After weeks of cancellations and postponements the Week 6 slate is packed for the time being. It couldn’t have come at a better time.
At the halfway point, several area teams have established themselves in the playoff race while other need a boost. Several will get that chance
The local marquee matchup in Class AAA will feature Beckley and Princeton with much at stake for both teams.
The Tigers came in at No. 5 in the latest playoff ratings while the Flying Eagles seemed to have steadied the ship, checking in at No. 16. Both teams are coming from different perspectives as well. Princeton hasn’t played in three weeks as Mercer County went to remote learning in mid September. Beckley on the other hand is coming off an emotional overtime win in which it turned back the clock by running the wing-T.
That’s nothing new for Princeton, as the last game it played was against a wing-T team in Oak Hill, but it exposed some weaknesses on Princeton’s defense, mostly on the edges. Oak Hill standout Leonard Farrow had a field day running off the edge until the Tigers moved linebacker Noah Basham to help contain those runs.
Another matchup to watch will be the Princeton offense against the Beckley defense. The Flying Eagles have a talented secondary highlighted by Keynan Cook and Elijah Redfern, both of whom boast multiple interceptions. They’ll be tested by Princeton’s all-state quarterback, Grant Cochran. The junior signal caller is coming off the best game of the season, though it was played three weeks ago. He was 14-of-17 in the first half, throwing three touchdown passes before the break in a blowout of the Red Devils.
Elsewhere in Class AAA both local teams will be tested. Greenbrier East hits the road to take on Mingo Central while Oak Hill hosts Cabell Midland. Focusing on the latter, the Red Devils rebounded last week to snap a two-game losing streak but face a daunting task in hosting the Knights. Cabell Midland comes in at 4-1 with its only loss coming at undefeated Huntington.
Fortunately for Oak Hill it has one of the state’s most dangerous weapons in Leonard Farrow, the area’s leading rusher. He’ll need to follow up last week’s five-touchdown performance with a similar one but also get contributions from a passing game that has struggled to this point.
Two of the area’s Class AA teams will be playing for the second time this week with a Class A school being traded amongst them.
Starting with Shady Spring, the Tigers will make a trip to Westside coming off a narrow Tuesday win over Summers County. During that game the Tigers hurt themselves with numerous personal foul and unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, something head coach Vince Culicerto promised wouldn’t happen Friday. On the flipside the Renegades are desperately searching for a glimmer of hope after they also played Tuesday in a blowout loss to Independence.
The Renegades have endured injuries and the loss of ineligible players, but hope reinforcements are on the way in the back half of the season.
The fourth team that played on Tuesday and is set for a quick turnaround is Independence. The Patriots will trade off with Shady as they travel to Summers County in what will be daunting task for the host Bobcats.
During Tuesday’s game Summers lost leading rusher Andre Merriam-Harshaw in the second half after he sustained an ankle injury in the first quarter. On the other side the Patriots have breezed through their first three games, scoring at least 47 points in all three contests. They’ve been just as dominant on defense, allowing no more than 14 points in any of those contests. It could be a long night for the hosts if they’re unable to find an answer to an Indy offense that’s lethal on the ground and through the air.
Last but not least on the Class AA front is Wayne at Liberty. After dropping a 47-0 decision to open the season, the Raiders have rebounded to hand Logan and Clay County their first losses of the season. Those wins have vaulted Glen Daniel’s finest into the thick of the playoff hunt. Hosting Wayne, the Raiders will have another chance to add to their ledger as the Pioneers come in with two wins. Seniors Ryan Simms and Logan Dodrill have been outstanding in those wins as Simms scored three times against Logan and Dodrill ran for over 100 yards in both contests.
The top ticket in Class A this week is the one that admits you to Nicholas County at Midland Trail.
Despite looking like one of the top teams in Class A, the pressure’s on for Trail. At 2-1 the Patriots sit outside the top 16 in Class A but a win Friday would help vault them up in the ratings. On the other side the Grizzlies rebounded from a tough home loss to Lincoln by annihilating Wyoming East last Friday. That moved them back into the top 10 of Class AA.
Prepare for a smash-mouth battle.
Leading the way for Nicholas is running back Kaleb Clark while Trail has a balanced attack. Robert Ruffner and Aden Isaacs can move the ball on the ground while quarterback Josh Dickerson and receiver Ayden Simms have proven to be one of the area’s top duos, connecting seven times for 208 yards and four touchdowns.
The one local Class A team that is in playoff position and looking to improve its prospects is Greenbrier West. The Cavaliers are 3-1 coming into Friday behind a dominant defense and an offense that can hurt you in both phases. Ty Nickell and quarterback Cole Vandall have led the ground game while Vandall has found his groove as a passer. Despite tossing six interceptions, he’s found a reliable weapon in Chase McClung.
Facing the Cavs will be Meadow Bridge, a team that’s down on its luck after winning Week 1. The Wildcats have struggled with quarantines, playing a game without starting quarterback Dustin Adkins. If they hope to pull off the upset they’ll need Adkins to be at his best and maximize on his opportunities through the air and on the ground.