Four teams crowded into Underwood Field in Nitro Saturday morning for an opening scrimmage, and each came away with benefits.
Riverside and Morgantown, a pair of Class AAA squads, tangled with Class AA Nitro and Herbert Hoover as teams from around West Virginia got a taste of their first live competition in the preseason.
In an interesting twist devised by Nitro coach Zach Davis, all four teams were able to play simultaneously, making for less wasted time. Each AAA school was paired up with a Class AA counterpart and the two offenses set up at the 40-yard lines, heading toward the closest goal line.
Even with coaches and team personnel on the field behind the lines of scrimmage, there were few instances where the close quarters resulted in live plays running into trouble from outside sources.
Davis thought the two-hour workout provided exactly what his team needed.
“I thought our offensive line played really well today,’’ he said, “for it being their first scrimmage. I thought our quarterback, Trevor Lowe, threw the ball well and I thought we ran the ball well. If we would have hit the hole a couple more times, we would have had a couple more touchdowns. But I think our guys are progressing.’’
Davis said it didn’t matter that his squad lined up with AAA opponents; he still wanted to be able to move the ball.
“We’re looking to do it against no matter who we’re playing,’’ he said. “We don’t care if they’re double-A, triple-A, single-A. We’re going to play to our standard and try to be the best we can be.
“It’s just getting them confidence in what we’re doing and trying to help them get enough reps to get good at it. But at the same time, if you get too many reps, you can get injured in a scrimmage.’’
Nitro had one of the day’s few injuries as linebacker-running back Logan Vest hobbled off with a sprained ankle.
Riverside coach Alex Daugherty saw a lot of chunk plays by his offense, especially senior tailback Caden Easterling, but against Hoover a 20-yard sprint by Easterling was negated by a penalty and, a few plays later, the Warriors lost more than 10 yards following a sack by the Huskies’ Nathan Harper.
“We preach the little things at practice,’’ Daugherty said. “The penalties, we’ve got to tone them down and we can’t put the ball on the ground. But we saw some good things. I thought the kids played hard, and we’re going to be an aggressive defense, so I thought they were aggressive today.
“We got beat one-on-one against Nitro once, but we’ll get that fixed. We were playing man-to-man and got beat a little bit, but we came back and played hard. This type of game, the speed is always hard because in practice you can’t simulate it. There’s no way to practice that.’’
Daugherty also liked the fact that the Warriors got matched up with teams they don’t normally play or even scout, so they had to be resourceful.
“You don’t have film on your opponent, so you don’t know what they’re going to be in,’’ he said. “So we teach what we think we’re going to get, but at the end of the day, you don’t get what you think you’re going to get, so you just have to adjust.’’
Hoover, which allowed nearly 38 points per game last season, gave up some big plays to Morgantown and Riverside, but the Huskies also turned in several jarring tackles on defense for losses or no gain.
“We’ve talked about that earlier, how we have to improve on defense,’’ said Huskies coach Tim Meyer, “and we made that the focal point this year. In the past, we started out [practicing] on offense and then go to defense, but this year we’ve been doing defense first. We’ve really focused on pursuing the football and making sure we line up right.
“We had some mental errors and there were a couple times when we had a couple breakdowns, but for the most part I was really pleased with their effort and getting to the football.’’
For coach Matt Lacy and the Mohigans, a perennial Class AAA playoff contender, it was all about expanding horizons — they also got to run plays against programs that were unfamiliar with them, and they had to defend teams they knew little about.
The final round of scrimmages for state teams is set for Aug. 23-24, with the regular season kicking off the following week.