One big prize awaits when the two smallest schools in Class AA tangle on the football field Saturday afternoon in Poca — a berth in the state playoff semifinals.
Frankfort makes the four-hour trip from Mineral County to Putnam County for a 1:30 p.m. date with the Dots in the quarterfinal round at O.O. White Stadium. The Falcons’ last trip to the semifinals was 2014, and Poca’s most recent venture to the final four came in 2003.
You’d never know those two programs feature the smallest enrollments among Class AA schools in West Virginia (Frankfort has 488 students, Poca 486). The run-oriented Falcons hit the road to knock off No. 4 Lincoln 21-17 in last week’s opening round, while the Dots got past Liberty Raleigh 28-6.
“They’re really good at what they do,” Poca coach Seth Ramsey said of the Falcons. “They run a lot of wing-T sets, but don’t run as much as traditional wing-T teams would. They sort of do what Scott and Wayne do with it, so we’ve seen some of it before.
“[Peyton Clark] is the best back we’ve faced all year. Their bread and butter is running the ball, and [Clark], they like to get him going on power, traps and inside stuff and then give the quarterback a few boots once in a while. They’re really good at setting things up — setting plays up and cherry-picking how you’re trying to play defensively. They do a good job of keeping you honest with the inside run game and the outside run game.”
The Falcons threw the ball just once in last week’s victory at Lincoln, but it came at an opportune time. Trailing 17-14, Luke Robinette threw a pass to John Anderson III for a 32-yard gain to the Lincoln 17, setting up Frankfort’s winning touchdown in the fourth quarter. That rally came a week after Frankfort outlasted Keyser 41-35 in overtime to end the regular season and secure the No. 13 seed in the playoffs.
“We don’t throw the ball a ton,” said Falcons coach Kevin Whiteman. “The people we play know we like to run the football. Obviously, we’ll throw passes depending on who we’re playing and what kind of defense they’re playing, and what they’re giving up.
“We’ve faced some good challenges this year, and we’ve been battle-tested the last two weeks with some good nail-biters and were able to pull it off. That goes a long way for your kids. We’ve definitely had some hard, physical games this year.”
Unlike Frankfort, whose quarterback has completed just 20 passes this season, the Dots tend to mix up their run and air games. Poca averages 207 yards rushing and 136 passing.
“I’ve watched a ton of video,” Whiteman said. “Enough video to burn your eyes out. They’re a talented team. They’re not 8-2 for no reason. They’ve got a lot of size up front and multiple weapons on offense. Their quarterback throws a nice ball, and they’ve got multiple guys to get the ball to. Anytime you face a line that’s got big guys, it’s a concern. Our guys are tiny compared to their line.”
Frankfort, which opened in 1976 as a consolidation of Ridgeley and Fort Ashby, made it to the Wheeling Super Six in 2014, where it lost to Bridgeport 43-7.