Friday’s tussle between Mingo Central and Winfield won’t be one of desperation — each team seems safely locked into the 16-school Class AA playoff field. It’s more about location — exactly where the winner and loser wind up in the playoffs, and how far they have to travel in the first round.
The Miners (7-2) and Generals (7-2), currently bound in a three-way tie for 11th with Wyoming East in the AA ratings, probably can’t climb into the top eight with a win in Friday’s 7 p.m. game at Winfield, which would keep them at home in the opening round, but a victory could allow them to avoid a trip to one of the top dogs like defending champion Fairmont Senior, Bridgeport or even a rematch with Cardinal Conference rival Poca.
It should also make for interesting theater, considering that the last two meetings between these teams were shootout victories for the Miners — 59-40 last year and 56-50 in 2017.
In last year’s game, Mingo Central quarterback Daylin Goad threw for 353 yards and four touchdowns, with record-setting receiver Drew Hatfield catching six passes for 206 yards and three scores. For Winfield, Nick Vance passed for a school-record 525 yards and three TDs and bullish John Covert ran for 102 yards and two scores.
Winfield coach Craig Snyder hopes to have Carson Crouch back from injury Friday, as Crouch could help defend against the elusive Hatfield.
“They’re unique to what we see a lot in the conference,’’ Snyder said. “They have a lot of guys who make plays, but everything is designed around making sure Hatfield gets a lot of touches. He’s phenomenal. Poca is the only one who more or less neutralized him. So we have our work cut out. Goad is super accurate and puts the ball where he wants it.’’
Winfield’s offense is more balanced than Mingo’s, but Snyder worries about ball protection, since the Generals committed a total of six turnovers in their only two losses (to Hurricane and Poca).
“When we turn the ball over, we put ourselves in a position where we can’t keep up,’’ Snyder said. “I feel confident we’ll be able to move the ball, but the big issue is if we can take care of the ball. In both our losses, we had tons of turnovers.’’
St. Albans (1-8) at Hurricane (3-6): The up-and-down Redskins still have a chance to qualify for the 16-team Class AAA playoffs if they capture their eighth straight win against the Red Dragons. Barring a colossal upset elsewhere in AAA on the final Friday of the regular season, Hurricane should wind up somewhere between 14th and 16th in the ratings, getting a first-round date with Martinsburg, Cabell Midland or Spring Valley.
Greenbrier East (6-3) at Riverside (4-5): The table is set for the Warriors to end a playoff drought that dates back to 2007. All they need do is win and they can finish as high as 13th in the AAA ratings. Even with a loss, Riverside shouldn’t fall below the 16th and final playoff spot — unless something shocking happens, like No. 16 John Marshall (4-5) beating No. 6 and heavily favored Wheeling Park (7-2) in their rivalry game.
Cabell Midland (9-0) at South Charleston (4-5): The Black Eagles are most likely already in the AAA playoffs, with many scenarios pegging SC somewhere between 13th and 16th, even with a loss to the unbeaten Knights. Again, that doesn’t include a rogue upset like John Marshall beating Wheeling Park. Midland has won the last six games of this series, including 41-7 last year, holding the Black Eagles to 154 net yards.
Roane County (4-4) at Sissonville (6-3): The Indians stand 18th in AA and to keep their hopes alive, they need to win and also have others ranked ahead of them lose (No. 15 Liberty Harrison vs. North Marion, No. 17 James Monroe vs. Point Pleasant). Last week, Roane knocked off then-No. 10 Liberty Harrison 35-12. Sissonville hasn’t played the Raiders since 2008, but leads the all-time series 9-7.
Poca (9-0) at Wayne (1-8): The Dots go for their first 10-0 regular season mark since 1978, and junior running back Ethan Payne needs two TDs to break the state’s regular-season record for points (263 by Pineville’s Curt Warner in 1978). The Pioneers blanked Poca 23-0 last year as Payne sat out with a hip injury. That gave Wayne 17 straight wins against the Dots, who last beat the Pioneers 7-0 in 2002.
Scott (1-8) at Nitro (3-6): The Wildcats seek a fourth win, which would be their most in a season since 2007, the program’s most recent playoff year. Sophomore quarterback Trevor Lowe needs 18 rushing yards to reach 1,000 for the season; he’s already posted his second straight 1,000-yard season as a passer. Nitro beat the Skyhawks last year 20-14 as Lowe threw for 168 yards and a TD.
Logan (1-8) at Herbert Hoover (3-6): A win against the Wildcats gives Hoover its best record since 2016, its last playoff season. Logan won last year 52-30 as it ran for 526 yards and six TDs. The Huskies’ Ben Kee carried 27 times for 204 yards and two scores in that game. If Kee repeats that feat, he’d be close to a second straight 1,000-yard season despite missing two games with an injury.
Wahama (3-6) at Buffalo (5-4): The Bison enter the game No. 20 in Class A, and probably can’t climb into the top 16. However, they can secure their first winning record since 2016 and give third-year coach Brian Batman his first winning mark. Buffalo won this matchup last year 42-18 as Jackson England hit on 9 of 11 passes for 144 yards and Eli Brock ran 15 times for 94 yards and a score.
Ravenswood (3-6) at Ripley (3-6): It’s the 100th anniversary of the first game in this Jackson Country rivalry, which began in 1919 and finds the Vikings leading the series 42-40-4. It became known as the Hatchet Game (as in burying the hatchet) in 1955 after a short “cooling down’’ hiatus, enforced by the SSAC. Ripley has taken the last five meetings, including a 41-7 verdict last year.
Spring Valley (8-1) at Huntington (5-4): The Timberwolves have won three in a row against the Highlanders, and want to maintain their No. 3 ranking in AAA and pick up the possibility of two home playoff games. Huntington has the incentive of finishing in the top eight and hosting in the first round.
Parkersburg (5-4) at Parkersburg South (8-1): Both of these rivals are safely into the Class AAA playoff field, though the Big Reds can possibly climb into the top eight with a win and some help from other games to pick up a home game in the opening round.
Man (7-2) at Chapmanville (5-4): It could be a win-and-in scenario for the Hillbillies, who are 14th in Class AA and seeking their first postseason berth since 2015. Man beat the Tigers last season 18-14, just their second win against Chapmanville over the last 13 meetings.