CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Musselman coach Denny Price had high praise for Capital, his team's draw in the first round of the Class AAA playoffs.How high? Well, Price likens the Cougars to the best AAA team the Kanawha Valley has seen in the last 20 years."They kind of remind me of South Charleston,'' Price said, "when South Charleston went on their run. They started with a real young core and worked them all the way through. There's some comparisons there, anyway.''South Charleston's back-to-back state titles in 2008-09 mark the best period for any Kanawha Valley AAA program since DuPont captured consecutive crowns in 1992-93.
"They have a pretty talented young football team,'' Price said of the Cougars, who host Musselman at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Laidley Field. "They're coming on pretty strong at the end. Everywhere you look, they have pretty good athletes.''Capital's final push to close the regular season included three straight wins over teams in the top 10 of the AAA ratings, which allowed the Cougars (7-3) to jump from 19th to seventh in the playoff rankings.The Cougars are led on offense by junior running back James Richmond (879 yards, nine touchdowns), sophomore running back Kashuan Haley (775 yards, seven TDs) and freshman quarterback Tyhree Pratt (1,308 yards, 17 TDs).Price said Capital's offensive talent also looks like another team that he sees quite a bit of - neighboring rival Martinsburg, the two-time defending AAA champion."Capital reminds me of Martinsburg,'' Price said. "They run the same style of offense. Defensively, they have the same philosophy, too - pressure and attack. They have speed everywhere."So we've seen teams similar to Capital. Hopefully, the good thing is that helps us defend them. We've played a couple teams that run the same type of offense and defense they do.''Like Capital, Musselman features a diverse offense with several dangerous skill-position players, led by quarterback Caleb Dombeck, who has completed 60 percent of his passes for 1,944 yards and 25 TDs with just seven interceptions.Josh Ferguson (1,067 yards, 14 TDs) is the lead running back, posting similar numbers to last year when he rushed for 1,028 yards and 18 scores. Maverick Keller has added 547 yards and six TDs on the ground this season.The top receivers are Darren Zombro (38 catches, 618 yards, nine TDs) and Trevon Wesco (33 catches, 852 yards, 11 TDs)."They're balanced, just like the stats say,'' said Capital coach Jon Carpenter, who traded tapes of all 10 regular-season games with the Applemen."They're athletic and just as good as most of the teams we play. You'd like to draw somebody [not as strong] in the first round, but we didn't.''
With only three real heavy days of preparation for an unfamiliar opponent, Carpenter was asked if he's spending more time getting ready for what Musselman might throw at his Cougars, or if he's working more with his own players and getting them right for the playoffs."As coaches, you spend time trying to figure [the opponent] out,'' Carpenter said. "But that comes more at the end of the week. I don't know if it's smart or not, but our idea has always been to prepare ourselves. The X's and O's part of it is overrated. Investing time to work all week with our kids is more important than the other stuff.''Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or firstname.lastname@example.org.