High School Football
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Class A playoffs: Pendleton seeks success against Moorefield’s stingy defense

PARKERSBURG, W.Va. — On the surface, it doesn’t appear Class A No. 3 Pendleton County could have drawn a worse first-round matchup than No. 14 Moorefield.

The Wildcats enjoyed a historic regular season that saw them win each of their first eight games and finish 9-1.

That one setback?

A 35-0 thrashing at the hands of the Yellow Jackets in Week 10.

Still, that Pendleton County suffered its only loss this year — and in convincing fashion —  to Moorefield isn’t doing anything to diminish the Wildcats’ excitement over hosting their second postseason game in school history Friday night.

“This is the one that matters Friday night,” Wildcats’ head coach Zac Smith said. “We’re excited about a rematch and a chance to get to play Moorefield again. We don’t feel like we gave our best effort when we played them two weeks ago.”

Moorefield’s win over the Wildcats, coupled with a 17-6 win at Petersburg in Week 9, allowed the Yellow Jackets to finish 6-4 and reach the postseason.

Although MHS has been held to single-digit scoring in five of its 10 games, the defense is largely responsible for the team’s success.

Moorefield held opponents to single digits in five contests and 16 or fewer points in 10 games.

Over its last three regular season games, the Yellow Jackets surrendered a total of 20 points.

“They’ve bought into everything we’ve tried to do defensively,” MHS head coach Matt Altobello said. “They understand gap integrity, how to be physical at the point of attack, and they also understand they have to be in the right place at the right time and so does everybody else that’s lined up on that side of the ball. If we can cover all the gaps at that point in time, we’re going to be OK.”

That the Yellow Jackets have been in playoff mode over the last few weeks due to their small margin for error down the stretch could be advantageous Friday.

But Altobello cautions his team about looking ahead and wants it to remember they are the No. 14 seed with three fewer wins than the Wildcats.

“We talk to them all the time about moving from week to week,” he said. “Once the one game is over, you have to move on to the next one. That’s been the motto all year whether it’s a win or loss. 

“That’s the perfect thing about it — even though we’re playing somebody we just played two weeks ago, the mentality has still set in that everything is amped up. You win or go home and taking that mentality of moving on to the next one will help out a lot with these guys.”

For the Wildcats, who rebounded from their only loss by beating Berkeley Springs, 63-14, in the regular season finale, getting off to a better start is imperative.

“Our kids are going to be more ready to play. I felt like we never really got off the bus the last time,” Smith said. “We have to be more physical up front, mentally tougher and play four quarters this game. We can’t give up big plays early on and that was a key part two weeks ago.”

Smith expects a raucous atmosphere for an important game between two schools separated by only 43 miles.

“We’re obviously very excited with our success, and our community is excited and they’re behind us,” Smith said. “They’re ready to see a playofff win. Last year, we hosted (as a No. 8 seed) and fell short against Magnolia (28-6). We should have a perfect Friday for a football game and we’re looking forward to it.”

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