George Washington doesn't face many opponents over the course of a season who can match the big-play bursts of Ryan Switzer, its senior tailback and Kennedy Award winner.One of those games, however, comes tonight.Capital can counter the speedy Switzer with its own playmakers, and hopes to break off a few big gainers of its own when the teams lock up at Laidley Field for a 7:30 kickoff."They're thriving off the big plays,'' GW coach Steve Edwards Jr. said of the Cougars. "Their big-play capability is really scary.''Sophomore Kashaun Haley leads Capital's group of game-changing players with eight touchdowns of more than 50 yards - two coming on kickoff returns, two on receptions, two on runs and one each on an interception return and punt runback.James Richmond, a junior running back for the Cougars (4-3), scooted 61 yards for a TD at Greenbrier East and went 48 yards for a score last week against No. 1 Cabell Midland."It's been a tough week of preparation,'' Edwards said, "because they've got so many guys who can do so many things. Matching up personnel-wise is going to be a challenge - that's what makes them so tough and dangerous.''Of course, the No. 4 Patriots (6-1) aren't without their own not-so-secret weapon. Switzer has scored 20 touchdowns in five games since being sidelined with a concussion, and 13 of his 21 TDs this year have come from more than 50 yards.Last year, Switzer ran for 227 yards and two TDs as GW earned a 39-29 home win against Capital."Hopefully, we'll do a little bit better up front and don't let him get started,'' said Cougars coach Jon Carpenter. "Last year, we couldn't catch him once he got five, six yards downfield. You don't want to let him get out in the open. Hopefully, he'll get some yards and not get in the end zone.
"I don't think anybody can stop him. Probably the encouraging thing is that he'll be doing the same thing to the Miami Hurricanes next year. Our kids are excited for that challenge.''Switzer has accepted a scholarship offer from North Carolina.Carpenter said his players have kept an optimistic outlook despite their hard luck in recent weeks. Capital has lost three of its last four games by a total of 14 points to teams ranked No. 1, 7 and 16 in AAA, thus jeopardizing its own playoff chances."They're still working hard,'' Carpenter said. "Luck hasn't gone our way in big games. You can [attribute] it to being young. Everyone else attributes it to bad coaching. Our kids still feel like their day is coming. It hasn't been there yet, but we're still going. It's encouraging they come out and work so hard and still try to get better every day.''Neither coach felt there would be a carryover from their last meeting, when GW let a comfortable 39-12 lead slip away in the fourth quarter and, after substituting, had to put its starters back in at game's end to close it out.
"I learned I'm not going to substitute as early as I did,'' Edwards said with a chuckle. "You always learn from that. They never quit playing, and it's a credit to them for coming back.''Richmond scored three TDs in the final quarter and finished with 149 yards rushing."They made some mistakes and gave us the ball at [their own 1] and we had two late scores,'' Carpenter said, "but we never felt like it was a comeback. When they subbed, we had no second string to put in - our [junior varsity] was playing the next night. It was a freak thing.''Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or firstname.lastname@example.org.