For the fifth straight week the Main Event for our Fight Card has delivered. Not one single dud- only if Writer2 was as good at picking winners as knowing which ones were going to be good games. 2017 is proving to be a great year for football in the Mountain State. After the mid-season mark many teams begin to show their destinies and shine while others will fade out. Either way, the next five weeks will be an exciting time to watch football.
As always, here’s our take on the week:
KING OF THE NORTH – The King of the North is a crown constantly changing. For now, it sits upon University’s head. Needless to say, Fairmont Senior is still showing that they are in the hunt for the AA Championship- after beating Bridgeport and losing late against University back-to-back weeks. One week after a defensive showcase, Fairmont Senior and University combined for 822 yards. Fairmont Senior’s Bryson Gilbert was phenomenal and played one of the best games by anyone of 2017 going for 198 and two total scores. Clay Bailey of University aced through the air for 275 going to two big targets, Amir Richardson and Evan Parrow. Hayden Starcher of University also had two key sacks and a blocked extra point. Through all of this, the Polar Bears had a shot to win it on the goal line, but QB Connor Neal errored the snap thus icing the game 29-27. Kings of the North.
Who’s Legit? – Webster County has some good wins- not great. They have two solid RBs Dustin Williams and Luke Hardway which can carry a team in Single A. They beat a talented passing Notre Dame Friday by 20 and won’t face any big names until the playoffs. Madonna is still unbeaten behind Donovan Kirby and won’t be truly tested until they tee off against Wheeling Central a month from now. Finally, Sherman surprised a lot of us with their manhandling of Van. Brady Grant was slowed down and shutout. Sherman’s lone loss was an opener to an also impressive Tug Valley team- they too have a coasting schedule with the exception of their bout with #3 South Harrison.
The Heart and Soul of the Town Game – Goes to Dave Moneypenny’s Fayetteville team. A team with only 21 players takes on an undefeated AA Oak Hill team. With the uncertainty of consolidation hanging over their heads, the Pirates dominated a much bigger school with much larger players and a local rival. Sad thing is a lot of people did not consider this an upset. The only stat that counted in this one was the one in the win column; the Pirates will continue their chase for another State Championship behind area scoring leader Jordan Dempsey. Jason Blankeship’s Red Devils did take on Fayetteville without star player Khori Bass. For now, the Pirates are the top ranked in the area, however, their much anticipated matchup with Midland Trail and Thomas Ferris is only weeks away.
#THATWASNTLONG – Poca might have been able to extend their new winning streak if they didn’t have to face Jeremy Dillon. The Miners have not been slowed down- Dillon scored four times in the first half where they led 42-0. There were some other big blowouts such as Bluefield’s thrashing of Tazewell (VA) which has moved the Beavers to #2 in AA- on a crash course with several powerhouses such as James Monroe and Point Pleasant, who handled Wyoming East and Mount View easily, respectively. Doddridge County dominated Ritchie County 61-0, and Weir hung 75 points on Petersburg in a blowout victory. Winfield and South Harrison also won big Friday night.
AAA Heart Breakers Club Award – Goes to Capital and Huntington. Welcome to the MSAC where each week some of the top schools in the state battle weekly. The week before Capital won on a hail mary, and now, seven days later, lose on a last second field goal to #2 Huntington. The Highlanders were the first team to manage the dual threat Cougar QB Kerry Martin Jr. and the Capital skill group. Jadon Hayes has continued his fantastic 2017 season with a gutsy 39 carry 246 yard and three total score performance. This allowed Isaiah Carpenter to boot in a 23-yard field goal with no time left to win 24-21.
In The Hunt Game – Goes to the Spring Valley and South Charleston game. A game many thought would be close because of the speed of South Charleston, but it just did not develop. This size and discipline of the Timberwolves just ran over the constant mistakes and miscues made by the South Charleston squad. Trae Murphy struggled, and Drew Joseph seems to be the lone defender for the Black Eagles. Graeson Malashevich has been the horse so far for Spring Valley and tag-teamed with QB Derek Johnson to overpower the Black Eagles. Things have not gone well for South Charleston since their week one win against George Washington. Another team suffering the heat of the MSAC and have underperformed with a close call with Ripley in Week Five.
Comeback Award – Two very improved teams of the MSAC took the field Friday Night, and Riverside looked to outmatch St. Albans in every facet. This game was vital to their playoff hopes, and the defense showed it- picking off freshman QB RT Alexander six times in the first three quarters. However, being down 17-0, they pulled back into the game passing, rushing, and on defense. They had a shot to take a lead, but a fumble was coughed up. However, QB Mark Scites of Riverside quickly gave it back and Jayson Barrett quickly scored his second touchdown to take the lead 21-17. Riverside had one more shot but was picked off late in the redzone. An ugly win for St. Albans and an ugly loss for Riverside.
Rising Panhandle – We are all aware of the beast that resides in the Panhandle. However, two nearby teams have performed very well. Musselman demolished Princeton- score being 49-0 at halftime and have a thumping offense behind QB Chris Fox and RBs Jacob Northcraft and Tyler Sine who combined for four touchdown in two quarters. Hedgesville won a much closer game, holding off a late rally by out-of-state foe James Wood. Though they recovered an onside kick, N’iyjere Smith iced the game with an interception. He also had two explosive touchdowns. Neither team most likely can handle Martinsburg, but hey, teams prove us wrong all the time.
AA Battle for the Back Eight – AA is almost a whole other state in itself. Covering the top teams is hard because there’s so many. For example, #7 Keyser beat AAA Jefferson by four touchdowns. It’s insane. Borderline teams are doing their best to improve their resume. Wayne had an impressive shutout against Nitro, and Pikeview’s deadly ground game blew out Shady Spring. Teams such as Westside and Nicholas County have good records but unimpressive victories. Perhaps, the biggest sleeper could 2-3 Robert C. Byrd who has held its own against Fairmont Senior and last week, 34-20, against Bridgeport. A bitter loss to Preston brings up a lot of questions. They will have opportunities to take on North Marion, Elkins, Philip Barbour, and Liberty (Harrison)- all teams on the bubble themselves.
Triple OT Thriller – Liberty (Harrison) and Grafton went nose-to-nose as two rising AAs. The Mountaineer duo of Westfall and Lantz struck again for over 200 yards, several important catches, three TDs, and a pick. Whereas Grafton relied on Caleb Bish who ran 40 times for 162 and TD and a pick. Going down to the wire, Liberty had committed four turnovers but still held a 14-7 lead until a halfback pass scored on fourth down to tie it up. Grafton carried the momentum into overtime, going up 21-14. They stopped Liberty in four downs, but it was for not- pass interference… then touchdown. 21-21. In the the second OT, Liberty was stopped on a goal line stand. Grafton just had to kick a field goal to win. BLOCKED! Third overtime! Liberty finally stopped Grafton on downs and with their turn, kicked a the game winning field goal. 24-21. What a ball game!
Lurking Powers – Week in and week out, the same top single A’s are talked about. However, there’s a been a constant shuffling of teams that are good but keep beating each other. Williamstown has beat Tyler Consolidated, Magnolia, and now Ravenswood, however, suffered a loss to Wheeling Central, who has also beaten Magnolia. Magnolia has lost two out-of-state and the two mentioned- tough luck. Tyler has narrowly lost to Webster County and beaten a rising Doddridge team- they will face off with Magnolia soon. Doubtful that all four teams will make the dance, however, those that do could make some noise.
Who Made That Schedule Award – After playing and losing to some of the powerhouse programs in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia has the Mohigans licking their wounds. Now at the midpoint of the season, they have their backs to the wall. They still have two of the state’s strongest AAA programs in Mussleman and University on the schedule and a couple of games they cannot in any way afford a slip up. Their Week Five showdown with Martinsburg was a bit closer than the 51-7 score- but not by much. The Bulldogs literally have a lethal threat everywhere. QB Tyson Bagent constructs his offense of playmakers with complete structure which allows players like Matt Vandulzer and Trey Sine to excel. Two teams in two very different spots.
Noteworthy Performances – Chapmanville is still pushing behind a crazy show by RB Dylan Smith who totted the rock for 371 yards and five touchdowns. In Weir’s school record 75-7 win against Petersburg, Chad Custer had 217 yards and five touchdowns. The Red Rider defense held Petersburg to -66 yards rushing. Speaking of team performances, eight different players scored for Tyler Consolidated in a blowout win against Calhoun County. Up north, Ethan Secrist of Brooke caught six passes for 168 yards and three touchdowns in a bounce back win. And finally, Grant Wells is beginning to turn it up in the second half of the season once again as he threw for 266 and ran for 93 and tallied four touchdowns in a decisive win over Ripley.