#16 Tyler Consolidated at #1 Wheeling Central
Tyler Consolidated was a promising team that snuck into the back half of the playoffs the final week. They had some honorable performances but also some very lackluster ones against other playoff foes. Their rating is not favorable despite two surefire all-state offensive weapons. The Maroon Knights have struggled the last few weeks playing without superstar quarterback Curtis McGhee III. The defense has held strong and only a hungry Magnolia team last week has blemished their record. With or without McGhee III suiting up- this one favors the defending champs.
Tyler Consolidated’s Gameplan: The first step is hoping McGhee III isn’t playing. However, if the Maroon Knights get spooked, and he was questionable- he’d probably go in. The Silver Knights defense would need have some lucky breaks as they have not been great. If they get enough good fortunes, they could rely on Mark Rucker and Griffin Philips to make some electric plays and gain momentum. Basically, recreate the Doddridge County game but with a better finish.
Wheeling Central’s Gameplan: Do what they do. They are the defending champs for a reason. Lean on Vinny Mangino and Adam Murray to slow down the run game so Anthony Robbins can increase his pick tally when Tyler is forced to throw. Depending on who gets the start at quarterback, we expect a lot of reliance on Braden Price to carry the ball and build confidence for Jake Rine if he is in there. Regardless for Rine, his last three games have been against much better defenses.
#15 Tucker County at #2 Midland Trail
Tucker County has changed the narrative back over behind some great coaching and favorable schedule. With Cole Rapp leading the way on offense and a statistically sound defense, they have had a great year indeed. However, 0-3 against playoff teams is a big tell. Midland Trail has only played one playoff team, and it was AA Oak Hill. That means they can handle speed. Expect more of a nitty gritty matchup as the Great Wall of Hico want to keep that Tucker County offense stagnant and allow for Austin Isaacs to slowly build a lead with his dual-threat ability.
Tucker County’s Gameplan: Midland Trail is a second half team. They allow almost every team they have beaten to hang around into the third quarter mostly. This plays into the hands of 15th seed trying to pull an upset. If their defense gets a hang of the Patriots’ offense and pulls a few lucky breaks here and there. If there is any tricks or concepts sitting in the playbook, that early fourth quarter could be the perfect time to pull them.
Midland Trail’s Gameplan: Don’t panic. As any undefeated team should do- do what got you there, which is a solid defense and an efficient balanced offense. They do not have to worry much about Tucker County’s offense so Austin Isaacs should feel relaxed even if the game stays close for awhile. Wait for the big plays. Hopefully, they all have experience on how to handle lower rated teams especially after their upset loss to #11 Summers County last year.
#14 Ritchie County at #3 Mount View
Two teams that we all potentially saw in the playoffs but could not guarantee. Ritchie County has turned the tables with a new coach and put up an impressive season. The only playoff team they defeated was Tyler to start the year. They mix it up offensively but most recently have relied on runningback Tre Moss. Mount View has been excellent mostly every game. They possess a lot of speed and decent size. With the ability to strike overtop at anytime- it has really opened up the ground game.
Ritchie County’s Gameplan: They should be watching Tolsia and PikeView (one lost by six and the other won by two). Mount View typically gets offset with big offensive lines and ground and pound style. Though they can play to it, they cannot run away with the lead. If the Rebels can set the tempo and perhaps put the pressure on the Golden Knights, who are in the playoffs for the first time in a decade, perhaps they could cause even more mistakes.
Mount View’s Gameplan: For Mount View, they have a handful of weapons to use. They have Elijah Barner and Ty Powell in the backfield. They have Jesse Rose throwing to Marqus Ray. There are several other threats on both sides. As they have done all season, they need to find which one the opposing team has least prepared for and exploit it all night. Man for man, they outmatch Ritchie County. Find the weakness and go win the game.
#13 Webster County at #4 Doddridge County
Webster County started the year with high hopes only for a very slow start. Yet, at that, they have found themselves in the playoffs. Luke Hardway has had an excellent senior year, and he means absolutely everything to this team. That could be their downfall as the Bulldogs are deep. Behind a relatively massive offensive/defensive line is a bulk of stars. We all know of state-leading rusher Hunter America, but we have also experienced how lethal Tanner Lett and Griffin Devericks are passing/receiving.
Webster County’s Gameplan: They will need for some players to step up and a lot of good fortune. Praying for bad weather might not even help. Luke Hardway will stand out but the team they are going against is very well-coached. Basically, bank on the defense scoring some fortunate turnovers while also sustaining long drives with the legs of Hardway.
Doddridge County’s Gameplan: The Bulldogs have played this style team many times this year. Star-led team with some good talent around. However, it is very simple. Hand the ball off to Hunter America. Let the big line pave the way and when the box gets stacked, let Tanner Lett kill them over the top. It should be another week for Doddridge County in this one.
#12 Van at #5 Cameron
Van has been another unexpected playoff contender. With new staffing and a star quarterback, the tide turned this season. Though they did not play one playoff contender until the final week of the season- they did take care of business until then. Cameron also only played one playoff team out of Pennsylvania, but their’s was to start the year. Cameron has a very diverse offense full of plenty of speed and size. However, their main weapon is star back Andrew Ritchea.
Van’s Gameplan: Offensively, Gavin Smith at quarterback could be enough electricity to keep them in it. The problem is that Cameron has two all-staters in the secondary (potentially more). They will need to figure out a run game. Defensively, the Dragons do not make many mistakes. Initially, they have to stop Ritchea, which is easier said than done. Then, basically, make the most of opportunities.
Cameron’s Gameplan: The Dragon’s outmatch Van in almost every facet. They could spread it out and let Aiden Lucey hit his bundle of receivers or stick to Andrew Ritchea on the ground. Either way, they are the better team easily. Don’t overthink it and go out and execute as they have every game prior to this.
#11 Summers County at #6 Williamstown
Summers County came into 2018 riding high off of a semifinal appearance a year ago. It has taken some time but Timmy Persiani has found his rhythm his first year at quarterback. The Bobcats have built a head of steam all the way to an important and impressive win over Fayetteville last week. Williamstown has only lost to Wheeling Central and Doddridge County. They have a stellar run game and efficient pass offense with a mostly steady defense. They are better than sixth in the state.
Summers County’s Gameplan: The Bobcats have been here before. Going on the road to take out #6. This is no 2017 Webster County though. They will need to stop the duo of Carter Haynes and Donathan Taylor. They have the speed to limit big plays but the box play is what really matter. Offensively, Christian Pack and Keandre Sarver need to step up with big explosive plays to keep the offense moving and build momentum.
Williamstown’s Gameplan: They have played much tougher defenses this year. Haynes and Taylor will have the upperhand with their lineplay and should be able to move the ball early. The key here is to get up big early and never let the foot off the break. If you let the Bobcats stick around, they might just sneak one in. However, the Yellowjackets are a deeper bunch and should win this by several scores.
#10 Parkersburg Catholic at #7 Sherman
Parkersburg Catholic is the best example of a flip in wins. From winless to nine wins is quite an achievement. The credit goes to some improved line play and the combined 3000 rushing yards by Jeb Boice and Ty Sturm. Sherman also has their ground weapons with QB JT Hensley and RB Tommy Harper. The Tide line has dominated every match except for their opener against Magnolia which feels like a long time ago at this point.
Parkersburg Catholic’s Gameplan: Running inside the box will be tough with the Tide’s stout frontline. Playing the edges and even hitting some rare passes could avoid a collapse like against Williamstown. Defensively, they will need to contain Hensley at all costs. Make another player beat you. That is much easier said than done.
Sherman’s Gameplan: Man for man- the Tide are bigger and faster mostly. They could go about this anyway they want but judging off who each have played- do what they usually do. Get JT Hensley in space and let him show how he got so many touchdowns. Sherman struggles with depth so jumping out early will avoid that all together.
#9 Magnolia at #8 Pendleton County
We’re glad to see both these programs back in the postseason. We could argue they would win most of the matchups against other higher seeds so it’s a shame one must go first round. Magnolia has two hellacious wins over Sherman and Wheeling Central. Behind some stars outwide, all-staters on the line, and Patrick Mirandy making players everywhere. Pendleton County is built very similar with their line, Kole Puffenberger at QB, and Timothy Thorne out wide.
Magnolia’s Gameplan: Pendleton County has seemed to struggled against teams running right at them. Even Tucker County hung around (bad weather that game mind you) with them. They might want to spread it out with Mirandy and Co., but they might have to need a game full of adapting. Defensively, shutdown and Thorne (Puffenberger’s main guy) and force him to run.
Pendleton County’s Gameplan: Magnolia struggled a lot with Williamstown. A quarterback using his legs seems to be a weakness for them. They are pretty even on both sides. If Puffenberger builds a throwing rhythm early and avoids needless turnovers or mistakes as did Wheeling Central a week prior, they could have the Blue Eagles where they need to be.