#16 Hurricane at #1 Martinsburg
If any team in WV has the pedigree and history to upset the Bulldogs, it is the Redskins. Many of the football experts remember who ended South Charleston third straight State Championship bid. Martinsburg is currently on the longest winstreak in state history with no signs of slowing down. This has been mostly done without Dewayne Grantham too. The Redskins, per usual, have suffered some hard and odd losses while blowing out seemingly elite teams. The wildcard we know them to be.
Martinsburg’s Gameplan: Expect the full playbook from the Bulldogs. They will want to end this game quickly and eliminate any hope of the Redskin upset. Martinsburg will spread the Redskin defense out and get the ball in the open field much like Capital. Hurricane has zero men that can consistently cover Jarod Bowie or Teddy Turner. Defensively expect pure man coverage from the Bulldogs and you will see eight and nine in the box to stop Christian Hill early. Grant Harman and Elijah Banks look to have impressive days.
Hurricane’s Gameplan: Hurricane will try and play some ground and pound early and also try to eat up clock. Martinsburg will have to be flat or give a few turnovers for this to work. Hurricane does have a very good line and will have the ability to do this, but if they end up playing from behind then plan B does not exist. Defensively, they will play soft and not give up big plays but problem is the Bulldogs have this part of their game down with Naieem Kearney capable of crunching away with big runs waiting to set a Harman/Banks deep bomb.
#15 Spring Mills at #2 Spring Valley
This was not a good matchup for the Cardinals. Nobody on their schedule gives them the same look that Spring Valley does. The Spring Valley line is bigger than most WVIAC lines and rivals many Division One schools in size and strength. The skill set in the Timberwolves backfield is deceiving with speed and has fared quite well against teams that try to spread them out. Expect the spread behind Keon Padmore-Johnson to move the ball in a fashion similar to Point Pleasant.
Spring Mills’ Gameplan: Use the emotions of making the playoffs and the underdog tag to get a few turnovers and jump on the Timberwolves. That will be important for the Cardinals to jump on the Wolves and get a few scores early to keep Spring Valley team behind the clock and possibly make them do something they don’t want to do. Clean and efficient drives are needed, even if they aren’t scoring drives. Eliminate Malashevich from special teams plays as well.
Spring Valley’s Gameplan: Line up and do what you do. Spring Mills does not match up. Don’t expect anything fancy by the Wolves and eliminate turnovers, and this will be a good night. The Timberwolves are battle tested by playing brutal smash mouth teams (Huntington and Midland) and successful against spread teams (Capital). Rely on Graeson Malashevich and Owen Chafin to do what they do, and the rest will come.
#14 Morgantown at #3 Capital
Will the real Morgantown please stand up? Injuries marched the Mohicans into a mid-season slump. Once they got heeled up they became the team everyone thought they would be after the big win against the Big Reds. Capital is loaded in the skill positions again this year, and it runs deep into the roster. The Cougars do have some kryptonite on the line of scrimmage. That is where the game will be decided it seems.
Morgantown’s Gameplan: The Morgantown team of the last two weeks better be the one to show up Friday night. If not this one will get ugly because Capital will be jacked for the Upset Alert talk. Morgantown will spread the field and play 7 on 6 in the box because they have arguably a better line in this game. If their line shows up this game is a must-see game, and if not- warm the buses early. Defensively they have a problem with stopping the big plays deep and contain Martin at QB. If you drop back to stop the big plays he can take off and beat you by himself. Spying is hard at this level. Clean play in all three phases is needed.
Capital’s Gameplan: Nobody plays as good in the big games than Capital. The players from Capital really play up to their opponent better than anyone. With all the talk of upset alerts all over the state expect the Cougars to be jacked up Friday night. One thing is a must in that Capital will not win the turnover battle if that becomes the issue of the game. They must protect the ball and do their thing with their spread out speed. Defensively, tighten the box and wait for playmakers to stop the drives.
#13 John Marshall at #4 Musselman
Most years if there is an upset in AAA it comes from 4-13 or 5-12 games. This is a nice matchup for both teams. Problem here is John Marshal has no real big victory to brag about but has played in big games. Their offense has been very different and hit and miss but consistently touts RB Chas McCool. Musselman has had some success against playoff teams and is extremely difficult to beat at home. They have electric players but overall bigger holes than the three teams in front of them.
John Marshall’s Gameplan: Come out smoking hot and get the lead. Musselman’s defense is excellent regardless of the stats, they don’t’ mind a ground and pound game. Spread them out and find the spots and make them play from behind. Defensively, contain Hartman on the ground and hope Beard isn’t hot throwing the ball. With Wood and Frohnapfel in the secondary, they should be in the advantage in this facet.
Musselman’s Gameplan: Just do what you do. John Marshall has not shown they have a team that can come into this atmosphere and win so just don’t give it to them. Mussleman’s defense is pretty good. They are battle tested and other than against Martinsburg, they are just going to play very sound base defense, and make John Marshall do something they have shown they can’t do. Have the ball in Tre Beard III and Blake Hartman’s hands at all costs.
#12 Greenbrier East at #5 Ripley
The football gods were smiling on both these teams. They could not have asked for any better matchup other than each other. This may be the best game of the night in regards of competitiveness. Ripley has home field advantage and a much more mature team, and they will need to show that. Greenbrier East was a surprise team in the AAA field this year and must not be happy just getting here. This is an old school battle of wills in the regard of East trying to make big plays and Ripley wanting to smash it all night so whoever establishes their will owns the game.
Greenbrier East’s Gameplan: Play like you belong here- not happy to be here. Most years East is built to play smash mouth but not this year. They will bring all pages of the playbook on offense and make the Vikings play from behind. Expect the Spartans to be wider open in their approach and use a lot of plays. Defensively, the only answer East has is to bring the heat. East is a 3-4 team so slants by the front with some loop stunts by the ILB will provide a different blitz scheme than a lot of teams use and will cause the Vikings problems early potentially.
Ripley’s Gameplan: Ripley is a very physical team to play against. They will flat out smack you in the mouth regardless of the situation with RJ Evans and Josh Kay. Loaded with veterans on both sides of the ball and home field advantage they will just try to beat East up. Just keep it simple and don’t turn over the ball and do their thing. Defensively, just don’t fall in the trap of playing from behind because they are not built for that. The Vikings will bring their A game defensively to blitz and confuse a young Spartan team.
#11 Hedgesville at #6 Parkersburg South
Hedgesville is a very dangerous team offensively. They can move the chains and have many talented skill players like Owie Ash, N’iyjere Smith, and Malakai Brown. However, they are not built for the mud and the rain. See South’s football field to see if we have mud and rain as a factor because South is built to do both ground and pound or spread it out. Hedgesville has zero big wins on their schedule. South is battle tested from all over the state and has a few big wins notched on their belt. Both teams are coming off big losses after hotstreaks.
Hedgesville’s Gameplan: The Eagles will come out blazing with a spread it and shred it approach. They will try to go as fast as they can to hurt the blitz calls of South and make them play in space. This is important to the Eagles. If they play slow and make this a game of the trenches, they will lose. South is simply better on the line than Hedgesville. However, watch the skill set of the Eagles cause headaches for the Patriots. Hedgesville will play very aggressive against the Patriots because they cannot afford to get in a dog fight. They will want to make the Patriots play on long downs.
Parkersburg South’s Gameplan: Look for South to come out aggressively on offense. After a big loss, they will want to get the bad taste out of their mouth. They will use their advantage in the trenches to wear down the Eagles via Nick Yoho and Brayden Mooney. So, expect a good mix of spread out and run and pack it in to run and make sure that the Eagles defense gets a good dose of the trench works. Defensively, it is a key to not give up big plays and after last week they will have to do a better job of doing that. The Patriots will be far more aggressive with blitzes Friday than last week. Force the QB to throw it early instead of soft coverages.
#10 Cabell Midland at #7 Huntington
Round #2 will go to? This will be an old school slobber knocker. Unfortunately, this is the worse matchup for both teams. Whomever wins this game may not have anyone left to play the next one. Both these teams have played a murderous schedule down the stretch. Both teams rely on massive lines and aggressive defensive play. Both teams will want this game to be a ground and pound game. This is simply an evenly matched game that will be decided on a turnover or special teams play. Problem is they both know each other so well there is zero way to trick each other.
Cabell Midland’s Gameplan: After a What the Heck Are You Doing moment early in the year, the Knights went back to doing what they do best, and that is smash you in the mouth. They will do what they do behind Ivan and Isaiah Vaughn. They have a good set of hard nose backs and an aggressive line so expect short traps, belly, power and you just have to stop it! Expect them to take shot play anytime to force Huntington on their heels. Defensively, the Knights are simply going to pin their ears back and come after the Highlanders. They will not be scared of the opponent QB Friday night so just bring the house and play on Huntington’s side of the ball.
Huntington’s Gameplan: Huntington is a lot more multiple on offense than people give them credit. They will use a few more packages than most games to try and find a few plays here and there to move the chains. They will simply ride their big line and then play action pass in key situations through Tay Blackwell. This formula is successful for the Highlanders so why change? Expect a spread package play at a vital down and distance situation to move the chains. Defensively, stop the belly and stop the trap at all cost.
#9 Parkersburg at #8 Wheeling Park
Round #2 and some are wondering if there will be a third digit on the scoreboard. This was a track meet the first time. The Big Reds are simply a different team since Strange has come back, and they seem to have little problem moving the ball. Both teams are battle tested and has played a very impressive schedule. Neither are afraid to play anyone and dodge nobody. We don’t expect the same offensive output in this, though.
Parkersburg’s Gameplan: Parkersburg has a thee-headed monster on offensive and that will give even the best of team’s problems with Jake Johnson, Tyler Moler, and Strange. They can spread it out and throw all over the place, run all over the place, and has a QB that is peaking at the end of the year. Expect no changes to their game plan. Defense is the Big Reds achilles heel. They have a hard time stopping people. They are going to load up early to stop the consistent running and see if Dunlevy can put up over 45 points again.
Wheeling Park’s Gameplan: Park defense is an old school 34, and they don’t change to much, however, it does put their secondary in a tough spot at times. Expect a few new wrinkles, defensively. Park has nobody to match up with Strange, and they sure don’t want another track meet. Park does have a very good pass rush though. Offensively, ride Kenya Robinson and Rafael Bradley until they give Alex Dunlevy space to hit Jack Stakem. With Strange and Kionte Peacock in the secondary- it is not very forgiving.