Big time playoff atmospheres are nothing new to the folks in Lindside.
Now there is another monumental postseason clash on the horizon at H.E. Comer Sports Complex.
Friday night, No. 1 James Monroe will host No. 8 Greenbrier West in a Class A quarterfinal battle that has both counties buzzing.
“I think it will be a great atmosphere. Greenbrier West is a heck of a team,” James Monroe head coach John Mustain said. “You hate to have to play a team twice (in the same season) because they are hard to beat twice.”
Cavaliers head coach Toby Harris, on the other hand, kept a low key approach when asked about their round two opponent.
“We are just glad to win the first one and get to play a second one,” Harris said. “It just happens to be James Monroe, but we are looking forward to playing them.”
Historically the two teams have met 12 times with the Mavericks winning all but two of those match-ups.
James Monroe has won the last seven encounters, including a 27-0 win just over a month ago, also played in Lindside.
It was not a night to remember for the Cavaliers.
“I think we learned we can’t make mistakes like we did in the first game and win the ball game,” Harris said. “We dropped the ball on the ground, plus we had some interceptions and penalties. If we are to have a chance against them, we have to correct our mistakes.”
While some may see the margin of victory as a convincing win, Mustain has a different perspective on the outcome and hopes his team does not come out overconfident Friday.
“I personally think the score of the first game was very misleading. I do worry about (over confidence), no matter who we are playing. You are dealing with kids,” Mustain said. “It is hard to get them to understand that the game was much closer than the score indicated. That is the case in any sport. Teams will have let downs if you go in thinking you are going to win just because you already beat them once. There are no guarantees when it comes to playoff time.”
Perhaps lost among the turnovers, penalties and the final score is the fact that West did move the ball at times, amassing over 200 yards on the ground. Ty Nickell led the ground attack with 143 yards.
“We moved the ball some, but we made mistakes in critical situations,” Harris said.
While Nickell did the heavy lifting in the first game, Cole Vandall is coming off a big night in the win last week against South Harrison.
“Everybody knows about Ty and he is a great running back. He is one of those kids that everyone of us would like to have,” Mustain said. “He is a great football player, but you can’t put all of your eggs in one basket on defense. They have other kids that can make plays too and that has been evident throughout the season.”
While James Monroe was opportunistic and took full advantage of the mistakes made by the Cavaliers in the first meeting, the Mavs did their own damage on the ground and through the air as well.
Junior standout Cooper Ridgeway carried the ball 17 times and piled up 144 yards, while sophomore quarterback Layton Dowdy threw for 179 yards on five completions.
The bulk of the damage through the air came on a pair of grabs by Chaz Boggs that totaled 151 yards and both were back-breakers.
“They really do have weapons to hurt you and it starts with (Eli) Allen at split-end. You have to know where he is all the time because he is a great pass receiver. The quarterback does a nice job and throws the ball really well,” Harris said. “They have good receivers to go along with two good running backs. The linemen are big and strong. James Monroe is the total package.”
In their opening round game against Petersburg last Saturday, the Mavericks rolled up 342 yards of total offense in a convincing 37-13 win.
Dowdy had a 76-yard strike to Allen and another touchdown pass of 31 yards to Nick Pitzer who had an interception in the first meeting with West.
One name not mentioned in those stats that has proven he can also break off big runs and find the end zone is senior Braydie Carr.
In a win during the regular season at Midland Trail, Carr ran for 193 yards and three touchdowns.
“(Braydie) has been a major factor for us this year and has really stepped up on the both sides of the ball,” Mustain said. “We have multiple weapons just like Greenbrier West. It definitely is a game where both defenses will have to be on their toes.”
Last Friday night, West was impressive in the mud and the muck beating the ground and pound attack of South Harrison.
Fully aware going into the game that they lacked some size, the young line from West answered the bell physically, whipping the Hawks in the trenches.
“We can’t change our size. We are small. James Monroe is bigger than us and South Harrison was bigger than us, but our kids play with a lot of heart,” Harris said. “We told them that they have to get off the ball and that is what they did against South Harrison. We are hoping to get that same kind of game this week.”
In the first meeting between the two teams, junior standout Ethan Holliday was limited due to an injury. Holliday is now healthy and could be an X-factor for the Cavaliers.
“We are looking for Holliday to play a full game against them. He has been hurt some, but he was back full speed Friday night (against South Harrison),” Harris said. “We didn’t have that the last time we played. We didn’t have him on offense at all and on defense he was maybe 50 percent. He seems to be healthy this week and we hope that makes a difference.”
The first game hinged mainly on mistakes, but as the veteran James Monroe coach explained, that could easily go the other way in the rematch.
“The other side of the coin is, we can make mistakes ourselves. Both teams are in the same situation where you have to do all you can to play mistake free ball,” Mustain said. “The deeper you get in the playoffs, the more important that becomes. That will definitely be the case Friday night.”
The winner of the matchup will advance to the semifinal round of the high school football playoffs next week where it will meet the winner between No. 5 Wheeling Central and No. 4 Wahama.