By Tom Bragg, For Lootpress.com
CHARLESTON, W.Va – George Washington surprised a lot of people with a Week 1 win against perennial Mountain State Athletic Conference power Cabell Midland and followed that with a win against a pretty good Ashland Paul Blazer team from Kentucky. Two weeks later, however, the Patriots were at 2-2.
Since then, GW has ridden great line play and leaned on its playmakers to win six consecutive games, and now Steve Edwards Jr.’s Patriots are looking to make some noise in the postseason.
GW finished the season at 8-2 to secure the No. 5 seed in the Class AAA state playoffs, where the Patriots will host No. 12 Princeton on Friday in Charleston.
Abe Fenwick, a junior quarterback, has led the offensive attack for GW, throwing for more than 2,000 yards and 25 touchdowns this season.
Edwards, who is in season No. 27 as the GW head coach, said he has seen Fenwick mature in many ways this season, but perhaps none more than his preparation. It’s that preparation, Edwards said, that has allowed Fenwick and the Patriots to succeed.
GW also boasts a pair of solid running backs in sophomore Keegan Sack and junior Anthony Valentine, who haven’t put up big rushing numbers but are two of Fenwick’s favorite targets in the pass game. That pair, along with teammate Hayden Hatfield, formed one of the MSAC’s top tandems of pass catchers, and they were good at finding the end zone as well. Sack finished the regular season with a combined 18 touchdowns while Valentine scored 13 times.
“Keegan has had a great year running the ball and he does a good job of running routes and catching the ball,” Edwards said. “Valentine is running the ball good and catches the ball. These guys are playing multiple positions and doing multiple things to help us out all over the place. It makes us hard to guard. Hayden Hatfield has had a great year – he is one of the leading receivers in the conference.”
Princeton (8-3) comes into Friday’s first round playoff contest off a shootout loss to Parkersburg South.. The Tigers three losses have all come to very good teams – the Patriots are the No. 1 seed in the Class AAA bracket, Hurricane is the No. 4 seed and Lord Botetourt from Virginia sits at 9-1 currently.
Leading the way for the Tigers is veteran quarterback Grant Cochran, who finished the regular season with 119 of 201 pass attempts completed for 1,713 yards with 26 touchdowns and just four interceptions. Cochran’s favorite target is Dominick Collins, who hauled in 54 passes for 942 yards and 18 touchdowns, but the Tigers have a pack of capable receivers for Cochran to choose from.
Brodee Rice ran the ball 87 times for a team-high 529 yards to go with nine touchdowns, while Marquel Lowe also saw his share of the football with 66 carries for 407 yards and three touchdowns.
“I don’t know how you slow it down, but we’re going to try to do the best we can,” Edwards said. “We’ll try to play good, solid defense and take away some of the things they do well, and they throw the ball really well and they’re running the ball really well.
“They’ve got a couple of nice running backs, a couple of really good receivers and one really good receiver who has almost 1,000 yards himself. They’ve thrown about 21 or 22 touchdown passes, so they’re solid and it’s going to be a big challenge.”
One area where GW hopes to control the game is along the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. Edwards said he has a very good group of linemen led by 6-foot-5, 285 pound Virginia Tech commit Layth Ghannam.
“[Ghannam] is, in my opinion, the best linemen in this state this year,” Edwards said. “He is tough to deal with. Last week in the Woodrow game, I think in as many years since the days of [former GW All-Stater] Rodney Hudson, have I had a guy who controlled the game like that on both sides of the football. When we needed it, we ran behind him and when we needed a stop he answered the bell. He’s just really good and I think he’s going to be really good at the next level also.”