#4 Musselman at #1 Martinsburg
Another rematch but not as epic as the other semi-final rematch. Seldom does a team get a rematch against team that beat them by 70 in the semifinals. Musselman will be anxious to prove they are a better team then what the Bulldogs saw several weeks ago. Beating the same team twice is not easy and to blow out a top AAA program twice is much harder than that. Martinsburg, however, has had a pretty tough road with Hurricane and Parkersburg compared to Musselman beating John Marshall and Ripley.
Musselman’s Gameplan: The two-headed monster of Tre Beard III and Blake Hartman will need to produce. Find a way for one of the two to get a busted play. Keep the Bulldogs from scoring on deep shots and make them work down the field. As seen with Parkersburg, they do turn the ball over occasionally like everyone else. Slow down the game and build confidence that things will turn out different.
Martinsburg’s Gameplan: Do whatever they can as a staff to get the team off to a hot start. The Bulldog players simply know they are a better team but on any given weekend anyone can get be beat. Expect the Martinsburg offense to try and get this game over with early and not allow the men in green to stick around. Defensively, the Bulldogs have the formula to stop Mussleman over the years so expect nothing any different- lock down the stars then swarm. Continue the playoff home winstreak.
#3 Capital at #2 Spring Valley
Rematch of the southern titans. This could be the game of the year in AAA. These two powerhouses are simply loaded with enough talent to rival most small colleges. The last several meetings have all went to the Timberwolves but every single one was dog fight. Both have cruised with impressive wins thus far. The preconceived ideas of these teams do not tell the full truth. Spring Valley has speed and Capital’s line is as tough as anyone in the state. This matchup is a dream come true.
Capital’s Game Plan: Spread the Spring Valley defense out and make them cover all their speedsters and somehow account for the QB in the box. Even though Spring Valley has improved against teams who have challenged them in this manner, however, most teams don’t have Kerry Martin Jr. tucking and running. Defensively, gain that lead and put your best men on Graeson Malasevich. Don’t let Will Adkins get a passing attack going. Build a lead and make them use the run game to keep up.
Spring Valley’s Game Plan: Home grass field, verge of third state title appearance, and the best line in the state. Find ways to get Malashevich the ball to make big plays will relying on Owen Chafin to keep the Cougars honest. Defensively, don’t let Capital get that big play. Make them work down the field and let them shoot themselves in the foot. Build the lead steadily then push the Cougars into panic mode.
A rematch will take place at East-West Stadium as the Year of Weir Red Riders take the trip down to Fairmont. Weir has been the lower seed in both their substantial wins over Poca and Nicholas County. They will be much healthier this time going to Fairmont. However, the Polar Bears are playing their best ball right now after a demolition of worthy Point Pleasant. Two great AA’s peaking at the right moment.
Weir’s Gameplan: The immediate key is not stopping Connor Neal, it is stopping the run game and Neal’s tuck and run as Point Pleasant found out. The secondary is talented, so covering these receivers won’t be too tall of task as long as they don’t lapse in coverage. Offensively, Donovan Kirby will have a hard time totting the rock every play against this phenomenal front. Getting Sebastian Spencer vertical and allowing Tyler Komorowski to make plays at QB will be necessary.
Fairmont Senior’s Gameplan: Offensively, establish the ground game. No shade towards Nicholas County, but as a unit, the Polar Bears’ line and backs are much better. Weir must stack up to stop the return of both of their backs. Allow Neal to nickel and dime them to keep them on their heels. Defensively, don’t allow Kirby to chunk yard after yard and make them get vertical passing and allow a top rated pass defense to go to work.
#3 Bridgeport at #2 Bluefield
For the second year in a row, Bridgeport will meet with Bluefield in the semifinals. While Bluefield is slightly different with a three-back rotation but the same line from last year, just bigger- Bridgeport remains similar. Both have cruised to this position and both had surprisingly overly dominant wins over good teams in round two. Bridgeport would love to avenge their loss from last year.
Bridgeport’s Gameplan: Grinding the ball down the field will have the Beavers feeling off early if large amounts of the clock are taken out. Jake Bowen did it last year, and he can do it again. Make sure to score when it’s there. Defensively, they do not have the breakaway speed like last but will throw multiple backs and occasional bombs with a similar style to Robert C. Byrd.
Bluefield’s Gameplan: No one has straight up ran it down Bridgeport’s throat except Fairmont Senior. Chandler Cooper will need to make some efficient passes to open it up. Defensively, the offense runs through Bowen. They have a talented front and linebacking core. Play to their ability and make the Indians rely on Devin Vandergrift’s arm.
#4 Doddridge County at #1 Wheeling Central
Here we have it. A very much looked to match in Single A. The only two teams to defeat Williamstown. Doddridge County continues their defensive domination that has not let an opponent score more than once only three or four times. Wheeling Central avenged their only loss now that Curtis McGhee III is back, and it seems that all their swagger has returned as well. We will see what the Bulldogs are about.
Doddridge County’s Gameplan: Attacking McGhee is completely necessary. Blitzing and keeping him from slinging the rock or closing him off from scrambling is key. Also, the defense will need to come up with some takeaways. Griffin Devericks will want to push that pick tally to nine. Offensively, similar to Cameron. Ride Hunter America until they stack up too much to defend the pass. The problem is, the Maroon Knights’ secondary is very deep and talented.
Wheeling Central’s Gameplan: With Robbins, McGhee, Marlin, and others in the secondary, they can afford to stack the house to stop America. If Adam Murray and Vinny Mangino set the tone early up front expect some panic out of Bulldogs, giving way to takeaways. Offensively, the Maroon Knights have more athletes man for man. Spread them out and make them tackle men like Price one on one.
#6 Williamstown at #2 Midland Trail
Midland Trail remains a bit of a mystery but continues to prove nonbelievers wrong. With their main offensive weapon out, it was their special teams and defensive scores that toppled a dangerous Sherman team. The line and defense is the heart of this program. Williamstown is coming off an emotional win where they turned over the ball enough times to lose but Donathan Taylor’s running and Boston Carruther’s kicking pushed them over the top.
Williamstown’s Gameplan: Offensively, even with Austin Isaacs playing somewhat injured, the Yellowjackets will have a better offense. Carter Haynes has been a playmaker aside from occasional turnovers and Taylor is a workhouse. Carruthers at kicker might be needed immensely again. Defensively, Midland Trail’s line beats you down throughout the game. Bend don’t break early and make them have to pass to catch up.
Midland Trail’s Gameplan: The Yellowjackets defense contained a very dangerous Mount View team to 12 points. However, Midland Trail’s defense is much more stern than the Golden Knights. They will need to pull some more tricks out to continue drives and get points. If they score twice, they will probably win. Defensively, Williamstown is turnover-prone. Make them pay. Use that stout defense to win the field position battle.