Capital continues late-season push
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Following last week's crucial victory over crosstown rival George Washington, there was concern that Capital might experience a letdown for Friday's game against Woodrow Wilson.
Not a chance.
James Richmond ran for 100 yards on 19 carries and caught a touchdown pass and Kashuan Haley donated a pair of scores before leaving with an injury as the Cougars kept their late-season momentum rolling with a 35-14 victory at Laidley Field.
"Everyone wanted to talk about a letdown after a big game,'' said Capital coach Jon Carpenter, "so it was impressive to see our guys come out and play hard and not have a mental letdown. I was probably scared of that, too. But we told them a good football team can come back to play even after a big win.''
The victory should keep Capital (6-3) afloat for a Class AAA playoff spot.
The Cougars were 13th when the SSAC issued its playoff list on Tuesday, but unofficial figures by WTOV9.com dropped them to No. 15 when the ratings were later reshuffled to reflect seven forfeited wins by Elkins for use of an ineligible player. An attorney for the Elkins player involved, L.J. Lawrence, filed a motion Friday for a temporary restraining order against the SSAC's ruling, and a judge is set to rule on the motion early next week.
About the only downer for Capital on the night was the injury to Haley, who has proven to be a dynamic runner and receiver with nine scoring plays of 50-plus yards this season.
He left late in the second quarter with a thumb injury that prompted a visit to the emergency room. It was feared that he'd broken the thumb, but Carpenter said the injury wasn't that severe.
"His thumb popped out,'' Carpenter said. "He made it back here [to watch] the second half. He'll be all right. He'll be ready to go.''
Before he left, Haley scored Capital's first touchdown on a 19-yard run. The Cougars would eventually balloon that lead to 28-0 against the state's No. 10 team on a 7-yard interception return by Jonathan Pittman, a 24-yard hookup from Tyhree Pratt to Richmond and Haley's 41-yard punt return.
"After we beat GW,'' Richmond said, "we gained confidence. We felt if we could beat them, we can beat just about anybody.''
Pratt also threw a second-half TD toss of 15 yards to Khalil Bush, and finished 10 of 15 passing for 160 yards with no interceptions. He completed his final six passes and nine of his last 10.
Capital was able to overcome a case of fumblitis, putting the ball on the ground four times by each of the four running backs it used - Haley, Richmond, Tyrell Davis and Rayqon Vanover. Woodrow Wilson (6-4) recovered all four.
Davis and Vanover saw more snaps in the backfield after Haley went out, and when Richmond was shaken up and missed a series in the third quarter.
"It make you feel a little bit better when your defense plays good,'' Carpenter said, "and those guys are playing real well. It makes up for some of the mistakes. It's probably my fault for not having other guys get some reps when somebody goes down. I'll take the blame for that, and get that fixed this week.''
Even with the four fumbles they covered, the Flying Eagles were still limited to 182 net yards, gaining just 62 on 30 running plays. Twelve of those rushes went for minus-yardage. They also lost a fumble and quarterback Andrew Johnson was picked off twice by Pittman and Edmond Harvey.
Pittman's big play came as the Eagles faced third-and-6 at their own 5 after Haley had pinned them inside the 1-yard line with a 42-yard punt. As he was going to the ground on a sack, Johnson blindly flipped the ball forward - back-handed - and Pittman snapped it up and headed for the end zone.
"We played really, really flat in the first half,'' said Woodrow Wilson coach John H. Lilly, "and I don't understand why we played so flat in the first half. I guess everybody was telling them they were in the playoffs or something, I don't know.
"I was real proud of their character in the second half - that's a positive thing. But the bottom line is if you get whipped on the line of scrimmage, you're not going to win too many games.''
The Eagles sliced their deficit to 28-14 with a 2-yard run by fullback Marcus Mickey late in the second quarter and a 1-yard run by Johnson early in the third quarter.
However, the only two times they crossed midfield after that came when Capital lost fumbles at its own 32 and 45. Woodrow managed just one total first down on those two possessions and never really threatened to score against Capital's inspired defense.
Johnson, one of the most versatile quarterbacks in the MSAC, wound up 9 of 23 passing for 120 yards with two picks and carried 12 times for 35 yards. Donte Nabors grabbed five passes for 92 yards.
Capital concludes the regular season next Friday at Huntington (8-1), the No. 3 team in AAA. The Highlanders, who have allowed just 11 TDs in nine games, beat the Cougars last year 35-14.
Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or firstname.lastname@example.org.