CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The first round of the 2022 WVSSAC high school football playoffs offers a variety of exciting games, including a matchup between Class AAA No. 5 George Washington and No. 12 Princeton.
George Washington enters on a six-game win streak after splitting its first four games. The Patriots had wake-up calls over Weeks 3 and 4 while losing by an average of 47 points to Hurricane and Huntington.
Following those setbacks, George Washington (8-2) outscored its next six opponents, 253-86.
“They have responded well and answered the call,” said veteran George Washington head coach Steve Edwards Jr. “You cannot ask for any more than that. We have made a few adjustments. The kids have been playing hard, and we have stayed healthy. If we can continue doing that, it gives us a chance.”
The Patriots’ opponent for Friday’s 7:30 p.m. game is Princeton, which had a similar start to its season. After the Tigers started 3-0, they suffered consecutive losses, before having a three-game win streak snapped Friday in a 49-41 loss to Parkersburg South.
Princeton is in the postseason for the third straight year. The Tigers (6-3) hope they are equipped for the big stage that lies ahead.
“Our kids have a lot of grit and fight,” said Princeton head coach Chris Pedigo. “We have had a tough schedule with Bridgeport, Hurricane, Parkersburg South, Woodrow Wilson, Bluefield, and Lord Botetourt, Virginia. We have played three teams in the top six in Class AAA. We have had a demanding schedule, but our kids have fought every week. They deserve to be there.”
The Patriots and Tigers will square off for the 16th time Friday evening, including the second time in an opening-round playoff matchup. GW previously beat Princeton in a quarterfinal matchup in 1982.
George Washington’s offense has kicked into high gear and averaged 42 points over the last six games.
GW quarterback Abe Fenwick has impacted numerous games, including a three-touchdown performance against then-No. 4 Spring Valley. Edwards has seen growth in Fenwick from opening week to the present.
“He is preparing a lot better,” Edwards noted. “Him being able to use his wheels has helped us a ton. Hopefully, he can continue to stay hot. When he is hot, then we have a great chance.”
Pedigo sees Friday’s game as a major test for his defense, particularly when trying to limit Fenwick.
“We have to play assignment football,” Pedigo noted. “I do not know if we will be able to stop them. Fenwick is special. [Keegan] Sack and the other receivers are good. They have a bunch of weapons. It could be a high-scoring game, or it could be whichever team has the ball last. What will help us is that many of these teams we played are similar to GW, and we have that on tape. Now, we have to get better.”
Edwards sees the same challenge for his defense going against a Princeton offense averaging 45 points over its last four games. Much like GW, the Tigers are plenty capable passing with 6-foot-6 senior quarterback Grant Cochran.
“We are going to have to match their intensity,” Edwards stated. “From what I have seen from them on film, they play hungry. They play hard, through the whistle and beyond the whistle. It depends on how well you prepare and how long you want to last. They are a great football team.”
Cochran often looks to Dominick Collins, who has been one of the state’s most productive wideouts.
“Dominick Collins has had a phenomenal year. He is almost at 1,000 yards receiving through nine games,” Pedigo said. “Dominick has also had big-time games against big-time opponents. In the Hurricane game, he had ten catches for 180 yards. Dominick had over 180 yards receiving against Lord Botetourt. He had nine catches for 130 yards and two touchdowns against Parkersburg South last Friday. He is explosive and dynamic.”