It’s that time of week again, at least it appears so.
At least 10 games including area teams are scheduled to take place between Thursday and Friday even after the announcement that Mercer County moved to remote learning, eliminating the possibility of PikeView, Bluefield, Princeton and Montcalm playing before Sept. 27.
For now there are still several area games to enjoy.
Some draw even more attention with the first installation of the playoff ratings now available. In a season where the end could come at any moment, each win is crucial in jockeying for playoff positioning.
Take Bluefield for example. In all likelihood the Beavers are still a top three team in Class AA, but sit near the bottom of the ratings, having only played one game, a 39-36 loss to Class AAA Princeton. Midland Trail is another example of a team that’s 2-1 with a loss to a Class AA team, but sits outside of the playoff picture.
That sets the table for the first big matchup of the weekend featuring two top-eight Class AA teams.
An early advantage
No. 3 Nicholas County and No. 7 Lincoln kickoff the week with a Thursday night battle in Summersville. For Nicholas County it’s an opportunity to not only build on a hot start, but ensure they stay within range of hosting at least two playoff games should they make it that far.
Leading the charge for the Grizzlies is junior running back Kaleb Clark, who leads all area Class AA running backs in rushing yards with 321, averaging 160 yards per game. Lincoln comes in with blowout wins over Braxton County and Grafton.
Class AAA at home
With Beckley and Princeton both out for the week, only two area Class AAA teams will be in action this week in Greenbrier East and Oak Hill.
Fortunately for both, they’ll get to enjoy their homefield advantages.
Oak Hill hosts Lincoln County (2-1), looking for its second win after a 1-2 start. Both teams already have a common opponent in Princeton, a team both also lost to. For the Red Devils it’s an opportunity to get back on track against a Class AAA team that’s likely to yield some rating points.
They’ll have just the weapon to do so.
Leonard Farrow has thrived in Dave Moneypenny’s wing-t scheme, picking up 488 yards through the first three games of the season, good enough for 13.5 yards per carry. He’s also making the most of them. He leads the area in rushing touchdowns with nine – twice as many as any other area athlete.
In Greenbrier County the Spartans are looking to rebound after suffering their first loss to Class AA Robert C. Byrd. In doing so they’ll welcome Buckhannon-Upshur (1-1), a team under the direction of first-year coach Zach Davis.
Fortunately for the Spartans they have more than enough talent to bounce back. It starts with quarterback Monquelle Davis, who has six touchdown passes and just one interception on the season. He’s been efficient with his legs too, picking up 110 yards on 23 carries to go along with a score. He’s not carrying the offensive load on his own though. Sophomore running back Ian Cline has picked up 320 yards on the ground, averaging over 100 yards per game. Expect a heavy dose of both if the Spartans are to improve to 3-1.
Class AA rumble
There will be a lot of eyes on Raleigh County Friday night.
Shady Spring and Independence are set to meet in Coal City, but Liberty will be hosting Logan (3-0) after a two-week hiatus. Rounding out the Class AA matchups is Wyoming East, which will travel to Herbert Hoover.
Starting with the biggest matchup of the week, Shady Spring and Independence will meet in one of the most anticipated matchups between the two programs in quite a few years.
The Patriots are led by star running back Atticus Goodson while the Tigers are led by a committee of really good players, headed by quarterback Cameron Manns.
Indy hasn’t played since Week 1 due to COVID complications at the school while Shady hasn’t played since Week 2, as its Week 3 game against Summers County was lost to COVID complications on the Bobcats’ side.
Shady’s found success through the air on the arm of Manns, but has struggled to establish a ground game. It’s Week 2 loss against Nicholas County rings as a perfect example as the Tigers ran nine times without gaining a yard in a game that was tied 14-14 heading into the final quarter.
The Tigers’ defense will be tested as well. They shut out Tug Valley to open the year but yielded nearly 400 yards rushing to Nicholas County. That stat stands out even more when you consider the Patriots had two players in Goodson and Judah Price rush for 150 yards or more in their Week 1 win.
Elsewhere in Raleigh County Liberty will host a Logan team riding a 3-0 start with huge expectations. Led by a three-year starter in quarterback Jordan Hayes, the Wildcats have fielded a dynamic passing offense that features two receivers with over 200 yards receiving.
Meanwhile the Raiders haven’t played in three weeks after a Week 2 bye and a Week 3 matchup that was a COVID casualty. When they did play though it wasn’t pretty. Playing with a younger offensive line, the Raiders were blanked by Indy in Week 1. They’re hoping the dynamic senior duo of Ryan Simms and Logan Dodrill can help their offensive woes and slow down Logan on the other side of the ball.
A full platter
As of now, the Class A games have been largely unaffected. Meadow Bridge at James Monroe, Summers County at Mount View, and Webster County at Greenbrier West highlight the small school slate.
The most notable matchup in Class A features Summers County and Mount View. The Bobcats are 1-1 coming off a Week 2 loss to Greenbrier West and will be tested in ways they haven’t been yet. Mostly athletically.
The Golden Knights have thrown the ball 36 times, getting the ball into the hands of dangerous playmakers such as Tony Bailey, Justin Haggerty, Jaylen Hall and and TJ Bell.
Fortunately for the Bobcats they’ve fielded a quality secondary that’s already intercepted four passes in two games. On offense they have the personnel to sustain long drives and keep the ball away from the Golden Knights’ explosive offense. In Josh Evans’ wing-t offense, Kalob Black, Duke Dodson and Andre Merriam-Harshaw have found success running the ball. All three rushed for over 100 yards each in a Week 1 win over PikeView. Expect to see that formula carry over if the Bobcats are to improve to 2-1.
Contact Tyler Jackson at firstname.lastname@example.org, call/text him at 304-731-5542 and follow on Twitter @tjack94