Hurricane's Steven Handley is brought down by GW linebacker Zack Malone (left) as Trevon Johnson (right), another Patriots' linebacker, closes in on the play.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- With all the points and yards that George Washington's offense cranks out - much of it from Kennedy Award-winning running back Ryan Switzer - it's easy to overlook another facet of the Patriots' team.GW can also play some pretty mean defense, evidenced by its work in Friday night's 35-10 victory over Hurricane in the first round of the Class AAA playoffs.The Redskins, putting up more than 31 points and right about 400 yards of total offense per game, were held far under those averages with 10 points and 179 net yards.And that's without perhaps the Patriots' top defensive player, senior linebacker and Division I recruit Dustin Crouser, who is out for the season with a knee injury.
"We played nice defense tonight,'' said GW coach Steve Edwards Jr. "If we play hard and get motivated to play, we're competitive - it doesn't matter who we've got or who we put out there.''The win sends the No. 3 seed Patriots (9-2) into the quarterfinals at 7:30 p.m. Friday against No. 11 Lewis County (9-2) at Steve Edwards Sr. Field in South Hills.GW became the only Kanawha Valley team to survive the first round of the playoffs Friday as the other three - Hurricane, Capital (AAA) and Buffalo (A) - all went down.Capital fell to No. 10 seed Musselman 42-23 at Laidley Field, and Buffalo was blanked 38-0 by No. 3 Wahama at Point Pleasant.Switzer and GW's newfound passing game eventually wore down the Redskins, but it was the Patriots' D that held its ground the entire way and allowed the offense time to get its act straightened out. The game was scoreless at halftime.Hurricane couldn't get two of its most-trusted offensive weapons into the flow of the game, largely because of GW's defensive doings.Elusive running back Steven Handley, who came into the game with 28 catches, had none Friday, and several times he was sent wide on running plays in an attempt to beat GW's defense around the corner.It never happened. Handley managed just 10 yards on seven carries.Receiver Koi Turner, the No. 4 receiver in the Mountain State Athletic Conference, caught only two quick-hitch passes for 5 yards. He came into the game with 53 receptions, 773 yards and seven TDs.Because of GW's defense and a conservative game plan, Skins quarterback Austin Hensley, who led MSAC schools and all AAA playoff passers with 2,156 yards, threw only 10 passes and completed five for 44 yards - almost 100 under his previous season low (143)."Everybody talks about their offense and how explosive it is,'' said Hurricane coach Jeremy Taylor, "but their defense is really good. They're exceptional defensively. We tried to mix up a few things - and actually popped a couple things - but they've got the speed to run us down, or at least run us out of bounds.''
With a large assist from its defense, GW is plus-12 in turnover ratio this season (23 takeaways, 11 giveaways).At this point, Edwards isn't quite sure what his team will see this week from Lewis County, which upset No. 6 University on Friday 24-23."I don't know much about them,'' Edwards said Friday night, "other than they beat a good University team at University. Coach [Eddie] Vincent does a good job getting his team ready, and I'm sure he'll do the same this week. We're just tickled to get another shot. We get to dress and play again next week.''The Minutemen, who lost to South Charleston 45-18 in the first round of the 2009 playoffs, have relied on their ground game and defense much of this season. They had a pair of defensive TDs against University.Lewis features a pair of 1,000-yard rushers in Caleb Butcher (139 carries, 1,180 yards, 15 TDs) and Mark Metzgar (148 carries, 1,014 yards, 15 TDs). Braden Montgomery (603 yards, eight TDs) doesn't pass much, but he did hit 3 of 4 for 95 yards on Friday.Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or firstname.lastname@example.org.