With the advent of a 29-team Class AAA, teams vying for playoff berths in West Virginia’s largest division must keep the big picture in mind.
Especially if they happen to stub their toe early in the season.
Such can be said of the Kanawha County trio of Capital, George Washington and South Charleston — all playoff veteran programs, and all of which have taken a loss in the season’s first two weeks.
Since more than half of the AAA schools will advance to the 16-team playoffs, teams can still get into the postseason with a 5-5 record (and perhaps even a 4-6), so it’s best not to get too discouraged following an early loss, or two.“This is one loss,’’ said SC coach Donnie Mays after a 49-17 home setback to Cabell Midland on Friday. “It doesn’t make or break your season. You have to keep going, and that’s what I was trying to tell the kids.
“South Charleston has got to stay together, and that’s what we always fight — to make sure that we stick together as a team and make sure we know what our plan is. The only people that matter are the people in those meetings and out on that practice field.’’
SC (1-1) won its opener against George Washington 13-12 before falling to Midland; Capital (1-1) lost at Johnson Central, Kentucky 31-20 in its first game before topping Riverside 44-14 on Thursday; and GW (1-1) bounced back from its setback at SC to win 14-7 at Ashland, Kentucky, on Thursday.
Many teams around the state can say the same thing, as only six AAA teams sport 2-0 records at this early juncture of the season — Huntington, Hurricane, Martinsburg, Musselman, Ripley and University. Two more — Parkersburg and Hampshire — are also unbeaten at 1-0.
All three of those Kanawha County schools are still expected to contend for a spot in the postseason. After all, Capital and GW have each qualified for the playoffs nine times in the past 10 seasons and South Charleston has made the grade seven of the last nine years.
However, all three could find themselves tested again this week, as SC hosts defending Kentucky 4A champion Johnson Central (2-0), George Washington gets a visit from Huntington (2-0) and Capital is at home against Parkersburg.
Mays realizes his youthful offensive line will face a big challenge against Johnson Central, which sports good size on either side of scrimmage. In fact, the Eagles average 6-foot-3 and 287 pounds on their offensive line.
“I expect us to get better up front,’’ Mays said. “We had some missed assignments again [versus Midland], and when you’re starting two sophomores and two juniors on the offensive line who have never played before, and one senior to go with them, you’re going to have mistakes.
“We were better in Week 2, and last year we just kept getting better and better each week. I feel like we improved throughout the year, so we expect to do the same thing this year.’’
GW faces a Huntington team that’s won games already this featuring its offense and defense — outgunning Belfry, Kentucky, 45-34 in its opener and shutting down Spring Valley 14-0 on Friday.
Capital, meanwhile, has won its last five meetings with Parkersburg, with the closest margin of 22 points. That ties up the all-time series between the schools at 13 apiece.
Another Class AAA head-knocker on Friday finds Hurricane (2-0) at Midland (1-1). Last year, the Redskins beat the Knights for the first time in six years.
Midland will be without one of its top running backs for a few weeks as Isaiah Duncan, a Marshall commit, deals with a bout of appendicitis that struck him on Thursday. In his stead, starting safety Griffin Adkins ran for 220 yards and three TDs in the win at SC. Ivan Vaughn added 193 yards and three TDs.
“Adkins was our leading tackler last year,’’ said Knights coach Luke Salmons, “but he’s been running at tailback forever in our system. Ivan ran fullback forever in the same system in middle school. They were just able to plug in there. They knew the plays. We had to help them, but we’ve been preparing for that reason in case it happened.’’
Some of the other top games around the state this week include — Class AA: North Marion (2-0) at Fairmont Senior (2-0); Scott (2-0) at Sissonville (2-0); Mount View (2-0) at Oak Hill (2-0); Class A: Shadyside, Ohio (2-0) at Magnolia (2-0); Wheeling Central (0-1) at East Hardy (2-0).
Huntington at George Washington
Hurricane at Cabell Midland, 7 p.m.
Johnson Central (Ky.) at South Charleston
Parkersburg at Capital
Nitro at Herbert Hoover
Riverside at Ripley
Spring Valley at St. Albans
Scott at Sissonville
Poca at Buffalo, 7 p.m.
Winfield at Chapmanville
Bluefield at Woodrow Wilson
Morgantown at Parkersburg South, 7 p.m.
Greenbrier East at Preston
Mingo Central at Logan
Point Pleasant at Warren Local (Ohio)
Roane County at Clay County
Man at Westside
Sherman at Valley, 5 p.m.
Tolsia at Lincoln County
Tug Valley at Van
Tyler Consolidated at Webster County, 7 p.m.
Wahama at Racine Southern (Ohio)
Contact Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @RickRyanWV