It isn’t often that Sissonville gets the top seed in the Class AA playoffs. Heck, it isn’t often that the Indians even get to host a postseason game at Joe Sawyers Field.
But that will be the case Friday when unbeaten Sissonville (5-0), the No. 1 seed in AA, takes on No. 16 Elkins (5-3) on the Indians’ new FieldTurf playing surface. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.
Since Sissonville met Poca for the Class AA title in 1994, it’s only had two home playoff games in the SSAC’s 16-team field — as the No. 8 seed in 2013, beating Mingo Central 28-18, and as the No. 4 seed in 2016, losing to Weir 29-27. On the road, the Indians are 0-5 at playoff time since 1994.
In fact, the last time Sissonville brought the No. 1 seed into the postseason was in 1994 when it carved out a 12-2 record, losing to Poca 19-0 in the state finals.
Indians coach Marc Wilson knew he had a talented team before the current season began and was determined to test his squad. After COVID-19 concerns blew up most schools’ existing schedules, Wilson went to work getting games against bigger programs. He scheduled Class AAA teams Greenbrier East, St. Albans and Riverside. That helped the Indians garner enough points in the ratings to outdistance longtime AA powers like Bluefield and Fairmont Senior to take the top spot.
“We talked about challenging them this year,’’ Wilson said, “so we played three triple-A teams. We felt like we wanted to prepare our team physically and mentally to be successful. We’re not sitting here just because we’re the No. 1 seed by number and we feel like we’re by far the No. 1 team out here. The scheduling really played in our favor, and the shortened season of five games has helped us.
“Coming into this year, we felt like we’d be a very good football team. We’re happy to have the opportunity to be where we are. It’s set us up to have a deep playoff run.’’
Right on schedule?
Speaking of schedules — and making them up on the fly — there’s Spring Valley. The Timberwolves (4-1), the No. 6 seed in AAA, have played five games, and none of them were exactly old rivals.
The only fellow Mountain State Athletic Conference team Spring Valley met was Parkersburg, and that’s the first time they’ve played in the 13 seasons that Brad Dingess has served as the Timberwolves’ head coach. Their last game had come in 2004.
And as for Spring Valley’s other opponents — Martinsburg, Fairmont Senior, Oak Hill and Bridgeport?
“Every other game we played,’’ Dingess said, “we’ve never played those teams in the regular season at all. The only team we’d ever played out of those was Martinsburg [three times in the state finals 2016-18]. We’d never played Oak Hill, Bridgeport or Fairmont Senior in school history. It’s been difficult [getting games]. But you’ve seen what we did this year — we played anybody, we don’t care. We’d play on the road against a good team just to get a game in.’’
The Wolves played road games against AAA Martinsburg and Bridgeport and AA Fairmont Senior, with all three winding up in the top six seeds of their respective class.
Hurry-up ground gameEven at the high school level, most teams have a two-minute offense that calls for throwing the ball downfield to gain ground quickly. But a hurry-up running game?
Herbert Hoover can do just that when the timing is right, as evidenced in its regular-season-ending 14-12 home win versus Lincoln. Protecting a 7-6 lead in the fourth quarter, the Huskies went into hyper mode following a 31-yard pass from Nick Grayam to Jacob Burns on third and 16 from their own 14.
They sprinted to the line of scrimmage to snap the ball in rapid fashion again and again. In probably a little over a minute’s time, Hunter Bartley broke off gains of 29 and 10 yards, followed by Grayam runs of 11 and 5 yards, the latter providing a touchdown for a 14-6 lead.
“If we have a successful play on first down,’’ said Hoover coach Joey Fields, “and have the right field position, we’ll go fast. That’s just by me giving the signal, ‘Faster.’ We start fast and practice like that, but can always slow down. We can get some big, explosive plays and get our tempo going a little bit, and that’s how they want to play, but they can control that.’’
n Hoover’s first-round playoff contest against Liberty Raleigh on Friday marks the 600th game in program history. The Huskies’ all-time record is 282-316-1.
n Unbeaten Liberty Raleigh (6-0) has played just one game since Oct. 2, that being a 31-14 home victory against Scott on Oct. 16.
n Hoover compressed more than a half-season into less than a month. In a 27-day span from Oct. 7 to Nov. 3, the Huskies played six games and picked up a forfeit.