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As high school playoffs approach, plenty of work remains

Chip Ellis
Capital's Kashaun Haley (6) and James Richmond have each run for 100-plus yards in the last three games.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- With the end of the regular season less than two weeks away, things are becoming a bit clearer for Kanawha Valley teams chasing playoff berths.Clearer, as in showing how much work they have left to do. Certainly it's not leaving a clear path.Probably only one team in either Kanawha or Putnam county has already locked up a playoff spot - and that's Class A Buffalo (7-1). But the Bison still has tough dates left with Symmes Valley, Ohio (7-2) and No. 3 Wahama (8-0), so its playoff seeding could remain in the top five or tumble all the way to the teens.That seems to be the theme for area teams this season, either the ones left in the hunt for home-field advantage for the first round, or the ones just trying to claw their way anywhere into the playoff party. Nearly nothing is assured for those six squads.Capital (5-3), on the periphery of the playoffs, perhaps saved its season Friday with a resounding 35-13 victory over Class AAA No. 4 George Washington on a drizzly night at Laidley Field.Both Kashaun Haley and James Richmond rushed for 129 yards against the Patriots as the Cougars rang up 274 yards on the ground against a GW defense that had been allowing less than 158 per game rushing."We work hard in practice,'' Haley said, "and we said, 'We've got this one. We're going to beat them.' Now we know if we can beat them, we can beat anybody. So we just keep our heads up and keep playing.''Haley and Richmond have run for 100-plus yards apiece in each of the last three games, relieving some of the pressure on freshman quarterback Tyhree Pratt. "I have faith in my line,'' said Haley, who started out the year as more of a receiver, "and they block for me.''Some projections have the Cougars moving up six spots to 13th in AAA when the next SSAC ratings are released on Tuesday. They would be two spots behind Hurricane (5-3), which appears set to be tied for 11th with Point Pleasant.Capital coach Jon Carpenter recognized Friday's win as a shot in the arm to a program that still has regular-season dates left against Woodrow Wilson (6-3) and Huntington (7-1), but at least now has a fighting chance to get to the postseason."To tell you the truth, you guys [reporters] wrote articles about it,'' Carpenter said. "and it scared me to death when I read it. I tell the kids don't worry about anybody's projections. Don't listen to them, just keep together and keep working."That's the thing. You have to be around young guys to see them working hard and starting to believe in each other. Stay with each other and good things will happen to us. This win will help us get a little bit closer to the playoffs, but we've still got two tough ones left. We'll tell them to celebrate this for about 15 minutes, then we get to work on Beckley.''
For GW (6-2), the loss may surprisingly not hurt much in the ratings. Early projections have the Patriots falling only one spot to fifth, keeping them in the upper half of the field and staying in the home-field bracket. Of the seven state teams with two losses in AAA, GW has the best rating and stays ahead of them all."Just getting in the playoffs is the hardest part,'' said GW coach Steve Edwards Jr. "Then the thing you want to do is get the home field if you can. If you deserve it, you earn it, and you get it. If you don't, you won't. We certainly didn't do anything [Friday] to deserve anything.
"I told the kids [before the game] that this could be the difference between 9-1 and 8-2 or, shoot, 7-3 and 6-4. That's just the way high school football is. They're the ones who've got to answer the bell. We're going to prepare like we always prepare, and we've got another tough game next week.''GW hosts St. Francis de Sales (5-4) of Columbus, Ohio, on Friday.Hurricane appears likely to fall four spots after being ranked seventh last week prior to a 55-27 home loss to Spring Valley.That would knock the Redskins out of the top eight and home-field advantage with two weeks left to play. They have dates left with Logan (6-2) and Cabell Midland (9-0), two teams they lost to last year.Another team with a tough road ahead is South Charleston, whose quest to get back in the AAA playoffs hit a pothole with a head-scratching 7-6 loss at Ripley.The Black Eagles (5-4) will likely be 19th in this week's ratings, three spots out of the final berth, with only Friday's game at Parkersburg (4-4) to conclude the regular season.
Two things are working against SC in its postseason bid: first, there are 19 teams remaining in AAA with three or fewer losses. That means 19 teams that can still finish 7-3 or better. Second, the Black Eagles won't be picking up a lot of bonus points from their defeated opponents. The five teams they've beaten have combined for just 10 wins all season - half of them by Capital.About the only thing on SC's side is recent history. The last MSAC team to go 6-4 and not get in the AAA playoffs was Nitro in 1999.The other Kanawha Valley team still alive for the postseason is AA Sissonville (4-4), which got back to .500 with a 72-12 pounding of Sherman.Helping the Indians' bid is the fact only 15 teams in AA hold winning records with two weeks to go. They would have to win their final two games against Poca (2-6) and Braxton County (5-3) to retain their shot to get in the field.Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or
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