Slow start, strong finish in another GW romp
After a sluggish first quarter and dodging a bullet by stopping Spring Valley inside the 10-yard line, Class AAA No. 3 George Washington resigned to playing 3-yards-and-a-cloud-of -dust football.
In other words, the Patriots defense mostly held the Timberwolves to 3 yards or less per play and Ryan Switzer left Spring Valley choking on dust clouds time and time again.
Switzer was held to just 6 yards on five carries in the first quarter, but galloped for 303 yards and five touchdowns on his final 13 rushes as GW blew by the Timberwolves for a 42-7 homecoming win Friday night at Steve Edwards Sr. Field.
The Patriots (5-1) were playing with heavy hearts in their first home game since teammate Drew Morton was killed in a car crash on Sept. 16. Team captains carried Morton's No. 73 jersey out for the opening coin toss and there was a moment of silence observed before the kickoff.
"[The win] feels good," Switzer said. "We're going to keep Drew with us the whole season and continue through our lives. We were trying to come out here and play and play for him."
In order to get that win, the George Washington defense had to make a big stand.
Early in the second quarter, Spring Valley took over on GW's 31-yard line after forcing a third Patriots punt from their own 2. On the first play of the drive, Ryan George ran 6 yards up the middle, fumbled, and Timberwolves fullback Elijah Wellman picked it up and rumbled down to the GW 3.
A penalty for illegal assisting of the runner moved it out to the 8-yard line, but Spring Valley still had a golden opportunity to strike first.
Instead, it was the Patriots' defense that rose up, holding the Timberwolves to minus-2 yards on the next three plays. After Samuel Brody's 26-yard field goal attempt sailed wide right, GW took over on its 20.
"It was a close ball game, we had opportunities," Spring Valley coach Brad Dingess said. "And I thought when we had the ball down there, when we came away with zero points, I thought we laid down for just a little bit."
In truth, an adjustment from GW coach Steve Edwards Jr. finally got Switzer, the defending Kennedy Award winner, going.
After spending the first quarter lining up and running at a physical Spring Valley defense with no success, Edwards went to the spread, mixing the run with the pass and all the while providing his skill players with space to operate.
That's about all Switzer needed. He ended the ensuing GW drive with a 33-yard touchdown scamper, and after the Patriots forced Spring Valley into a three-and-out, opened up the next drive with a 52-yard touchdown run.
"We felt we had to spread them out of the box a little bit and try to get our kids in space the best we could," Edwards said. "We had to make them play us a little honest, they weren't playing us honest at first. Things worked out for us. They've got a really good football team, we just had some things bounce our way and that happens sometimes."
Switzer added a 10-yard scoring scamper in the second quarter and ran in from 66 and 41 yards in the second half. GW quarterback Trevor Bell connected with Jacob Jackson for a 38-yard touchdown to finish off the Patriots' first drive of the third quarter.
"[This was a] big win for us," Edwards said. "You beat good quality programs and quality teams this time of year, it's huge. Our kids played with some good emotion and played like it was important to them. If we can continue to do that and keep our heads about us, we'll give ourselves a chance every weekend."
Wellman, who will attend West Virginia most likely to play linebacker, was limited to just 69 yards on 18 carries after averaging 217 yards and two touchdowns over his last three games.
Much of that was due to GW's own Division I linebacker Dustin Crouser, who clogged up the middle almost all night long.
Spring Valley's lone touchdown came on an 18-yard throw from backup quarterback Bryer Brewer to Adam Page.
The No. 13 Timberwolves dropped to 3-3, with all three losses coming to Class AAA top five teams (No. 1 Cabell Midland, No. 4 Huntington, No. 5 GW).
While Dingess said all three are tough teams, he added George Washington has the ability to beat anyone in the state.
"If you've got No. 7 you can beat anybody," Dingess said, referring to Switzer. "He's the difference in the ballgame. I thought we did a good job at the beginning trying to bottle him up, but if he gets out in space I don't think there's anyone in the state that can tackle him. They just do a great job with that."
A scary moment occurred when Spring Valley's Chase Lucas took a ferocious crack-back block from GW's Trevon Johnson in the third quarter. Lucas lay motionless on the field for several minutes and eventually had to be carted off the field.
Dingess said Lucas was responsive and had feeling throughout his body when he left the field. Lucas had already suffered a severe concussion this season and Dingess said he will most likely miss the rest of the year.