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Game of the week: Winfield to test Hurricane’s run defense

F. BRIAN FERGUSON | Gazette-Mail
Winfield’s Zack Bratton gives a lead block for quarterback Andrew Huff to run the ball against Hurricane in last year’s game.

Hurricane coach Jeremy Taylor thinks he knows how Winfield will attack Friday night in their battle of Putnam County. Whether it works or not remains to be seen.

The Generals gained a lot of ground using their short-yardage Ram formation last season, utilizing both sizable quarterback Andrew Huff and elusive Zack Bratton taking direct shotgun snaps and following their blockers for chunks of yardage.

It helped Winfield reach the playoffs for the first time since 2005, but will it help the Generals get past their neighboring rival for the first time since 2009? Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Redskin Stadium in Hurricane.

“We know they’re going to run the ball a lot,’’ Taylor said. “I just can’t imagine them staying in that [Ram formation] the whole game. I really feel their game plan will be to keep us off the field, pound the ball and run the clock — try to get the lead and take time off the clock.

“I think their line’s solid, and in their system they’re going to be hard to beat.’’

With Huff, Bratton and versatile Nick Vance all returning to recharge the Winfield offense, it sounds like a good plan. Hurricane, however, brings back nine starters from a pretty fair defense, which should translate into strength against strength when the Generals have the ball.

“Everybody’s been telling me all summer it’s a good matchup,’’ said Winfield coach Craig Snyder, “our offense versus their defense. But maybe it’s their offense versus our defense that might decide the game, I don’t know.

“Last year’s game, we felt like we played well enough to win except that we turned the ball over and they were very disciplined. In that game, they were disciplined and we weren’t, in my opinion. We were very sloppy with that football and they created some of those opportunities. Maybe it will come down to that again.’’

Winfield actually outgained Hurricane 248 yards to 190 in last year’s game and had more first downs (14-7), but the Redskins won 28-15. The Generals committed three turnovers and nine penalties, and one of their three fumbles was returned for a Redskins touchdown.

Huff was both a 1,000-yard passer and rusher last season, throwing for a school-record 1,839 yards and 13 TDs and running for 1,129 yards and 20 scores. Bratton added 899 yards and 12 TDs on the ground and caught 19 passes for 319 yards. Vance had 22 receptions for 434 yards and four TDs.

Hurricane’s offense, meanwhile, is a work in progress as just two starters return from a 7-5 playoff team, one of them wideout Dakota Williams (25 catches, 460 yards, three TDs). All-State receiver Curon Cordon also transferred in from South Charleston. The Redskins have spent much of the preseason working Austin Womack and Nathan Roy at quarterback, trying to select their starter.

“We aren’t saying who yet,’’ Taylor said. “Both of them are good enough to start, but once we decide on a starter, we’re going to go with him. I’m not a fan of rotating quarterbacks. Now if one of them’s a runner and one of them’s a pocket guy, maybe, but they’re both pocket guys and both have had their good and bad moments.

“I thought we looked OK on offense in our scrimmages. I think we’re getting there. I think we’re coming together. On the offensive line, I think we’ve got five guys we can trust, and we’re looking for three, four more guys.’’

Hurricane has dominated the series in recent years, winning the last seven meetings, with five of those victories coming by 20 or more points. Winfield, now a Class AA school, was AAA the last time it beat the Redskins, that by a 17-16 score in 2009.

“It’s a huge game for us,’’ Snyder said, “but we’re probably the weakest team on their schedule now. I know they’ve got a Kentucky powerhouse [Paintsville] after us, then they go to their MSAC games. I would assume those games are important to them, so I don’t know their mindset.

“They own the series, obviously. They’ve won seven in a row. We may just be a nuisance to them, I don’t know.’’

Contact Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or rickryan@wvgazettemail.com. Follow him on Twitter @RickRyanWV.

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