Usually, George Washington and Capital don’t need any extra incentive to get motivated for their annual game. But they’ve got it Friday night.
The winner of Friday’s 7:30 p.m. regular-season finale at Steve Edwards Sr. Field in South Hills definitely gets to host a Class AAA first-round playoff game next weekend. The loser might have to hit the road.
In the Cougars’ case, a win most likely puts them at seventh or eighth in the final AAA ratings, but a loss relegates them to 11th or 12th. The top 16 teams in each class qualify for the postseason, and the top eight get to choose the home field in the first round. A win for the Patriots probably means the seventh or eighth seed, but a loss could send them anywhere from eighth to 10th. In a couple of scenarios, the two teams could even finish 8-9 and meet again in the first round.
“It’s always important if you can host a game and don’t have to travel far,’’ said GW coach Steve Edwards Jr. “That’s my experience of being in the playoffs, and I’m sure anybody else would say the same thing. Really, we were just shooting to get into this tournament all along, and now we have a chance to better ourselves and our position. It might put a little bit more on the game. The game itself is important to a lot of our kids, and it’s important because it’s the next game.’’
When talking to his team, Capital coach Jon Carpenter doesn’t dwell on the impact of Friday’s game on the playoff ratings, or on the rivalry with the crosstown Patriots.
“I just think we want to win Friday night,’’ Carpenter said. “I don’t ever look at any of that [ratings] stuff. I’m not smart enough to crunch all those numbers and all that stuff. I just want to win Friday night.
“You’d think [the rivalry matters], but really — and we talk about this all the time — no matter who we play, it’s like everybody wants to play their best game against Capital High School, so every game’s a rivalry. I don’t think our kids look at any one of them different than the rest. In our conference, they’re all big games. Now, we have gone up there and laid an egg before, but I don’t think [the rivalry] matters.’’
Friday’s showdown figures to be strength versus strength when GW has the ball. The Patriots get 77 percent of their offense from the passing game, led by junior quarterback R.T. Alexander, who has thrown for 1,870 yards and 24 touchdowns. One of Capital’s most-talented areas is its secondary, led by defensive backs such as Kerion Martin, Karrington Hill, Tay Calloway and Josh Martinez.
“That’s probably right,’’ Carpenter said of the importance of that matchup. “We’ve got some of our older guys there, and we can’t let [Alexander] stand back there and play 7 on 7 against us.’’
Edwards acknowledged that Capital’s speed in the secondary could prove difficult for GW’s passing attack.
“Capital is very talented — they’re talented all over the place,’’ he said. “They’re really talented in the secondary — they’ve got three, four guys who can flat out play with real good speed. Heck, they’ve probably got 25 guys faster than anyone on our team, so the speed advantage goes to them. We’ll try to find some holes, try to get some guys open and keep them honest, try to control the football a little bit.
“It’s a typical GW-Capital matchup. So probably on paper, they’re a little bit ahead of us. Pretty much everybody’s ahead of us on paper.’’