CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Confidence can come from many sources, and both Scott and Keyser seem sure of themselves heading into today's Class AA playoff quarterfinal in Mineral County.The second-seeded Golden Tornado (10-1) is in the second round of postseason play for a second straight year, and coach Sean Biser believes that fact has helped immensely."A couple people pointed out to me that it was a good idea to play our young players last year,'' Biser said, "but we didn't have any other choice."One thing our kids gained last year was experience. We struggled at times during the season, but we were able to make a run and get to the playoffs, and get to the second round. That was a huge experience for our kids, and I definitely think that helped us.''Meanwhile, No. 7 seed Scott (8-3) burst out of the gates this season with a 6-0 start and rose all the way to No. 1 in the playoff ratings.Then a rash of injuries, combined with a difficult part of the schedule, saw the Skyhawks drop three of their final four games in the regular season, and score just nine total points in those three losses.But coach Shane Griffith, who has taken his Boone County program to the playoffs eight times in his 13 seasons, thinks his team regained some of its confidence in last week's 46-16 win against Wyoming East in an opening-round playoff game."I think so,'' Griffith said. "We had a lot of big games early in the season, then we played Wayne there [a 47-6 loss] and sort of lost our breath a little bit. We had some injuries - three broken hands and two torn ACLs - and it was really a tough little stretch and we lost our confidence."But I think I saw some of our confidence and timing come back last week. The most important thing is we're peaking and we have our confidence at the right time. I told our young men I've gone in the playoffs a lot of ways - 9-1 and relaxed with two or three wins in a row, and I've gone in at 7-3 before. Who knows? Maybe that's enough to make it to the semifinals. When you're dealing with teenaged boys, you never know.''
Scott must find a way to consistently move the ball against a Keyser defense that's allowed only 12 touchdowns in 11 games."Their defensive line is just very good,'' Griffith said. "They really control the line of scrimmage. I think they have a lot of team speed defensively, so even if you block and run a play well, they have so much team speed that it makes it difficult to get a huge play on them.''The Skyhawks' main three ball carriers have combined for nearly 2,450 yards this season - Robert Bias (1,130 yards, nine TDs), Cameron Loftus (790 yards, 11 TDs) and Tristan Crone (526 yards, 11 TDs).Keyser counters with its own ground-bound attack, led by Danny Fife (1,042 yards, 21 TDs) and Blake Ravenscroft (925 yards, 11 TDs).Neither side prefers to pass all that much. Scott averages about 66 yards per game through the air and Keyser around 44.Griffith is no stranger to long road trips during playoff time - the Skyhawks trekked to Weir in 2005 and Berkeley Springs in 2007 - so this weekend's 41/2-hour venture shouldn't leave Scott travel-weary.
"It's just another road trip to us,'' Griffith said.He planned to have the team stay Friday night at a hotel about 45 minutes away in Cumberland, Md., eat dinner and hold team meetings in a conference room there and watch game video.Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or firstname.lastname@example.org.