At first glance, tonight's game pitting Cabell Midland and Capital doesn't appear to hold much intrigue.After all, the unbeaten Knights (7-0), ranked No. 1 in Class AAA, have more often than not dominated this season. They average 42 points and have really played only two close games, while the Cougars (4-2) have beaten four teams with a combined four wins and lost to the only two teams they've met with winning records.Which brings us to last year's game, in which Capital, seemingly even more overmatched, somehow emerged with a stunning 31-29 victory in Ona. That outcome alone should keep things interesting for tonight's 7:30 kickoff at Laidley Field.In last year's game, Capital was reeling with back-to-back losses after a 4-0 start and the Knights were rolling right along with five straight wins. To make matters worse for the Cougars, they were without second-year starting quarterback Tyler McClaskie (injured in practice the week before the game) and perhaps its best defensive player (Dustin Pullin) and top lineman (Taylor Hurst), who were lost for the season the previous week.
Well, Capital's quest is no less daunting tonight, as it faces a Midland team churning out 389 yards rushing per game, featuring what should be a pair of 1,000-yard backs by the time the contest is over.Fullback Lowell Farley has racked up 1,012 yards and 10 touchdowns so far, with elusive David Gaydosz next with 972 yards and 18 TDs. Gaydosz has tallied six TDs in each of his last two games."They're big and strong and just mow you down,'' said Capital coach Jon Carpenter. "I don't know what they're putting in their Gatorade, but it's working. I don't think it's going to be any secret with them. They're going to try and run it down our throats.''
Knights coach Luke Salmons realizes that tonight presents a game of cat and mouse, or more accurately, bowling ball and butterfly. While Midland tries to pound the ball downfield with a strong, experienced line and as many as four talented running backs, the Cougars will opt for the flanks and try to elude tacklers in the open field to spark big plays."That's a point of emphasis this week,'' Salmons said. "They make a lot of big plays, and we've got to eliminate the big plays - even on special teams. They've got good athletes making plays on kickoffs and punts. It will be a huge bonus for us if we tackle well and if [Chris] Molina keeps kicking it into the end zone."We know they're going to try and spread it out and get the ball in space. That's why we've got to keep the quarterback contained in the pocket, tackle well and eliminate big plays.''The team speed that Capital possesses makes it perhaps more well-equipped than most teams to corral Gaydosz, the broken-field whiz who averages almost 91/2 yards a carry and has scored on 12 of his last 28 rushing attempts."Our problem will be the big guys they have in front of him,'' Carpenter said. "We have to take on those big old blockers first. We've got a chance to keep him from running 70 yards, but the key will be those guys up front. We've got a couple guys who can run with [Gaydosz], but it's hard to run if those big guys knock you down. That's what they've got - they come off the football and knock you out the back of the end zone.''Capital's defense gets a boost tonight with the expected return of senior safety and defensive leader Davon Tyson, who has missed the last 21/2 games with a shoulder injury.Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or firstname.lastname@example.org.