Not long ago, the thought of George Washington making a defensive stop to win a game — much less against an All-State running back — would have been wishful thinking.
The Patriots’ youthful line has been far too generous giving up ground yardage in recent years, an ailment that reached epidemic proportions last season when they allowed an average of nearly 312 rushing yards per game.
But some of that appears to be getting fixed, as GW earned a 28-27 overtime victory last Friday against Hurricane by making a statement stop to end the game. That win pushed the Patriots into a tie for the No. 12 spot in this week’s SSAC Class AAA ratings.
Hurricane, trailing by one point after Hill’s touchdown in OT, opted to run Hill into the middle of the line for a potential winning 2-point conversion. However, senior linebacker Vincent McCray darted into the backfield, hit Hill in the legs first, then got plenty of help stacking him up less than a yard from the goal line, securing GW’s victory.
“They kept believing they could do this,’’ said GW coach Steve Edwards Jr. “For us to make some plays like we did, it’s what we needed to have.’’
Hill, an All-State running back the past two seasons, ran for 120 yards and two touchdowns, but became just the second 100-yard rusher GW has allowed this season, a far cry from last year when the Patriots were gashed nearly every week, especially in a 410-yard effort by Riverside’s Caden Easterling. Through six games this season, the Patriots are yielding only 201 rushing yards per contest, down even from the 222 yards they permitted in 2017, their last playoff season.
And on top of that, GW seems to be getting its own ground game in order. The Patriots came into Friday’s game averaging a meager 48 yards rushing, but nearly tripled that figure against Hurricane, gaining 129 yards on 33 carries, a figure that would have been higher if not for a pair of quarterback sacks.
“We’re just getting better,’’ Edwards said. “We’ve got five sophomores up there [in the offensive line rotation], and they’re getting a little more seasoning, getting a little bit better. They did a great job. We’ve just got to continue working. We’re making a ton of mistakes, but we played really hard and sometimes when you do that, you make your own luck.’’
Infractions correctionsIt’s been a bumpy ride at times, but Capital appears to be making some headway in cutting back on penalty yardage.
In six games, the Cougars have been flagged an average of eight times for 70 yards. Not terrific, but compared to last year when the averages were 10.5 penalties for about 93 yards, there has been improvement, but it’s been spotty. One game after not having a single penalty in the first half, Capital was hit with 13 flags in a recent win against Parkersburg.
“It comes down to discipline sometimes,’’ said Capital coach Jon Carpenter. “I hate to hear the word ‘undisciplined,’ and to me undisciplined penalties are hitting people late, jumping offside, not lining up correctly, too many men in motion — those are undisciplined penalties. And I don’t remember too many of those. As a coach, you don’t spend all day Sunday wondering, ‘What do we have to do to avoid that?’
“We don’t teach holding, either, but that happens every now and then some games.’’
Nitro on the riseWith a 3-3 start, Nitro has already matched its highest number of wins in a season since 2007, its last playoff year.
The Wildcats are getting strong efforts from players like quarterback Trevor Lowe and running back Cameron Foster, but some other players are also garnering attention who were perhaps question marks in the preseason, like junior receiver-defensive back Anthony Jackson (6-foot-1, 175 pounds).
Jackson came into last week’s win against Logan leading the team in receptions and also ran 75 yards for a touchdown against Herbert Hoover. He’s grabbed two TD passes and a pair of 2-point conversions.
“He didn’t come out to play until the midway point last year,’’ said Nitro coach Zach Davis. “He had never played football before, so he’s been learning how to play receiver and how to play in the secondary. He’s one of those guys that people didn’t know about who we think is a really good football player.’’
Hoover maneuverHerbert Hoover began the season with a main goal of improving its defense, which gave up 38 points per game last year and 35 the season before. The Huskies have lowered that figure a bit, to just under 29 ppg, even with nagging injuries to Ben Kee, the team’s 1,000-yard rusher and All-State linebacker from last year who has missed chunks of playing time.
One of the bright spots has been junior linebacker-running back Zach Paxton (5-11, 185), who is second on the team in rushing to Kee and also second in solo tackles, again trailing only Kee. Paxton has run for 273 yards and three touchdowns.
“He’s taken off 20, 25 pounds,’’ Huskies coach Tim Meyer said earlier this season, “and has kept it off, and that’s really helped him big-time at linebacker. He’s moving a lot better and hasn’t lost any of his pop. He still explodes through people, but gets there a lot quicker.’’