GW's Draven Riffe has rushed for 1,672 yards and 21 touchdowns despite missing three-plus games due to an ankle injury.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- In some strange way, Draven Riffe's nagging ankle injury could prove to be a pain in Huntington's preparation for Friday's Class AAA quarterfinal at Bob Sang Stadium.Riffe, a senior and the leading rusher for George Washington, has missed about 31/2 games because of his ankle, which prompts the Patriots to insert fellow senior Jacob Jackson into the lineup as the lead ball-carrier.Because the two are different sorts of runners - but both productive -the No. 1 Highlanders (11-0) might not know just what they'll be seeing when they line up against No. 8 GW (9-2) Friday night at 7:30.Riffe, more of a slashing, between-the-tackles back, has run for 1,672 yards and 21 touchdowns this season, while the shifty Jackson, who makes use of cutback lanes and his ability to make tacklers miss, has gained 1,270 yards with 15 TDs.
"I don't know how many problems people worry about or we cause people,'' said GW coach Steve Edwards Jr. "We're just fortunate we have the opportunity to have both of them back there. Both have produced real well and the offensive line has done a real good job."It's all keyed on what's happening up front. If we do our jobs, those guys are capable of doing their jobs with the football. That's the nuts and bolts of it. I don't know if people worry about what we do one way or the other. We feel good about having both proven, quality backs either way we go.''Highlanders coach Billy Seals notes that GW's plan of attack doesn't change according to who lines up in the backfield - the Patriots still want to hammer the ball downfield. But the angle it comes from varies."Schematically, they still want to do similar things,'' Seals said, "whether it's Riffe or Jackson on the field."Riffe is more of a north-south runner, a kid who we feel once he gets his shoulders square is a tough, tough running back to get down. Whereas Jackson is more of a scatback - the kid's pretty elusive and has a little more quickness than the Riffe kid. Both have been very, very good for them, and everything starts up front with those monsters on the offensive line.''Perhaps as a ruse, perhaps not, but GW started last week's first-round playoff game against Oak Hill with both Riffe and Jackson flanking quarterback Jon Alexander in the shotgun formation. That formation lasted the first series, then Riffe took over as the lead runner until aggravating his ankle injury midway into the third quarter.Jackson then came into the game and finished out as the tailback, throwing the winning touchdown pass on a trick play in overtime of a 21-14 win.Riffe is expected to return for Friday's game, Edwards said, along with lineman Jack Skidmore, who has also been sidelined with an injury.Edwards said the two-back formation was "a different look,'' and hinted that the Patriots could use it again."If we'd have had a dry surface [Friday night], you might have seen more of that,'' Edwards said. "Those are the kinds of things you work on, and you got to see it a little bit. You never know if you're going to see it again or not."We're happy with both young men and they're good with it - all they want to do is win, and they're willing to do whatever it takes. That's the refreshing thing about this whole ballclub - they do whatever it takes.''
Huntington's defense, however, has been one of the top units in the state all season, allowing only 14 touchdowns in 11 games and holding potent playoff teams like Capital, Cabell Midland, South Charleston, Spring Valley and Hurricane well under their scoring averages."We've challenged our kids up front,'' Seals said. "We feel that GW is one of the better teams we've played on the offensive line. We've challenged our defense this week to play the best we can."It's a big challenge for us, and a big challenge for our program. We're excited about the opportunity to play GW at Huntington High. We haven't played GW since 2004. It's been a long time, and we're excited about playing one of the premier programs in the state. Year in and year out, their program has a chance to make it to Wheeling because of their good coaching.''Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or firstname.lastname@example.org.