CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Some players' careers aren't as successful as the series Ryan Switzer has had against Hurricane the past two seasons.George Washington's senior tailback has piled up impressive numbers in his last three games against the Redskins, and he again stands as the focal point when the No. 3 Patriots (8-2) and No. 14 Hurricane (6-4) square off tonight in the first round of the Class AAA playoffs. Kickoff is set for 7:30 at Steve Edwards Sr. Field in South Hills.The two teams meet for the fourth time in two years - twice each in the regular season and playoffs. In those first three games, all one-sided GW wins, Switzer has run for 705 yards and nine touchdowns and returned interceptions 49 and 61 yards for two more scores. Six of those Switzer TD runs covered at least 41 yards."I think we can match them athlete for athlete,'' said first-year Hurricane coach Jeremy Taylor, "but we can't match them for Switzer.
"As far as what we're going to do, I think we can execute better than we did the last time. The last time, we were in position to make plays and he made us miss. We have to stay on our feet a little bit longer and hopefully spread them out like Capital did - sideline to sideline.''Three weeks ago, Capital became the first MSAC team in more than three years to beat GW in the regular season as it "held'' the explosive Switzer to 131 yards on 29 carries and stopped his streak of 20 games with at least one touchdown run."But they're more than just Switzer,'' Taylor said. "They've had other kids step up to the plate. [Fullback Dustin] Crouser goes down and other kids step up and the quarterback [Trevor Bell] throws a little more. It's never a good thing to lose a player like Crouser, but it forces other guys to step up. It's not good for any team to have to play them when that happens - kids who never got a second look as long as Switzer's in there.''
Hurricane will also have to find a way to get more points on the board against the Patriots, since they've tallied just 21 points in those three recent losses - 35-0 and 33-6 (in the playoffs) last year and 41-15 earlier this season."You talk about the elite teams in West Virginia,'' Taylor said, "and there's the Martinsburgs and the Morgantowns and - most years - the Parkersburgs, and GW is right up there with those guys. Other than maybe DeSales and Capital, there's no team they played this year that can match them speed for speed."We are close to that, but we're still not there with them. Switzer, I don't know if he's got world-class speed, but he's got world-class quickness, and his vision is just phenomenal. This is the biggest game I've ever been part of, and not just because it's a playoff game, but it's against one of the best teams in the state and a win would boost our program immensely.''The Patriots have played in the state finals twice since 2008, and own a 9-5 postseason record since 2007. Hurricane has never advanced past the quarterfinals."It's been an interesting year for us,'' said GW coach Steve Edwards Jr. "The level of expectations have changed, and the good thing is our kids are working hard and we're trying to meet all their expectations - everybody's expectations."The thing I depend on is that we're mature enough. We're mature enough and experienced enough, and a lot of these guys have been around long enough. As a coaching staff, we know it's up to them now - they've got to get themselves ready to play. They do that, and we can compete with anybody. We really believe that, and they believe that. Get their minds right and accept the challenge.''Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or firstname.lastname@example.org.