Last of the unbeatens
Four weeks into the prep football season, and Capital is the last team standing in the Kanawha Valley. The last unbeaten team, that is.
When the Cougars polished off Princeton 49-7 Friday night at Laidley Field and Class AA Sissonville fell to Scott a few miles up Interstate 77, it left Capital (3-0) as the lone unbeaten in either Kanawha or Putnam county.
So what does that mean to Cougars coach Jon Carpenter?
"It means nothing right now,'' Carpenter said. "It don't get you anything. I'm sure that will change at some point but maybe, hopefully not.''
Capital began the weekend tied for No. 6 among Class AAA schools in the SSAC list of playoff contenders, and could remain there since four of the five teams above the Cougars also won on Friday, and co-No. 6 University beat 2-1 Wheeling Park.
But the Cougars remain ahead of some neighboring schools that perhaps received more attention in the preseason:
Not bad for a Capital program that didn't even reach the playoffs last year.
Carpenter, however, realizes that his schedule toughens up quite a bit in the coming weeks. Of the three teams the Cougars have beaten so far, only Greenbrier East (1-3) owns a victory. St. Albans and Princeton are both 0-4.
From here on out, Capital plays SC (1-3), Hurricane (2-2), Riverside (1-3), Cabell Midland (4-0), GW (3-1), Woodrow Wilson (3-1) and Huntington (4-0).
If the Cougars can extend that unbeaten record for a few more weeks, it will be a more impressive feat. It may even wipe out memories of last year, when Capital blazed to a 4-0 start, only to suffer a slew of injuries and wind up 5-5 and out of the postseason.
"Things can fall apart on you real quick,'' Carpenter said. "Our goal is to be that way [still unbeaten] when it's cold outside. We've got to keep our head down and keep working, and good things will happen to you.''
Good things have certainly been happening for freshman quarterback Tyhree Pratt, who had another solid outing for the Cougars Friday, throwing three touchdowns and running for another score.
Pratt, who was expected to alternate with returning starter Carrington Morris this season, is now the unquestioned option at quarterback, as Morris remains suspended and isn't expected to return this year.
In his first three starts, Pratt has hit on 28 of 44 passes for 594 yards and nine touchdowns with no interceptions. He's also run 30 times for 120 yards and three TDs.
Redskins eye redemption
Just two weeks ago, Hurricane was riding high at 2-0 but now figures to be in the middle of the pack of AAA playoff contenders after losing back-to-back games to Woodrow Wilson and GW.
The Redskins have a chance to get back up among the leaders, however, if only because they have games left against the likes of Capital (3-0), Spring Valley (2-2), Logan (3-1) and Cabell Midland (4-0). Wins over those opponents would loom valuable in the playoff ratings.
"We have a chance to redeem ourselves every week,'' said Hurricane coach Jeremy Taylor. "We've got an off week, get rested up, work on the fundamentals, get a good week in the weight room and we'll come out and play Capital. Capital isn't better than George Washington. They're not. They're a heck of a team. They've got a great quarterback and some speed.
"We win that one and we're 3-2, then we've got Ripley and Greenbrier East, [which are] very winnable games. We're going to be just fine. We can win them all. If I don't believe that, [our players] won't believe that.''
Taylor likes having his bye this week.
"It came at a good time,'' Taylor said. "We were in a war [with GW] both ways. After a war against Woodrow and a war against George Washington, this is perfect time for an off week.''
Aftermath: No. 1 vs. No. 2
Both sides found out a lot about themselves Friday as visiting Scott, the top-ranked team in AA, outlasted No. 2 Sissonville 27-18.
The Indians (2-1) held the lead twice before faltering, but coach Eddie Smolder didn't think Scott's pulverizing ground game wore down his team.
"If we did wear down, maybe it's because they're bigger than us,'' Smolder said. "But I guarantee you we are in better shape. They didn't make any adjustments. They stayed in the same formation. We just came up short.
"We missed a few tackles, had some third and longs, had a fourth and long. We just didn't make a play at that end. On the other end, on offense we've got to make plays and score. Give Scott credit. They executed what they were supposed to do and came up victorious.''
Smolder doesn't think he'll have any trouble getting his players to shake off the doldrums of their first loss, not with defending AA champ Wayne coming to town Friday.
"Every coach wants to win every game,'' Smolder said, "but how many teams go undefeated in the state of West Virginia? We've made a lot of progress and our kids never quit. We fought, and they believe what they're doing. We're getting better.
"A true man learns from a loss and bounces back from it. A loss has never killed anybody. We're going to correct our mistakes, get them fixed. We're going to work hard next week and get on down the road.''
The Skyhawks, meanwhile, figure to remain atop the AA ratings for another week and continue their climb toward what they hope is a memorable season.
"We've got a group of young men who want to focus on common goals,'' said coach Shane Griffith, "and that's key right now.
"We've had a lot of playoff runs - seven in the past 10 years. We've had some success in the playoffs. The guys really want to work and battle and take the program up a notch to another level to where they gain a little more respect around the state. That's been their goal the whole offseason.''
Cabell County clash
Something's got to give when No. 1 Cabell Midland (4-0) and co-No. 3 Huntington (4-0) collide Friday on the Highlanders' turf.
Huntington has allowed just 11 points in four games, with its first-team defense yet to permit a touchdown. Midland, meanwhile, averages 38 points per game.
Tommy R. Atkinson and Ryan Pritt contributed to this report.
Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or firstname.lastname@example.org.