South Charleston's last game against George Washington was entirely forgettable. But do the Black Eagles want to forget?
They were the test subjects last season as GW unveiled Ryan Switzer as its lead running back. That debut drew raves for Switzer and Patriots, who romped 61-0, vaulting Switzer into instant Kennedy Award contention and jump-starting GW toward a spot in the state finals.
A year later, no one expects a repeat performance when the two sides lock up at 7:30 tonight at Oakes Field in South Charleston. Oh, GW returns a bushel of talent from last year's 13-1 squad, including Switzer, who ran for 2,796 yards, scored 45 touchdowns and became the eighth junior to capture the Kennedy Award as the state's top player.
But SC brings back 14 starters of its own, and would certainly like to make amends for the whipping it absorbed last year. That is, if it wants to remember that game at all.
"I'm sure they do,'' said GW coach Steve Edwards Jr., "and I hope our kids remember, too, because that means we don't forget that they're not going to forget, if you know what I mean. We just have to prepare. They've got speed. They've got talent. They're a lot better than they were last year.''
The Black Eagles return their quarterback, Jon Alexander (1,067 yards passing, 14 TDs), their top rusher in Trevond Reese (721 yards, five TDs) and their top two receivers (Reese, Kevin Forrest).
SC coach John Messinger hopes his players have selective memories about last year's matchup, and recall how they competed much better in the second half after falling behind 42-0 at the break. Much of the damage was self-inflicted, as SC had five bad shotgun snaps to its quarterbacks and saw three punts travel 6, minus-1 and 14 yards.
"GW put it on us early,'' Messinger said. "We made some adjustments in the second half, and the kids started believing in their abilities.
"When you come out and in your first four series you can't get a snap back to your quarterback, and on your first punt you run up into the backside of your offensive line and kick the ball off your own tackle, that pretty much set the tone for the way it was going to be. Thank goodness it didn't set the tone for the entire season. These kids grew, and we finally figured out we could play football with anybody.''
SC went 5-5 last season, missing the playoffs for the first time since 2007. It nearly rebounded from a 1-4 start to get there, however.
"We've had a tendency here to get better as the year goes on,'' Messinger said, "There have been years where we struggle early and, as the year goes on, we get better and better. We hope that's the way it ends this year, but I'd kind of like to start out firing on all cylinders all year.''
GW figures to have more weapons than just Switzer, who burned SC for 277 yards and four rushing TDs last year and added a fifth score on a 79-yard reception.
Also returning are bruising fullback-linebacker Dustin Crouser, quarterback Trevor Bell, receiver Jordan Clay and linebacker Trevon Johnson. Even reserve running back Jacob Jackson, another fleet talent, could provide flashes as SC keys on Switzer. In last week's MSAC scrimmage, Jackson ran seven times for 46 yards, mostly with the first unit.
"If I can get this team to quit worrying about where it's been and worry about where we want to go, well, that's the chore this week," ' Edwards said. "We have a pretty mature bunch and I hope they do that. They do like to play.''
Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or firstname.lastname@example.org