After Week 1 we know a little more about the area teams, but it’s just the first chapter in a book that yields at least 11.
The Week 2 matchups feature the top two Class AA teams in the area (Bluefield and Independence) traveling to Class AAA schools while Summers County and Greenbrier West matchup in an early test for both squads.
For the third consecutive season Bluefield is staring down an 0-2 start. This isn’t unusual as Graham, Va. has won two state championships since 2018, adding a pair of title game appearances while Princeton has been a playoff team in a loaded Class AAA field. But to avoid an early hole the Beavers will need to figure out a way to dispatch of their county foes, the Princeton Tigers, in Princeton. Not an easy task.
There’s a strong belief that Princeton is the best team in the southern part of the state this season regardless of class. They’re anchored by first team all-staters Dom Collins and Eli Campbell but a new stable of players made names for themselves in the Tigers’ Week 1 win at Lincoln County. Brad Mossor had 184 yards from scrimmage, Marquel Lowe had 178 and Chance Barker threw for 332 yards and three scores in his first career varsity start. That’s all in addition to the four touchdowns Collins added.
Bluefield’s defense, which looked much improved against ground assaults late last season and even last Friday, will be tested. But stopping a multidimensional attack is more difficult and the Beavers did struggle in coverage, leaving a receiver wide open on a would-be touchdown pass had it not been dropped against Graham. There was also a third-and-31 touchdown pass that determined the outcome of that game. For the Beavers to win, their best bet may be to stick with the offensive approach they deployed Week 1 – control the clock with a ground attack that limits the opposing offense’s touches.
Independence will also hit the road, traveling to Oak Hill. Oak Hill has generated buzz this offseason with a strong scrimmage against Spring Valley and the hiring of head coach Davon Marion.
Last week’s showing against a Nicholas County program that graduated most of its starters from a two-time playoff qualifier was surprising with the Grizzlies leading 10-0 in the second half before Oak Hill pulled out a 14-10 win. That opening game is usually a litmus test for both programs but it’s difficult to draw any conclusions from it at this point. Friday’s game gives Marion and Co. an opportunity to earn a signature win against one of the state’s powerhouse programs.
On the flip side Independence, the defending Class AA state champion, can pad its postseason standing with a win over a Class AAA program. The Patriots are 6-0 at home in the postseason over the last two years and with the Class AA field as packed as its been in over a decade with at least six contenders (When was the last time you went into a season thinking some combination of Bluefield, Independence, Fairmont Senior and Bridgeport prior to it’s jump back to triple-A wouldn’t be on the island the first week of December?) home-field advantage will likely mean more than it has in years come November.
This is a different Independence team than the one that won the title a year ago, but they still have key players in place such as QB Trey Bowers, LB D. Hypes and RB Tyler Linkswiler. They were banged up a little during their win at Liberty and starting receiver Brady Rose was ejected, meaning he’ll have to sit out Friday if his suspension isn’t overturned by the WVSSAC. That hurts Indy. While the Patriots will lean on Linkswiler, Nicholas County found success through the air against the Red Devils with 112 yards on 17 passing attempts. That said the Red Devils also intercepted a pair of passes.
Summers County has been close the last two years but can’t seem to break into the Class A playoff field. The Bobcats will get their first shot at padding their resume Friday when they host Greenbrier West, a program that’s won playoff games in three of the last four seasons. The Cavaliers blanked Summers last year, something they did to eight different opponents. This time around Summers will have starting QB Brandan Isaac, who threw for over 200 yards and rushed for over 50 last week against PikeView. Combined with Ryan Oliveros, the two are an electric combination. The expectation is Drake Cole will be back after playing sparingly last week with an injury.
The Bobcats will need all the firepower they can get whether they go with their new-look spread offense or revert back to the wing-T. That West defense that pitched eight shutouts last year is back and the common belief amongst area coaches is that unit will be even better this year than it was last year.
Offensively the Cavaliers may not have a 1,500-yard rusher lurking in the back field but QB Cole Vandall was efficient, throwing for over 100 yards in last week’s win while Jake Pate did a little bit of everything from running the ball to catching it.
The last headliner is a game that might tell us the trajectory of a pair of Class AA teams. Nicholas County travels to Shady Spring for the annual Week 2 matchup between the squads. As mentioned earlier, Nicholas was in control of its loss against Oak Hill while Shady Spring fell 35-20 at home against a good Roane County team in a game that was competitive. Nicholas County will already be in a decent position because of the new strength of schedule based SSAC rating system that gives teams points for a loss if they play up.
Around the area
Beckley renews its rivalry with Greenbrier East, aiming for a 2-0 start for the second consecutive season.
The Flying Eagles took last year’s meeting 49-21 which went a long way towards their eventual playoff berth. They bashed Riverside last week and defensively held the Warriors in check allowing just 13 points. East graduated numerous starters form last year’s squad including QB Monquelle Davis while all-state running back Ian Cline transferred out of state.
The Spartans come in off a loss against Class AA Point Pleasant in which they managed just 44 yards on the ground to complement the 127 they picked up through the air.
With tough foes such as Parkersburg South and Bluefield on the horizon, a win helps Beckley’s shot at a third consecutive playoff berth. For East a win is imperative with four games against playoff teams from a year ago still ahead.
It’s also HOF night for the Flying Eagles. For a full list of inductees, click here.
Midland Trail is coming in off an impressive win against Clay County, a team that’s been in the Class AA playoff picture the last few years. It’s a solid start for the Patriots who played a difficult schedule once again last year but missed the postseason in a year where 8 wins wasn’t enough for some schools to make the cut. Up next is a Tolsia program that’s 1-18 in its last 19 games. Trail accounts for two of those losses, both by double digits. A win seems highly likely and the hosts would do well to make sure of it. The schedule is once again amongst the most difficult in the class with trips to Wheeling Central, Summers County, James Monroe and Greenbrier West lined up.
Around the area
Elsewhere PikeView and Liberty both aim to get back on track after Week 1 losses. Montcalm will follow its 8-2 campaign with a trip to Twin Valley, Va. Wyoming East will host Van hoping to bounce back from a 60-6 loss against Westside while those Renegades will travel to Mingo Central in an early season test. Lastly Meadow Bridge aims for a 2-0 start when it travel to Richwood.