With the calendar flipping to November, the weather outlook for much of West Virginia is colder, wetter and windier for the rest of the prep football season.
So will teams that rely on passing offenses be negatively affected as the weather deteriorates? Rain and gusting winds are said to be the two best defenses against pass-happy attacks.
George Washington coach Steve Edwards Jr. isn’t so sure about that, and with the kind of team he has, you can see why he’s skeptical.
The Patriots have relied on junior quarterback R.T. Alexander during their rise to a 5-3 record and the No. 7 playoff rating in Class AAA. Alexander has thrown for 1,616 yards and 21 touchdowns, completing 111 of 181 throws (61.3 percent) and tossing just six interceptions.
Although GW’s rushing numbers have climbed in recent weeks, the team’s top ball-carriers for the season remain under 200 yards — D’Anthony Wright has run for 189 yards and Alexander 188. As a team, the Patriots average a mere 70.1 rushing yards per game compared to their 206.6 yards passing.
So if GW has to throw 30 times a game in increasingly bad weather, then so be it, Edwards said.
“More than anything, it’s just kind of a change,’’ Edwards said, “especially if you’re playing on dirt like at our house, and then it could be a problem. But playing on AstroTurf? To me, weather like that is not as bad. Of course, it depends how much rain there is and how wet the ball is.’’
A look at the top 13 of the current Class AAA playoff ratings — the teams most likely to host a first-round home game — finds that nine schools play on artificial turf fields, and just four on grass (Parkersburg South, Musselman, Spring Valley, GW). The top eight in the final ratings get home-field choice.
So if you’re a passing team like GW, chances are better that you’ll be playing on turf rather than grass come playoff time. That’s fine with Edwards, but he’d still rather not worry about the weather.
“We try not to make excuses,’’ he said, “or try to give our kids any crutches. We do what we do, and do what we need to do. We have to execute and do the things you need to do to be successful.
“Sometimes it’s going to be a little wet or cold — not as comfortable. But you’ve got to get comfortable being uncomfortable, if you know what I mean. Teams that do that are the teams that last.’’
Interestingly, GW has a leg up on other passing teams potentially dealing with foul weather in the postseason. One of the state’s best-ever passers, Nitro’s J.R. House (1995-98), was tutored by coach Scott Tinsley, who’s now an assistant on Edwards’ staff at GW. House threw for 5,526 yards and 65 touchdowns in all kinds of weather as Nitro went 14-0 and captured the Class AAA championship in 1998.
Ones to watchOnly two weekends remain in the regular season, and some very meaningful games will shape the 16-team playoff fields in all three classes. Here are a few of them this weekend matching top teams:
No. 1 Martinsburg (9-0) at No. 4 Musselman (8-1), Class AAA: A victory for the three-time defending champion Bulldogs means they don’t have to set foot outside of Cobourn Field, their home base, for the first three rounds of the playoffs, locking up a spot in the top two of the ratings. Why is that so important? Well, Martinsburg has won its last 54 home games against West Virginia teams, a streak that reaches 12 years on Nov. 2.
No. 3 Parkersburg South (8-0) at No. 6 Wheeling Park (6-2), Class AAA: The visiting Patriots seek their first-ever unbeaten regular season, closing it out with games at Park and home to cross-river rival Parkersburg. The host Patriots want to stay in the top eight to earn a first-round home game.
Paul Blazer, Kentucky (8-1) at AAA No. 5 Spring Valley (7-1): This one has postseason ramifications in two states. The team from Ashland is the first out-of-state opponent for the Timberwolves since 2004.
No. 2 Doddridge County (8-0) at No. 3 Williamstown (8-1), Class A: A spot in the top four could be at stake for the winner, which could guarantee the possibility of two home games in the playoffs.
No. 5 Midland Trail (6-2) at No. 5 Greenbrier West (7-1), Class A: The teams sharing the fifth spot in the ratings collide, with a high postseason seed at stake.
Honorable mentions — Class AA: No. 15 James Monroe (6-2) at No. 6 Bluefield (7-1); Class AA vs. A: No. 9 Man (7-1) at No. 18 Tug Valley (5-3); Class A: No. 1 Pendleton County (8-0) at No. 14 Moorefield (5-4).
Mingo marksmanshipWhat’s up with these remarkable passing combinations at Mingo County’s two high schools?
Recently, the Gazette-Mail documented the record-threatening numbers being put up at Class AA Mingo Central by senior wide receiver Drew Hatfield. He heads into Friday’s game at Chapmanville just nine receptions and 69 yards shy of breaking two of the state’s single-season marks.
Hatfield stands at 91 catches for 1,375 yards and 17 touchdowns with two regular-season games — and possibly a playoff appearance — remaining. Miners quarterback Daylin Goad has already thrown for 2,028 yards and 20 touchdowns this season.
However, down the road at Class A Tug Valley, there’s another connection of note between quarterback Ethan Varney and receiver Caleb May.
Varney has passed for 2,044 yards and 30 touchdowns, with May accounting for 67 receptions, 1,159 yards and 16 TDs with two regular-season games left. The Panthers (5-3) are currently 18th in the Class A ratings and just outside a playoff berth.