George Washington coach Steve Edwards Jr. celebrated with the Patriots after last year's semifinal win at Bridgeport. To return to the Class AAA title game, GW will need another road win in the semifinals, this time Friday afternoon at Martinsburg.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Winning on the road in the playoffs is one of the hardest things to do in West Virginia high school football.Witness the remaining teams in the state semifinal round this weekend - with one exception, it's the top four seeds in all classes. The lone "long shot'' is merely No. 5 Morgantown in Class AAA.It's no accident that so far through two rounds, home teams have won 32 of 36 postseason games. There's really no place like home for the playoffs.That makes George Washington's task all that much tougher when it travels 51/2 hours to Martinsburg for a Class AAA semifinal showdown at 1:30 p.m. Friday.The No. 2 Bulldogs (11-1) have won 43 in a row at their home base, Cobourn Field, which has artificial turf.But the No. 3 Patriots (10-2) aren't rookies in this regard. They have a little experience in tackling tough playoff assignments on the road.Last year, again as the No. 3 seed, they traveled to No. 2 Bridgeport in the semifinals and pulled out a memorable 21-14 victory to earn a spot in the Super Six finals in Wheeling.GW's players and coaches expect to draw on that experience this week as they prepare for the long and winding road to the Eastern Panhandle."I'm hoping it helps,'' said GW coach Steve Edwards Jr. "Maybe a little bit with the mentality of how to prepare and what to expect.
"It's just part of the whole deal. Having the home field is definitely an advantage and that's why you play hard all through the season to earn it. Nothing's easy about going 51/2 hours, but it's something we've got to do the best we can with, and try to get the job done.''Ryan Switzer, GW's Kennedy Award-winning tailback, thinks the comparison between going to Bridgeport and going to Martinsburg is a fair one."I think it helps a lot if you look back at it,'' he said, "especially a place with a nice field. Martinsburg has nice turf and I know me and our guys like to play on turf."You look back at last year and how we prepared, and try to do the same things this year. Especially since we've never been to Martinsburg before and they've got a good atmosphere. It's something to look forward to.''Edwards said he selected the never-before-used 1:30 p.m. Friday kickoff slot because it fit the Patriots' schedule for the long trip."The time was available, and it works out good for us,'' Edwards said. "We don't have school either day [Thursday or Friday], so we can leave and stay one night. A 51/2-hour trip is awful expensive, and it's an awful long way.
"What we're doing is going up Thursday and stay the night and get up in the morning, eat and go play a ballgame. Then when it's over, we'll be able to get home at a decent hour. I don't know about other teams, but we don't want to turn this trip into a sight-seeing tour. It's a business trip. It's a trip to play football and get the job done. That's the way we're going to do it, and there's a lot less lag time. All the time has a purpose.''Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or firstname.lastname@example.org.