CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Because of a late-season surge, it's all on the line tonight for Capital.The Cougars (6-3) play their third straight Class AAA top-10 opponent when they visit No. 3 Huntington (8-1) at Bob Sang Field. Kickoff is set for 7:30.Capital, currently the No. 10 team in the playoff ratings, put itself on the verge of clinching a playoff spot with wins the last two weeks against George Washington and Woodrow Wilson. A victory tonight could possibly bump the Cougars into the top eight, giving them a home game in the first round of the postseason.Coach Jon Carpenter isn't sure if Capital can qualify for the playoffs if it loses tonight, but doesn't care to dwell on the possibility."I told them we need to win,'' Carpenter said. "I think that's the mistake the prognosticators make. If you're going to win any games in the playoffs, you can't have the mindset of relaxing.''The Highlanders, whose only loss was a 14-13 thriller against No. 1 Cabell Midland, pose peculiar problems for the Cougars.On offense, they rely on a revolving door of skill players. No one has scored more than seven touchdowns on the season, but six different players have tallied two TDs in a game. On defense, however, they shine as a unit, having allowed just 11 TDs in nine starts and own three shutouts."We'll have to break that trend if we're going to stay alive,'' Carpenter said. "They're real fast on defense and really aggressive. They're pretty much in the same defense every snap. That's probably why they're so good. They don't outcoach themselves. They know what they're doing and they can play fast because they don't have to overthink and make a bunch of mistakes."It gives you the false impression that they're easy to prepare for, but at the same time it gives them a bunch of reps to know what they're doing.''Carpenter realizes Huntington holds an advantage, as it was able to practice in the middle of the week while his team wasn't able to work out on Tuesday and Wednesday because classes were called off, and Kanawha County school policy forbids practice."I think we'll be all right,'' Carpenter said. "There's nothing we can do about it anyway.''In other games tonight involving area schools:Buffalo (7-2) at Wahama (9-0): The Bison tries to shrug off last week's last-second 21-20 loss at Symmes Valley (Ohio) in time to challenge the No. 3 team in Class A and one of five unbeatens remaining in the state.
"I've had a few in my career like that,'' said Buffalo coach Mike Sawyer of last week's defeat. "If you coach long enough, you will. You learn to try and deal with it.''A victory for the No. 10 Bison should lock up home-field advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
The White Falcons, who haven't clinched home field in the opening round yet because nine teams in Class A are 8-1 or better, have played only one other state team this season, beating winless Fayetteville 35-7. Just three of the teams in Wahama's league, the Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division, had winning records.Wahama's powerful offense cranks out 45 points per game and averages more than 430 yards, but its defense, oddly, has created only 17 turnovers in nine games.
Spring Valley (6-3) at Winfield (4-5): The goal for the Timberwolves, ranked No. 7 in AAA, is to secure home-field advantage in the first round of the playoffs. The Generals, interestingly, have not yet been eliminated from playoff contention, but need a tidal wave of things to go their way.
It's been a record-breaking year for Winfield and first-year coach Craig Snyder, as quarterback Toby Show set a school season passing record with 1,310 yards, breaking the mark of Taylor Farley (1,200 in 2008). Running back Seth Lewis, with 1,224 yards, has run for more yardage than anyone at the school since at least the 1980s.Nitro (2-7) at Riverside (1-8): Part of the goal is to avoid the cellar in the MSAC, but each side has some fine individual offensive numbers at stake. For the Wildcats, Ethan Clark is No. 2 in the league in receiving yards (see stats on this page) and QB Chris Moody is second in passing. For Riverside, Marcus Reed is third in receiving and Trevor Rumberg needs 97 yards to break the school record for passing yards in a season.Herbert Hoover (1-8) at Mingo Central (4-5): The Huskies close out their season against a team that beat them 33-3 last season. In that game, the Miners threw for 301 yards and four TDs, with Joe May catching seven passes for 216 yards and three scores. May, now MC's leading rusher, needs 89 yards to reach 1,000 for the season.
Logan (6-3) at Scott (7-2): The Wildcats desperately need a win to possibly forge a spot in the AAA playoffs, and perhaps turn the tables from last year, when the AA Skyhawks drubbed them 38-7 in their regular-season finale, limiting Logan to 147 yards of total offense.Bluefield (8-1) at Wayne (9-0): The state's No. 4 and co-No. 1 teams, respectively, have at it in a game with huge implications on playoff brackets and home-field advantage. The Pioneers seek their 19th straight win, which would tie a school record set in 2006-07. Wayne averages 54.4 points per game, Bluefield 52.0.Valley (8-1) at Summers County (6-3): A victory gives the Greyhounds a home game in the first round of the playoffs at Laidley Field. Valley won 28-10 last year despite rushing for just 176 yards, its second-lowest total in the regular season.Tolsia (4-5) at Poca (2-7): The Dots won a 52-44 shootout against the Rebels last year, as Jake Payne threw for 275 yards and a TD and ran for another score.
Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tonight's gamesAll games at 7:30 p.m. unless notedCapital (6-3) at Huntington (8-1)Hurricane (6-3) at Cabell Midland (9-0)Spring Valley (6-3) at Winfield (4-5)Nitro (2-7) at Riverside (1-8)Herbert Hoover (1-8) at Mingo Central (4-5)Tolsia (4-5) at Poca (2-7)Buffalo (7-2) at Wahama (9-0)Valley (8-1) at Summers County (6-3)Logan (6-3) at Scott (7-2)Ripley (4-5) at Ravenswood (2-7)John Marshall (2-7) at Parkersburg South (5-4)Oak Hill (7-2) at Lincoln County (0-9)Bluefield (8-1) at Wayne (9-0)Chapmanville (4-5) at Point Pleasant (7-2)Williamstown (5-4) at Roane County (6-3)Van (1-7) at Sherman (1-8)
Saturday's gamesParkersburg (4-5) vs. George Washington (7-2) at Laidley Field, 1 p.m.Braxton County (5-4) vs. Sissonville (5-4) at Laidley FieldClay County (5-4) at Tug Valley (7-2)