South Charleston’s streak of making the Class AAA playoffs four straight years could be on the line at 7:30 Friday night when the Black Eagles visit University of Charleston Stadium to play Capital.
The youthful Black Eagles (3-5), who close the regular season next week against Woodrow Wilson, have lost five in a row to the Cougars, but three of those setbacks have come by a touchdown or less, including 30-27 last year.
SC coach Donnie Mays is simply hoping his squad arrives at the stadium relaxed and prepared to play a rivalry game.
“It’s a good thing,’’ Mays said. “Rivalry games are always fun. That’s what they’re there for. Our kids always have fun playing those games.
“This is good for us. We’re extremely young and trying to grow up. We’ve played a lot of games like we’re inexperienced. It would be nice to put one together and play like you’re seasoned veterans. We’re hoping to go in there, play as hard as we can and hopefully come together a little bit. Maybe they’ll click and understand what the guys next to them are doing, so they can do their job right.’’
The game pits Capital’s high-scoring attack, which averages more than 37 points per game, against an SC squad struggling to put up points. In their last four games, the Black Eagles have managed a total of just 13 points and were shut out twice.
“Defensively, we’ve played pretty well at times,’’ Mays said. “If you’re struggling to score, it makes it harder to win the game but you can still see the bright side on the other side of the ball, and we’ve definitely done well there. We’re getting better. It’s almost like it’s the preseason and the defense is ahead of the offense at this stage. But it’s not [preseason]; it’s Week 9.’’
In last week’s 23-0 loss to Huntington, SC held Highlanders tailback and Kennedy Award candidate Jadon Hayes to 90 yards on 24 carries, his lowest output of the season. His previous low was 145 yards versus Spring Valley.
Riverside (4-5) vs. Parkersburg (5-3) at Ripley: A game the Warriors need to win to stay alive for their first playoff berth since 2007. The Big Reds allow 221 rushing yards per game, but have picked off 15 passes and returned them for 223 yards and three TDs. For Riverside’s defense, linebacker Charlie Pierson leads with 71 total tackles and defensive end Austin Wheelis has 12 tackles for loss.
Poca (2-6) at Herbert Hoover (1-7): Dots freshman quarterback James Cook (1,079 yards, 13 touchdowns) is the program’s first 1,000-yard passer since Jake Payne in 2011. The Huskies ran for a season-high 190 yards in last week’s loss at defending Class AA champion Mingo Central.
Sissonville (5-3) at Nitro (2-6): Last year, the Indians threw for a season-high 333 yards in a 48-28 victory against the Wildcats. Nitro passed for 236 yards in that game, its second-highest total in 2016. Sissonville needs a win to enhance its AA playoff chances, as it stands tied for 18th.
Winfield (6-2) at Scott (3-5): The Generals are on a roll, having won four in a row and rising to No. 10 in the AA playoff ratings. In last year’s 34-20 win against the Skyhawks, Winfield QB Andrew Huff carried 38 times for 195 yards and five TDs. Scott averages about 312 yards per game rushing.
Lincoln County (3-5) at Buffalo (1-7): The Panthers and Bison have never met in football. Bison senior QB Ethan Burgess, a fourth-year starter, enters the game 47 passing yards shy of reaching 4,000 for his career. He’s also thrown 58 TD passes. He needs 271 yards in his last two games to hit 1,000 pass yards for a third season.
Huntington (8-0) at Woodrow Wilson (1-7): All that’s standing in the way of a 10-0 season and a possible No. 1 seed for the Highlanders in the Class AAA playoffs are wins against the Flying Eagles and next week against Cabell County rival Cabell Midland. The Flying Eagles have lost six in a row and average 11.9 ppg.
Cabell Midland (5-3) at Spring Valley (6-2): Rivals clash with possible Class AAA playoff home-field advantage in the balance; each team has already locked up a spot in this year’s postseason field. In last year’s game, the Timberwolves ran for nearly 400 yards in a 55-26 conquest of the Knights.
Ripley (2-6) at Roane County (0-8): The Vikings have lost six in a row and the Raiders have dropped 12 of their last 13 dating back to last season. Ripley emerged with a 55-13 win last year as Brayden Campbell passed for a career-high 208 yards with two touchdowns.
Mingo Central (8-0) at Chapmanville (5-3): The Miners need a win to remain in top two of the Class AA ratings, guaranteeing home field throughout the playoffs. Tigers require a victory just to maintain their playoff hopes — they begin the weekend No. 20 in the Class AA ratings and play Man next week.
Logan (2-6) at Wayne (7-1): Pioneers running back Michael Bartram has rushed for at least one touchdown in every game, something no one else in the Cardinal Conference has done. Wayne averages 289 rushing yards per game. Wildcats quarterback Chucky Felder has run for seven touchdowns and passed for three.
Westside (5-3) at Point Pleasant (6-2): Important game for the No. 8 Big Blacks, who are trying to lock down home field in the AA playoffs. QB Cason Payne, who ran for three TDs and threw for two in last year’s 52-14 win against the Renegades, stands 119 rushing yards shy of hitting 1,000 in rushing and passing for a second straight year.