With a month left to go in the regular season, several schools are jockeying to stay in the playoff hunt while others are trying to maintain their surge.
Friday’s slate provides an opportunity to do just that, with one area team looking to pull itself up from the bottom in a rivalry game.
Beavers on board
It’s been over a month since Bluefield has played a game – it’s only game of the season.
Quarantines at Graham forced the Week 1 matchup between the two schools to be postponed and quarantines within the Beavers’ own program forced their Week 3 matchup to be nixed. After that Mercer County went to remote learning for two weeks, nixing two more games and when they finally did come back last week, they were idle. It was much needed for a team that hadn’t had the opportunity to practice in a month.
The fallout has been catastrophic though for a team that has state championship hopes. With a month left, the Beavers have to walk the tight rope of making up games while avoiding losses as they’re currently in a four-way tie for last place in the Class AA ratings.
The opportunity for bonus points seems to be evaporating as well.
PikeView sits without a win, Mingo Central is 1-4 and Oak Hill is 2-4. All three teams are amongst the six remaining that the Beavers must brave if they hope to return to the playoffs for a fifth straight year.
The climb back to the top starts Friday night when Bluefield hosts heated Virginia rival Graham at Mitchell Stadium. The G-Men come in at 4-0 on the season, providing the Beavers an opportunity to pick up a big win, but it wont be easy. Sure, the Beavers are loaded with explosive playmakers, but the last time they played cramps, and communication issues plagued them in a 39-36 loss at Princeton.
Bluefield head coach Fred Simon was adamant he thought another game would’ve helped them address some of the issues they faced, but those were the circumstances after getting in just one scrimmage up to that point.
For the Beavers the playoffs start now with little-to-no margin for error.
Class A Clash
When Greenbrier West and James Monroe meet on Friday there will be a ton of points on the line. The Mavericks come in at 3-1, rated No. 14 in Class A while Greenbrier West sits one spot ahead at No. 13. After both teams opened the season with losses they’ve each ripped off winning streaks.
The Cavs are led by running back Ty Nickell who has over 700 yards rushing on the year, but their offense isn’t centered around just Nickell. Quarterback Cole Vandall has proven to be a dual-threat quarterback, complemented by receivers Chase McClung and Kadin Parker.
For the Mavs the game is an opportunity to ascend through the Class A ratings with their own collection of talent.
Eli Allen has taken the reigns as the the Mavs’ primary quarterback, flashing his athleticism. He’s been just as important on the defensive side of the ball which was none more apparent than when he intercepted two passes in a win over Pendleton County earlier this season. With the weather expected to play a factor, expect both teams to line it up and play a brand of smash mouth, ground and pound football that’s become a thing of the past.
Class AA Clashes
Liberty at Westside, Nicholas County at Braxton County, Shady Spring at Wyoming East and Independence at Midland Trail highlight the Class AA slate with playoff implications all around.
Starting with Liberty and Westside, the Raiders are surging with three straight wins. They’ve officially moved into the No. 7 rating in Class AA, which means they’d host a playoff game if the postseason started today. On the flip side Westside’s playoff hopes are pretty much dead after it was ruled they used ineligible players against Shady Spring last week. Those players didn’t play when Westside picked up its first official win of the season earlier this week against PikeView, but are eligible to play Friday against Liberty.
That poses a tough challenge for the Raiders. The reinforcements should bolster the Renegades’ roster, especially in the backfield. Running back Blake Goode is amongst the returning players for Westside and last week against Shady he ran for over 150 yards in the win.
The Raiders aren’t without their own weapons though.
Logan Dodrill had a career game last week, rushing for over 200 yards in a win over Wayne. He and Ryan Simms will be the focal point of the Liberty offense.
Westside’s forfeiture of the win against Shady brought the Tigers back into the playoff picture, one they’ll hope to stay in as they make their second straight trip to Wyoming County. This time the Tigers will play Wyoming East, a team that would prefer to attack Shady’s weakness – defending the run. Against Class AA opponents the Tigers are yielding well over 300 yards per game on the ground. They’ve given up 160 yards to the aforementioned Goode, 178 to Nicholas County’s Kaleb Clark and 318 to Independence’s Atticus Goodson.
That bodes well for Wyoming East which features a talented runner in Chandler Johnson, a player that has lined up as a tailback and a wildcat quarterback. With the weather expected to play a role again, expect the Warriors to embrace a ground and pound attack.
On the flipside the Tigers will need to find a reliable ground attack. They’ve struggled to do so this year, putting pressure on the arm of quarterback Cameron Manns. Even the passing attack has had its struggles. Against Summers County, Manns started the game 0-for-4, but most of those incompletions came from drops. With the rain expected to play a factor, it may not get much better.
Independence will be on the road again in the annual Patriot Bowl which pits it against Midland Trail. Indy is rolling, Trail, not so much.
The hosts are coming off a loss against Nicholas County and continue to fall in the playoff ratings with time running out. They’re all the way down to No. 23, seven spots out of the playoff field. The problem also remains that amongst the top 15 teams in the field, only one has more than one loss and that’s Wheeling Central. A loss this week could be catastrophic as it would drop them to 2-3 with Greenbrier West and James Monroe on the horizon.
Speaking of Nicholas County, the Grizzlies still sit at No. 8 in the Class AA ratings with a matchup at Braxton County on the slate. With Braxton sitting at 1-4, this matchup is an opportunity for the visitors to bolster their resume before matchups against Westside and Independence in the following weeks.
Princeton is off this week, but Oak Hill, Greenbrier East and Beckley are all in action with two of those teams facing each other.
Oak Hill and Greenbrier East will meet Friday in Fairlea with much on the line. East could continue its march up the ratings boards with a win while Oak Hill (2-4) could climb back into the fold with its season in the balance. The Red Devils are coming off their worst loss of the season, a 56-14 defeat at the hands of Cabell Midland. In the loss, Oak Hill standout Leonard Farrow was held to his lowest yardage output of the season when he produced just 41 yards on 12 carries. It was the first time all year he had been held to under 100 yards, showing you where the focus of the East defense will be.
On the flip side the Spartans are rolling behind the play of quarterback Monquelle Davis. He along with Bryson Ormsbee and Ian Cline have formed a dangerous trio that forces defenses to avoid overloading to stop just one player.
Last but not least the Flying Eagles of Beckley will face their toughest task of the season when they travel to play No. 1 Huntington. The Highlanders have already ran a gauntlet with wins over Spring Valley and Cabell Midland. The Flying Eagles rose to No. 16 in the ratings last week, but a comeback effort against Princeton last Friday fell short, dropping them to No. 19. Taking down the Goliath is a tall task, but one that would pay dividends if the visitors can pull it off.