#4 Spring Valley vs #2 Martinsburg
Spring Valley C&Co. Rating: 77.3
Martinsburg C&Co. Rating: 84.1
Martinsburg Offense vs Spring Valley Defense
Martinsburg’s offense presents Spring Valley with a major problem. They can beat you either way. They can run the ball behind Jackson and Grantham (The Timberwolves’ kryptonite last year) with Trey Sine potentially mixing in. Behind a very good and experienced offensive line that is up to the challenge of the huge Spring Valley line. The Tyson Bagent passing game is spread out among a corps of very fast and sure handed group of WRs led by Shy Crawford and Matt Vanduzer. Both WRs can beat you on any play. Bagent has been a very consistent for two years now and his efficiency is ever improving. That is a huge mountain for the Timberwolves defense to face. They are monsters across the front and have faced the task of great skill from Capital, Hurricane, Huntington, Cabell Midland, and South Charleston. So, Spring Valley is no stranger to facing speed. Spring Valley’s defense has always been a little unorthodox in their style. They have a very adaptable method that can change easily within the scheme to face the different styles of offense they face week to week. The constant adjustments keep opposing teams from having a good game plan in the first quarter. Therefore, adjustments have to be made on the run while their offense grinds you to a pulp. The one major advantage the Timberwolves have is their front seven led by arguably the best inside linebacker within WV, Owen Porter, who has played his best football in the postseason.
Martinsburg will spread the Timberwolves out from hash to hash. They will see the Hurricane film and notice that in the open field the Timberwolves are not a match. They will sprinkle passes to Vanduzer and Crawford and force the Spring Valley defense to chase and break down. They will run sweeps early and often to make the massive Spring Valley front seven fatigue. After one quarter of chasing, the big dogs will be very tired and we might see a repeat of what Grantham did in 2016. Spring Valley will try and provide a look that will confuse the Bulldogs early. They will overload the wide side of the field and use the boundary as a 12th defender and place their best cover guy also to the boundary. This gives them a chance to slow the passing game down a bit. The problem is when the Bulldogs are in the middle of the field; it will be a chore. Hurricane had two great WRs as does Martinsburg, and it won’t take long for the Bulldogs to get the matchup they want. If the defense can get a group of plays from the hash and overload the field, they can let their massive front seven stop the running game. This will give them a chance to slow the tempo. One thing that cannot happen is for the Spring Valley team to give a cheap and long home run TD. If that happens, it is over, and the Bulldogs are your State Champs. Spring Valley is not built for come from behind football.
Spring Valley Offense vs the Martinsburg Defense
Mike Tyson used to say “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” That is an easy way to describe the offense of the Timberwolves. Make no mistake for those who haven’t seen the Timberwolves play, Doug Nester is everything claimed to be. He has help too with perhaps his best assisting blocker being tight end Jacob Cassidy. The best thing that could happen is the Timberwolves get the opening kickoff, and they make a 10-minute scoring drive in the first possession. If this happens, it might force the Bulldogs to look for big plays and a few mistakes and this game is close at the half. The longer the Timberwolves hang around, the bigger chance of an upset that can occur. The defense of the Bulldogs is THE best in West Virginia. Half of this unit will play on the next level. Led by WVU bound Tavis Lee, this unit includes all-state linemen Jalen Hesen and Trey Henry as well as defensive back Grant Harman. QB Derek Johnson will have his hands very full.
As stated before, Spring Valley will dance with what got them here and that is ride the massive offensive line. Johnson has enough of an arm for a few Play Action passes to keep the Bulldogs defense honest. The loss of RB Owen Chafin, the leading rusher of the Timberwolves, will hamper the ground and pound offense but why change what got you to back-to-back State Championship appearances? We would not be surprised to see a saved spread look the Timberwolves have been prepping just for a game like this to take advantage of the line play. Martinsburg will use more of a four man front early instead of their normal 3-3 look. However, if the Timberwolves spread out the Bulldogs, they will need to resort back to their original. Regardless, they will be prepared for anything. Both units hold a large amount of experience and confidence.
Pride and momentum will keep this game closer in the first half than last year’s game. Don’t expect a blowout early unless Spring Valley tries to deviate from what they do best. If a Special Team TD or homerun TD occurs early for the Bulldogs then it might get ugly fast. The grind-it-out style of Spring Valley, and if Martinsburg starts hurting themselves will give the Timberwolves a shot. Expect efficient play from the Bulldogs with an occasional homerun play ready to be called to put the knife in the heart. The odds are with Martinsburg.
Martinsburg 42 Spring Valley 14
#4 Fairmont Senior vs #2 Bluefield
Fairmont Senior C&Co. Rating: 72.0
Bluefield C&Co. Rating: 73.6
Bluefield Offense vs Fairmont Senior Defense
Bluefield is the fastest AA football team in the State. This is undisputed. Many who have not seen the Beavers in person might think it is just a Mookie Collier show- not so fast. Truck Edwards has a very impressive presence in the middle to compliment Collier’s outside running. Bluefield’s offensive line also proved their worth defeating Bridgeport at their own game without throwing a single pass. Collier has a shot to score every time he touches the ball. Enter the Fairmont Senior defense fresh off of shutting down one of the prolific offenses in the state. The Polar Bears schedule has prepared them for speed. However, nothing has prepared the Beavers for DL Dante Stills. He will require a double team, if not, expect some stress from Bluefield’s game manager at QB. Man for man, Bluefield is faster, but Fairmont Senior has the experience.
The Beavers can not afford to get in a shootout with the Polar Bears. They will need to stick to their usual inside-outside run game with Edwards and Collier. If they have success with this, they will win. They are very diverse in their attack with the use of unbalanced lines and Wing T concepts in their offense with the only passing attack of significance being play action. Bluefield’s QB is a good game manager but he can’t beat you with his arm. Bluefield feeds off big plays, and if they get on a roll they are very difficult to defend. Fairmont Senior has a better front, however, the Beavers are so deadly beyond that. They are used to grinding it out, but instead of giving up a 20 yard run to Jake Bowen, it will be an 80-yard touchdown to Mookie Collier. That is the question, can they keep Bluefield in front of them? They will need to make the Beavers play from behind- they are not built for that.
Fairmont Offense vs Bluefield Defense
The Fairmont offense is loaded with outstanding skill positions of its own. Connor Neal is the captain of the offense; he can no longer be considered a first-year QB. He’s seen much success especially as defense’s key in on dual threat star Bryson Gilbert. Antonio Parsons is the threat on the outside catching. This trio gives Fairmont a top skill player on every level of the offense. They also have big play capabilities. The Polar Bears will look to spread the Beaver defense out and give itself advantages with the capability of running and throwing the ball. The line is adequate enough to protect the passing game and provide a running attack. Running outside or throwing deep will be a problem. Bluefield will rely on a strong LB corps led by Truck Edwards to slant and blitz to handle the passing game.
The plan for Fairmont will be to spread the Beavers out and use a very good one-two punch of Gilbert at RB and Parsons at WR and hoping to obtain a six or seven man box. This will be key for the success of Neal. If the running game gets established, Neal will have a field day with play action and a panicking Beaver defense. Bluefield will need to decide to key in on Gilbert’s ground game or making Neal uncomfortable throwing. We expect more of a loaded box. The key in all of this is that Fairmont Senior most likely will not get a homerun TD. People can downplay speed all they want, but being able to chase down players to save a score can be incredibly vital. Bluefield can do that. They must treat the Polar Bears like Bridgeport, keep it in front and let the other team make a mistake.
Expect this to be the closest or most exciting of the three matchups (or both). The amount of talent on the field will make anyone proud especially considering the distances between the two teams. This is simply speed vs experience. However, that isn’t saying Fairmont Senior does not have speed, and Bluefield does not have experience. Out of the three games, this is the least predictable. It could be a shootout, it could be a defensive showdown. Regardless, we are excited to see what happens.
Bluefield 24 Fairmont Senior 21
#10 Wheeling Central vs #5 St. Marys
St. Marys C&Co. Rating: 60.0
Wheeling Central C&Co. Rating: 57.7
St. Marys Offense vs Wheeling Central Defense
During the middle stretch of 2017, the St. Marys offense did not click as it is was expected to. The defending champions did their best to utilize 2016 State Championship MVP RB Jaiden Smith, but he did not find the same big play success. However, insert their last bulk of games. Their head on running style which relies entirely on Jaiden Smith, Matt Eichorn, and Dylan Gray. It’s a rotating door in the backfield with any type of run coming. Doing this, they have combined for nearly 3000 yards rushing and 47 touchdowns. Their passing game isn’t as effective and will rely on play action for success. Wheeling Central has a stout defense which has went up against some incredibly tough competition. They have handled the speed of Freddy Canary and the air raid of East Hardy. Sophomore linebacker Adam Murray is the man in the middle here and will be called on multiple times to slow down this rushing attack. The line’s matchup mostly even with maybe a slight edge going to the Maroon Knights.
St. Marys offensive gameplan is simple. Do what you do! Line it up toe to heel, put your horses in the backfield, and challenge Wheeling Central to stop you. They will try to control the clock to keep the ball out the Maroon Knights’ hands. Electing to receive and pounding out a big long drive, taking a bulk of clock off, will put the pressure on Wheeling Central. However, not even early homeruns will keep them away. Wheeling Central has an experienced staff and will constantly make the right adjustments to get the advantage in the box. The question is if Jaiden Smith summons his big game ability yet again and dominates for another year.
Wheeling Central Offense vs St. Marys Defense
A lot goes on behind the line of scrimmage for Wheeling Central. Unlike their foe, they tend to not be under center to give their playmaker as much room as possible. Curtis McGhee is the game breaker this year. Though he has talented runners and receivers, he is the offense of the Maroon Knights. Only being a sophomore, he started off slow in 2017 with it culminating to their previous six straight wins. St. Marys has shown an ability to cover wider offenses and explosive ones at that. Though East Hardy had incredible players, it cannot be understated enough how dangerous McGhee is. He is liable to drop a snap, make a man miss, and run for a long touchdown. However, St. Marys has been here for before.
The gameplan is simple yet again. Key in on Curtis McGhee and make him uncomfortable. He’s going to make plays, but the key is to keep them from being touchdowns. St. Marys defensive is more experienced and overall in the front seven, outmaches the Maroon Knights. Wheeling Central will rely on their system to open up passing lanes and running holes for chunk plays. St. Marys needs to keep confidence in their system, and they will be perfectly alright.
On paper, this is a young and red hot 10th seed team playing a very experienced and accomplished and defending champions. Both have solid units, and their are star players on both sides. Wheeling Central is right at home but the drive shouldn’t affect St. Marys too much. The Maroon Knights have an experienced staff and dangerous team. This has all the makings of your typical Single A championship. A close, tight game full of excitement!
St. Marys 21 Wheeling Central 10