Perhaps it’s fitting that George Washington drew the No. 13 seed for the Class AAA playoffs. Because lately there’s nothing unluckier than getting a game at Martinsburg in the postseason.
Not only do the Patriots have a long trip to the Eastern Panhandle awaiting them Friday — about 300 miles and five-plus hours one way — but they’ll also be bucking recent history when they square off with the Bulldogs at Cobourn Field.
Martinsburg (4-1), the No. 4 seed that has won four straight state titles, has been unbeatable on its home turf in the playoffs. The Bulldogs have won 31 straight playoff games there, with their last such loss coming on Nov. 12, 2005 with a 26-21 setback to Hurricane in the first round.
GW coach Steve Edwards Jr. knows full well what awaits his team for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff Friday. He’s taken three of his Patriots teams to Martinsburg for playoff games in 2002, 2012 and 2016 and lost each time by respective margins of 36-14, 63-14 and 34-0.
“It’s still the same,’’ Edwards said. “It’s still a big trip. It’s still Martinsburg, and they’ve got a fine team, a great reputation. It’s going to be a heck of a challenge — it always has been, and they don’t look any different. We’re preparing to go at it with a good attitude and do the best we can do.’’
Martinsburg, under first-year coach Britt Sherman, has alternated two quarterbacks (Peyton Curry, Kevon Warren). Curry has thrown for 626 yards and 14 touchdowns with no interceptions, and Warren has passed for 354 yards and three TDs. Warren is also a threat to run, with 383 yards and seven TDs, trailing just Naieem Kearney (428 yards, seven TDs) for the team rushing lead. Anthony Smith (20 catches, 605 yards, nine TDs) is the top receiver.
“They still have those [gamebreakers],’’ Edwards said. “There might a few new names, but their actions are still the same. They have several guys who can go the distance with real nice speed. It’s no secret what they do, and they do it pretty well. We’ll have to be really good to give them a go for their money.’’
GW (3-2) is coming off a 21-0 home loss to Princeton, just the fourth time the Patriots have been shut out since 2005.
“If we’re going to have any chance,’’ Edwards said, “our skill has to perform. That’s just the bottom line. We challenged them [in that regard]. We didn’t have a very good outing last week, and we’re glad we get another opportunity to go out and do a little better.’’
No. 16 Elkins (5-3) at No. 1 Sissonville (5-0): The Indians play their first postseason game as the No. 1 seed since 1994, when they finished as the state runner-up. In Elkins, they get a team that recently transformed its single-wing offense into a wing-T formation, led by quarterback Rodney Vandevender.
“They’re mostly double wing,’’ said Sissonville coach Marc Wilson. “They do a good job and have some solid athletes and can get the ball in space. The thing about the wing offense is misdirection. You shut them down two plays and then play three, they bust you for a 50-yard touchdown. As a defense, you have to have consistent discipline play after play.’’
Vandevender leads the Tigers in rushing (582 yards, 12 TDs) and has thrown for 442 yards and three scores, but Elkins averages less than 10 pass attempts per game. TJ Guire (557 yards, five TDs) is second in rushing for the Tigers, followed by Dante Ramirez (477 yards, seven TDs). Ramirez also tops the team in receiving (15 catches, 253 yards, three TDs).
“It’s not that they can’t throw the ball,’’ Wilson said, “but they’re a 90 to 95% run team. They come out in a single-wing formation and direct snap it to [Vandevender] and they run the ball real well out of that. He does a great job of riding the midline, getting people to bite on the fullback and then keep the ball.’’
No. 13 Herbert Hoover (5-2) vs. No. 4 Liberty Raleigh (6-0): There are only six unbeaten teams left in the state in any class and the Huskies get one of those on Friday. All games around the state Friday kick off at 7:30.
The Raiders have met three playoff teams, beating Braxton County 26-20, Clay County 33-0 and Independence 36-26. Hoover lost to Sissonville 28-21 and Moorefield 24-22 and beat Doddridge County 31-14. They have no common opponents this season.
“Our guys played Clay last year,’’ said Huskies coach Joey Fields, “so we’ve got some [matchup] things on them. That’s part of the playoffs — usually you get teams you don’t play and see how you match up. Coach [Mark] Workman and [Mark] Montgomery got them believing in what they do. They get after you and try to outnumber you on both sides of the ball. They get the ball to the right guys and create space on offense, and they’ve got some guys who can really run. Then defensively, they bring more than you’ve got sometimes.’’
Liberty quarterback Isaac Atkins has thrown for 868 yards and 11 TDs, with Braden Howell his top target (16 catches, 382 yards, six TDs). The leading rushers are Ryan Simms (568 yards, eight TDs) and Atkins (431 yards, six TDs).