to do,” Capital coach Jon Carpenter said after his team’s only loss this season. “They just stayed together and fought. It comes down to I have to them prepared. We were just out of sync and we have to do a better job.”
While the location changes for the postseason meeting, the game plans hardly will and both teams will try to follow a similar script to be successful.
The Timberwolves rely heavily on their offensive line to be the driving force of a power ground game that allows them to keep possession and move the ball. Every so often, Spring Valley will mix in passing plays and take deep shots in an effort to keep defenses honest.
The Cougars, on the other hand, want to spread the defense out and provide room to operate for versatile quarterback Kerry Martin Jr. Capital has a plethora of weapons and likes to utilize them all — whether Martin is throwing passes to a deep and talented receiving corps or the Cougars are keeping it on the ground with their stable of backs.
“We have too good a football team to go out there and score 13 points,” Carpenter said of the regular season matchup. “We have too many weapons.”
Fortunately for Carpenter, his team gets another crack at Spring Valley this week as Capital strives to play for a state championship for the first time since 2015, while the Timberwolves are seeking a third consecutive trip to Wheeling Island Stadium.
“We didn’t feel like we were prepared enough on offense when we played them the first time around,” Carpenter said. “We’re far more talented than how we executed the first time we played them, so hopefully we have that corrected.
“We have to put the ball out there in space kind of like a fastbreak basketball team. We have to get the ball out and move it.”
The Cougars have been able to do just that the majority of this season, including in each of the first two rounds of the playoffs as they’ve breezed past Morgantown and Hedgesville by a combined total of 90-14.
Capital didn’t allow a point through its first six quarters of postseason play, while the Timberwolves have allowed only seven points in the postseason, having beaten Spring Mills 77-7 and Huntington 36-0.
In a game that won’t lack for talent at the skill positions, it will likely be decided in the trenches. The Timberwolves’ massive offensive line features Ohio State commit Doug Nester (6-foot-7, 312 lbs.), Louisville commit Zach Williamson (6-6, 303) and sophomore Wyatt Milum (6-6, 255), a likely Division I commit down the line.
Capital defensive lineman Kalai Clark (6-1, 300) not only anchors the team’s defensive line, but is used a short yardage back and scored both of his team’s touchdowns in the regular season meeting against Spring Valley.
“We want our revenge and we want to show everybody that’s counting us out what we’re capable of doing,” Clark said. “We want to set the tone and we’re ready.”
Cougars’ center Tyrese Foster (6-4, 365) is tasked not only with blocking a physical Timberwolves’ defensive front at a high level, but making sure he delivers accurate shotgun snaps to Martin in the Cougars’ spread attack.
“They’re big and physical and anybody can see that,” Carpenter said. “Our kids usually don’t run from competition. They’ll be excited for that.”