CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Not everyone around West Virginia was shocked when Capital knocked off No. 4 George Washington last week, ending a seven-game losing streak to its crosstown rival."We picked it,'' said Woodrow Wilson coach John H. Lilly. "When we were in our staff meeting last week, we picked Capital to beat them. We had that feeling. It didn't surprise us in the least bit.''Lilly and his team get to see just how far the Cougars have come when they pay a visit to Laidley Field for tonight's 7:30 game, which pits clubs vying for Class AAA playoff spots.Woodrow (6-3) enters the game ranked 10th, while Capital (5-3) apparently fell from 13th to 15th after the ratings were reshuffled this week to reflect seven wins forfeited by Elkins for use of an ineligible player (see unofficial new ratings, Page 2B)."They're playing their best ball right now,'' Lilly said of the Cougars. "They're peaking at the right time.''The teams are more or less mirror images, each sporting a quarterback equally effective running or passing and a stable of versatile runners and receivers capable of busting big plays.For the Flying Eagles, third-year QB Andrew Johnson directs the show. He's run for 11 touchdowns this season and thrown for 12. His big-play back is Ramon Edwards, who averages an absurd 14.1 yards per carry and has caught a team-high 21 passes. The X factor is Cole Williams, who owns three TD runs and five TD catches.Capital relies on talent like freshman quarterback Tyhree Pratt (three TD runs, 11 TD passes) and game-breaking running backs Kashuan Haley and James Richmond.In the Cougars' last three games, both Haley and Richmond have each topped 100 yards rushing. Like Edwards, both also double as dangerous kick returners. Haley has nine TDs of 50-plus yards on scrimmage plays or returns.
"One thing that always makes you nervous as a coach,'' Lilly said, "is when you play somebody who can take it all the way. They've got several who can score any time they touch the ball, and that presents big problems for your defense and special teams.''Capital coach Jon Carpenter realizes he has the same difficulties this week as Lilly."It's the same way we felt against GW,'' Carpenter said, "and just about all the games this year. It's going to come down to the line of scrimmage. We don't want any of them getting out in the open and we have to chase them down.''Carpenter hopes last week's win against GW puts his youthful squad in the right frame of mind for the rest of the season."Talent hasn't been our problem, and I don't think youth has been our problem,'' he said. "Having some enthusiasm for four quarters and trusting what you've been coached to do has been our problem."Everybody thinks we played a different defense or a different offense last week or that we outcoached [GW], which is stupid. We had kids who decided to stick together and play, and something good happened to them. I'm excited to see the kids grow up but if they don't do it this Friday, we'll have to [grow up] all over again.''
Even with his team holding six wins, Lilly isn't certain a playoff berth awaits."I'm not convinced we're in yet,'' he said. "I'll be convinced when I see the final 16. The big thing in triple-A is that everything - or about 99 percent of it - come out in the wash this weekend.''Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or email@example.com.