#16 Williamstown (52.2) at #1 East Hardy (63.5)
East Hardy has been downright scary in 2017. After two straight losses in State Championship games (their only two losses in the last two seasons), this appears to be their best team yet. Their biggest challenges came in South Harrison who they beat handedly though the Hawks did lose both their star backs early and Wheeling Central. QB Clay Skovron is coming off a six touchdown performance against AA Petersburg- three of them went to a top state wideout Brett Tharp. Now, they host Williamstown. A team that they barely slid past in last year’s semifinals. Williamstown’s only instate losses came to Wheeling Central, St. Marys, and Magnolia. Their last three games were won by a combined score of 129-8. They’re young, but make no doubt, this will be no cakewalk for the Cougars. We wouldn’t predict an upset, but expect it to be within reach.
#15 Richwood (45.7) at #2 South Harrison (65.8)
Richwood and South Harrison had very different expectations going into 2017. South Harrison was mysterious but known to have a loaded skillset while Richwood was trying to break a lengthy losing streak. Their four losses all came to playoff teams (one being AA). Their best weapon is running back Jeremiah Johnston who really found his engine the back half of the season. He is a tough runner, however, the Hawks defense is coming off a complete shutdown of AA Liberty (Harrison)’s run game. South Harrison has dominated mostly every team aside from a loss to East Hardy though both star backs did not play a full game. Cam Barnett, the bigger back, is out for the year but Freddy Canary (the fastest player in the state via track times) is doing just fine. His containment will be tough for Richwood, and we expect him to roll this game.
#14 Fayetteville (36.5) at #3 Midland Trail (60.7)
Could we ask for more? Just when we thought the best year for a Battle of the Bridge had come and gone… we get another one?! As exciting as it sounds, the first one didn’t live up to the hype. Fayetteville looked like a different division against the Midland Trail frontline. Jordan Dempsey was contained in every facet which allowed the Patriots to pound the tired Pirate offense over and over and over. Thomas Ferris has rushed for over 200 yards every time he has played their nearby rival in his career. Fayetteville, the lowest rated team in any playoff game, will be looking for an upset and a close one for pride. Midland Trail’s eye is on something much bigger. A championship. That will be very obvious come Friday night.
#13 Pocahontas County (42.4) at #4 Tug Valley (53.0)
Pocahontas County hasn’t done well against fellow playoff teams. They suffered close losses to #11 Summers County and #15 Richwood along with a blowout loss to #1 East Hardy. However, they finished the season strong with a lengthy win over AA Shady Spring. It has seemed as if they are constantly approving. The denominator between teams they struggle with are offenses with big play abilities. That is something Tug Valley is questionable in. Their leading rusher Jonathan Blankenship has had a solid 1k rushing season, but the numbers haven’t really popped for the #4 ranked squad. Their best win was an opening 6-0 shutout against #9 Sherman. Both teams here look very suspect, and it is very much in the air.
#12 Doddridge County (56.5) at #5 St. Marys (60.0)
Twenty two. That’s how many points Doddridge has allowed since losing their first two games to South Harrison and Tyler Consolidated. Many can plead that the Bulldogs haven’t played a quality schedule; either way, their defense has played spectacular. They will need that squad to show up to compete with the defending Single A Champions. St. Marys has played mostly like their former selves with few close games. They did suffer a stretched loss to #2 South Harrison. Jaiden Smith is still the face of the St. Marys squad, and he will hope to be the weakness for the Bulldogs. This one will be a close, and the winner will be a threat to the entire field.
#11 Summers County (47.8) at #6 Webster County (47.4)
Another big time rematch is in store for Round One of the Single A bracket. Summers County first loss to Pikeview seemed bad until we realized how good Pikeview turned out to be. Insert rising playmaker Tucker Lilly, and they would beat a AA and an undefeated Webster County team. That would mark their only loss. After that loss, Webster’s only close contest came against AA Clay county. Luke Hardway is the junior rusher that hopes to lead the Highlanders to an avenging win. He’s rushed for more than 1200 yards. Out of all playoff matchups, this is the second close via C&Co. Ratings. The homefield for Webster County this time might just be enough to get them into the quarterfinals.
#10 Wheeling Central (57.7) at #7 Cameron (55.2)
The most intriguing matchup of Single A in our opinion. The hardest schedule of A versus the easiest. A Cameron coach with ties to Wheeling Central. This has the making of a very interesting game. Cameron relies on quarterback Colby Brown to do the bulk of offensive work. He has several tools in the backfield, but he is the horse. They have squashed everyone in their path, but most will dispute the quality of the wins. During this time, a young Maroon Knight team has taken some hard teams on the chin. Of their four losses, two came out-of-state, one came to Linsly (private school), and #1 East Hardy (by three). They seem much more experienced but has their brutal schedule have them banged up going in?
#9 Sherman (58.9) at #8 Madonna (44.2)
The most surprising rating given by the numbers goes to Sherman. The reason? They play a team, and if they get going, they don’t stop. The Tide truly lives up to their mascot with drowning consistency. Runningback Ben Salmon is a major reason for that as he averaged 137.0 per game and 1.3 touchdowns in games he played only to the half. Their only losses were close to #4 Tug Valley and blowout via #2 South Harrison. Madonna’s season went differently. After a disappointing 2016 campaign, the Blue Dons started undefeated until being blownout back-to-back by Steubenville Catholic (Ohio) and Wheeling Central. Regardless, runningback Donovan Kirby finished the year with an astounding 2361 yards on the ground. Their rating falls low because of strength of schedule, but that could be an advantage. The biggest factor might be the near four hour drive Sherman will make.