Caleb Butcher is one of two Lewis County backs with more than 1,000 rushing yards on the season.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The last time Lewis County came to the Kanawha Valley for a playoff game was 2009 against South Charleston, so it's been a crash course for George Washington's coaching staff to find out a few things about the Minutemen.GW (9-2), the No. 3 seed, and No. 11 Lewis County (9-2) square off in the Class AAA quarterfinals at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Steve Edwards Sr. Field in South Hills.Patriots coach Steve Edwards Jr. said it's tough to get a feel for what the Minutemen play like, even though he's seen a lot of their wing-T formation from the game tapes the teams have exchanged."It is tough,'' Edwards said. "It's a disadvantage playing somebody you don't play a lot. You go with what you see on film, but you can't pick up how physical they are, their size and the game speed. You have to rely a lot on film.
"With that being said, we'll adjust as we go. Hopefully, they're the same way. Hopefully we can match their intensity and their physicality.''The Minutemen caught the attention of fans across the state with their 24-23 upset of No. 6 University last week in which they returned both a fumble and an interception for touchdowns.However, their defense shouldn't be such a surprise, since they allowed fewer points than any Class AAA school during the regular season (108).
"We're proud of our guys,'' said Lewis coach Eddie Vincent. "I know we've exceeded everyone's expectations except for our own immediate football family - the coaches and players. I thought we could be that good of a team, but I don't think anyone else did."You look at the teams left in triple-A, and we're kind of the oddball. You have the Morgantowns, Martinsburgs and George Washingtons - the bigger urban schools. We're a rural county school, which is not typical.''The Minutemen carry an eight-game winning streak into Friday's game, which has stoked their already-high confidence."What makes this team different than our other teams,'' Vincent said, "is their belief. They believe what we're doing and they feel like they're in every game - and they are. We've lost two games this season - one in the final seconds to Point Pleasant on kind of a Hail Mary, and to University in Week 1 when we turned the ball over five times. We protected the ball [against University] last Friday - we didn't turn the ball over and they did, and that was the difference.
"We've been finding a way to win. Our formula has been to run the ball, be able to throw the ball when we want and not when we have to, and be solid on defense and special teams.''Lewis boasts a pair of 1,000-yard rushers in its backfield in Caleb Butcher (1,180 yards, 15 touchdowns) and fullback Mark Metzgar (1,014 yards, 15 TDs). Quarterback Braden Montgomery, while he doesn't throw much, has been efficient and has 603 yards and eight TDs through the air.In last week's win, Montgomery was 3 of 4 for 95 yards."They do throw the ball,'' Edwards said. "They're not afraid to throw the ball. It's just that they haven't been made to. When they do, they're quite effective with it.''
Vincent said the threat of the pass has been just as important to the Minuteman offense as the pair of 1,000-yard rushers."All wing-T teams are run-first,'' Vincent said, "but the fact we're able to throw the ball [helps]. We always work on it. We work on it a lot. We only completed three against University, but all three were big plays."I look more on our completion percentage than I do our passing [yardage]. In my opinion, the reason we've been able to break the school scoring record and win eight games is the fact we can throw it.''Vincent realizes his team hasn't received a lot of attention statewide because it doesn't play the same kind of schedule as the other AAA contenders. But that doesn't mean the Minutemen should be taken lightly."We don't play the schedules some triple-As do,'' Vincent said, "because we're the second-smallest triple-A. In fact, we have less kids now than when Lewis County was double-A 10 years ago. We have to play schools close to twice our enrollment. People want to say that size doesn't matter, but it does."The average fan doesn't realize how difficult it is for a small triple-A. There's no end to it. There's no top to it - schools two, three times your size. It's difficult to do it year in and year out. We may have the same kind of athletes, but we're not going to have the same kind of depth.''
Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or email@example.com.