The season couldn’t have started any better for Charleston rivals Capital and George Washington.
For a third straight year, Capital ventured into Paintsville on Friday to play Kentucky 4A power Johnson Central, and this time rallied for a 28-21 victory, its first-ever win against the Golden Eagles.
One day earlier, GW ended a four-game losing streak to neighboring rival South Charleston in impressive fashion, rolling to a 45-30 victory. The Patriots scored two or fewer touchdowns in seven of 11 games last year.
“It’s great,’’ said Grant Wells, GW’s third-year starting quarterback who threw for 267 yards and three TDs. “I have never been undefeated before. I feel great for these seniors to finally beat these guys, and do it the way we did.’’
Capital’s accomplishment is sure to register across West Virginia Class AAA, as the Cougars beat a team that has played in the last two Kentucky 4A championship games. They did it with a high degree of difficulty, as senior quarterback and WVU commit Kerry Martin Jr. completed only two passes in the entire game while under heavy pressure.
Martin was 2 of 8 for 60 yards, but one of those was a 56-yard heave to K.J. Taylor inside of two minutes left in the game, placing the ball at the Eagles 17, from where senior fullback Kalai Clark barreled into the end zone for his second touchdown. Clark had two tackle-busting carries for 56 yards and two scores.
The win will likely prove valuable in the playoff ratings, since Johnson Central had gone 26-4 over the two previous seasons. But the Cougars, who visit SC on Friday, don’t want to think about that now.
“It’s still early in the season,’’ said Clark, who recently slimmed down from 326 pounds to 271. “So we’ve just got to keep working, keep working harder.’’
Capital’s win, in fact, may have started a budding rivalry with Johnson Central, which is scheduled to visit University of Charleston Stadium next fall. Cougars coach Jon Carpenter knows it’s hard to call it a series a rivalry until both teams prove they can beat the other.
“This is great for our kids,’’ Carpenter said. “This is a first-class deal here, and they have great coaching. We’ve just played two of the best football programs in our last two games against Martinsburg [in last year’s state semifinals] and these guys.’’
GW has had a long-standing rivalry of its own with a Kentucky team, Ashland Paul Blazer, since 2011. The Patriots have won five of the seven matchups against the Tomcats and, lo and behold, GW hosts Ashland this Friday at Steve Edwards Sr. Field in South Hills.
The Tomcats are already 2-0 following a 21-14 comeback victory against Raceland on Friday. In that game, Ashland quarterback Braxton Ratliff threw for 281 yards and two touchdowns, a 69-yarder to Andy Layne and a 99-yarder to Cade Brandt with 11:42 left in the game to erase a 14-13 deficit.
Ratliff’s yardage total marked the third-highest single-game effort in the history of the Tomcats’ program.
A few key injury notes involving Mountain State Athletic Conference schools:n GW linebacker-running back Dakota Cosby, one of the team’s best players, suffered a knee injury in the first quarter against SC and never returned to the game. He’s scheduled for an MRI Monday to determine if it’s just a bruise or something more significant.
n SC sophomore defensive end Zeiqui Lawton, a Division I prospect, left the game following the first play of the fourth quarter. He had to be carried from the field, but Black Eagles coach Donnie Mays said it was simply a case of severe leg cramps, and Lawton was given an IV. Lawton got his first varsity carries on Friday and gained 44 yards on seven totes, including runs of 10 and 13 yards.
n Parkersburg played its opener Thursday without perhaps its top athlete — receiver and potential D1 recruit Brenton Strange — who is bothered by a hamstring injury. Strange, who has received 18 scholarship offers, limped off the field after playing sparingly in last week’s MSAC Grid-o-rama at UC Stadium.
On top of that for the Big Reds, basketball standout-turned-wideout Dylan Shaver hurt his shoulder against Morgantown and didn’t play the second half. He caught two TD passes in the first half as Parkersburg built a 28-17 lead, only to squander that advantage in an eventual 45-35 loss to the Mohigans.