A little later in the season, it might be viewed as an elimination game for the playoffs. But when Winfield and Sissonville lock up Friday, it certainly qualifies as a desperation game.
Both the Generals (2-4) and Indians (4-2), Class AA postseason teams the past two years, need a win to keep their playoff hopes afloat this time around. They’re set to tangle at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Joe Sawyer Field in Sissonville.
Winfield comes into the contest with no margin for error, needing to run the table to ensure a winning season and remain alive for the playoffs. The Indians, meanwhile, hold down the No. 16 spot in the ratings, the final position that qualifies at the end of the regular season.
Sissonville’s current chances are obviously stronger than Winfield’s, but both teams are playing with fire. In the first two seasons of the SSAC’s new reclassification system that supersized the Class AA division, just one team with a 6-4 record has managed to slip through to the playoffs — that was Robert C. Byrd last year in the No. 16 spot.
“We know we’ve got to start winning,’’ said Winfield coach Craig Snyder, “and we need to win Friday.’’
Since leading rusher Chance Jones went down with an ankle injury about a month ago, Sissonville has leaned heavily on senior quarterback Will Hackney, and he has delivered. Hackney leads the Cardinal Conference with 1,805 passing yards and 23 touchdowns and also tops the team in rushing (457 yards, six TDs).
“He’s just a cool customer at quarterback,’’ Snyder said. “You watch him play and the way he runs and scrambles around, he’s very aware. He throws the ball well and runs the ball well; everything centers around him.
“We’ve got to work to contain him, change things up on him. When you do the same thing every time defensively, a kid like him will just shred you because he understands what you’re doing. I worry more about him on broken plays. He scrambles around and finds receivers as well as anybody.’’
Winfield’s starting quarterback, junior Nick Vance, made his return in last week’s loss to Poca, hitting on 14 of 34 passes for 152 yards and one TD. Vance had missed the two previous games owing to problems with the ankle he broke last year.
“Chronic swelling was an issue,’’ Snyder said. “It wasn’t a structural thing; it’s part of the recovery process. The rest helped him get it under control. He hasn’t gotten to play a lot of quarterback, so the more he plays there, the better quarterback he’ll become.’’
The Generals’ John Covert needs 74 yards rushing to reach 1,000 for the season. He’s also run for 12 touchdowns.
Winfield took last year’s meeting against Sissonville 46-14 despite running for only 201 yards, more than 100 below its average. A muddy track at Sawyer Field on Friday could play into the Generals’ game plan.
Parkersburg (4-3) at Hurricane (3-4): The Big Reds put a three-game winning streak on the line at Redskin Stadium. These teams have met just twice in the previous 10 years, each winning once. Parkersburg prevailed last season 35-7 as receiver Brenton Strange caught six passes for 114 yards and a touchdown. Hurricane’s Christian Hill was injured in that game after just three carries.
Riverside (1-5) at South Charleston (1-5): In the new world of AAA football, neither of these teams is close to being eliminated from playoff contention, as the Black Eagles and Warriors are No. 22 and 23, respectively, in the ratings, with the top 16 advancing to the postseason. Currently, only 12 teams in West Virginia AAA sport winning records.
St. Albans (1-5) at Spring Valley (7-0): The Red Dragons have played four teams currently inside the top 16 of the AAA playoff ratings and have gone 0-4 in those games, being outscored 233-13. The Timberwolves, No. 1 in the Class AAA ratings, have won their last 15 regular-season games. Last year, they handed a 46-7 defeat to St. Albans.
Valley (0-7) at Buffalo (0-6): Only five winless teams remain in Class A, and that number should drop by one after this game. The Bison have won two of three since the series was revived in 2015, but the Greyhounds prevailed last year 28-7, holding Buffalo to 96 total yards. That marked the first true night game for Valley, which unveiled its new lights.
Woodrow Wilson (2-4) at Cabell Midland (3-4): The Knights have taken 10 straight in this series by an average score of 48-12. Last year, Midland tailback Ivan Vaughn, one of the MSAC’s rushing leaders, sat out the game but his team still rolled up 464 yards on the ground in a deceiving 44-19 victory. The Flying Eagles trailed just 14-13 after three quarters.
Ripley (5-1) at Greenbrier East (4-2): The Spartans, off to their best start since a 5-1 mark to begin the 1998 season, on Friday honor their 1988 team that lost to Charleston in AAA title game. The Vikings, seeking their first playoff berth since 2009, have won five straight, their longest streak since taking six in a row between the 2008-09 seasons.
Chapmanville (4-2) at Wayne (4-2): Odd stat: The Pioneers, riding a four-game win streak and a longtime run-heavy program, have turned in just one 100-yard rusher in any game this season, but have allowed six 100-yard efforts from their first six opponents (Winfield had two). The Tigers’ Nick Collier has rushed for at least 107 yards in his last five games.
Scott (1-5) at Mingo Central (4-2): The Skyhawks are having a rough season, having lost quarterback Michael Clay to injury, and now face a Miners team averaging nearly 41 points per game. Caleb Hughes ran for 287 yards and three TDs in Scott’s loss to Logan last week. Mingo Central won this game last year 52-0, throwing for 321 yards.
Point Pleasant (5-0) at Meigs, Ohio (2-5): The Big Blacks, coming off a rare two-week bye, tackle a Marauders team that’s allowing 33.4 points per game. Last year, Point earned a 56-16 win in this matchup as quarterback Cason Payne ran for 210 yards and three touchdowns on just nine carries and threw for 152 yards and two more scores.