Capital’s low point this season was undoubtedly the 41-0 shellacking it took at Spring Valley on Oct. 4. But as often happens in the Class AAA playoffs, there’s a rematch in the works that offers the Cougars another chance.
The same two teams lock up at 7:30 p.m. Friday, again at Spring Valley, in the playoff quarterfinals, as the No. 10 seed Cougars (6-5) try to break out of their funk against the No. 3 Timberwolves (10-1), their rivals from the Mountain State Athletic Conference.
This marks the seventh time Spring Valley and Capital have played since the 2016 season, and the Wolves have won the first six games. In fact, the last two meetings — including the Wolves’ 56-14 triumph in last year’s playoff semifinals — stand as the only two times Capital has lost by 40 or more points in the history of the program, which began in 1989.
Last month’s loss was sort of perfect storm scenario against the Cougars, who came into the game without injured leading rusher Tay Calloway and ended up committing six turnovers that fueled Spring Valley’s runaway win. Four of the Timberwolves’ five scoring drives started in Capital territory and the other TD was a 33-yard interception return by Brody Brumfield.
“They just couldn’t get anything going,’’ said Spring Valley coach Brad Dingess, “and we just played on one half of the field, and it snowballed. They had to take more chances, and we were just pulling away. It’s one of those games where you scratch your head and say, ‘Man, I didn’t expect that.’ And I don’t expect that Friday.’’
Capital was held to 72 total yards in the Oct. 4 loss, throwing five interceptions and losing a fumble.
“We’ve got to throw the ball better, obviously,’’ said Cougars coach Jon Carpenter. “It’s size versus speed, and we’ve got to get the ball out in space.’’
Capital’s top three receivers — Kerion Martin, Chance Knox and K.J. Taylor — were held to a combined five catches for 45 yards in the first meeting.
Shortly after that game against Spring Valley, Capital began tinkering with its offensive alignment, and moved Knox — its most experienced receiver — to running back. It’s paid off handsomely, as Knox ran for 154 yards and three TDs in last week’s 45-21 playoff-opening win at Wheeling Park.
“When they put him back there,’’ Dingess said, “we’ll have to do some different things in the [tackle] box than what we did before. It changes our coverages a little bit. With the athletes they have on the outside, it creates more problems.’’
Spring Valley banks on a balanced ground game, led by running backs Luke Christopher and David Livingston and quarterback Nate Ellis. Ellis had three short TD runs in the first game against Capital, giving the Wolves a 21-0 halftime lead.
Capital is riding a run of six straight appearances in the playoff semifinals — the longest current streak among Class AAA schools.