CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- No matter how hard the coaches and players try to downplay the Cabell Midland-Spring Valley playoff matchup as just another game, it certainly won't be.The No. 8 Timberwolves (8-3) visit the No. 1 Knights (11-0) at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the Class AAA quarterfinals in a rematch of rivals who faced off during the season."They're going to bring it,'' said Midland coach Luke Salmons. "Anytime we play them it's going to be a tough game. You couldn't ask for anything better.''"I'm sure we've both grown as teams and gotten a lot better,'' added Spring Valley coach Brad Dingess. "It'll be a big-time fun atmosphere up there.''
Midland began its run with a 21-13 home win over Spring Valley on Aug. 24 in both teams' opener. The Timberwolves managed just 53 yards rushing while the Knights piled up 304 total yards with 297 coming on the ground.After dropping the opener to Midland, Spring Valley lost to Huntington in Week 2 before winning eight of its last nine games."They've played well,''' said Midland's Salmons of Spring Valley. "They've won a lot of games lately. They're a good team. They've been rolling and that's why they're in the position they are. They've gotten better from Week 1 to now.''"We seem to be peaking at the right time,'' added Dingess. "We progressively got better every week. That says a lot about our kids and our seniors especially. They've kind of kept those goals we set at the beginning of the year and are holding people to it. We're having better practices every day.''Both Midland and Spring Valley are coming off impressive opening-round playoff victories. The Knights dispatched Oak Hill 52-20 while the Timberwolves downed Wheeling Park 31-7 for their first postseason win in 10 tries.Midland and Spring Valley also feature strong running games behind big, solid lines and talented backs.Midland's David Gaydosz has led the way with 1,719 yards and 25 touchdowns, followed by Lowell Farley's 1,335 and 16 scores, Steve Matthews' 591 yards and seven TDs and Kasey Thomas' 601 yards and four TDs. Knights quarterback Coy Pettit has passed for 681 yards with five TDs and five interceptions."Our defense has played really well,'' said Spring Valley's Dingess, who saw the Timberwolves return an interception for a TD last week and force four other turnovers. "We've been able to limit our opponents' big plays and make them drive the field on us. We've controlled the line of scrimmage and when you run the ball and control the clock you're going to win a lot of football games.''Elijah Wellman and Ryan George have been Spring Valley's 1-2 punch out of the backfield. Wellman has rushed for 1,556 yards and 15 TDs while George has chipped in 1,157 yards and 15 scores. Timberwolves signal-caller Tyler Brown has thrown for 577 yards with seven TDs and four picks and has contributed on the ground with 330 yards and a score."It just comes down to the fundamentals,'' Salmons said, "taking care of the ball and tackling. That's just what football comes down to, especially when you're playing better teams. It comes down to the mental mistakes. When we play bad it's because of turnovers.''Salmons said Midland having the added pressure of the top ranking and an unbeaten record hasn't fazed the players.
"It really doesn't mean anything at this point,'' he said. "It might mean something to someone else, but to us we play at home and we play a good team and that's the next game we have to play. They're pretty focused. They've had a pretty focused week.''Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4811.