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Pressure's on Capital, Hurricane

Kenny Kemp
Capital's James Walton (55) and Savion Brown close in on Cabell Midland's Coy Petitt (12) during Friday night's game at Laidley Field.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- It's perhaps do-or-don't time for a couple Kanawha Valley Class AAA teams.

Capital and Hurricane, each hoping to make the playoff field in three weeks, face difficult challenges Friday in their home games.

The hard-luck Cougars (4-3) welcome a visit by neighboring power George Washington (6-1) to Laidley Field, while the Redskins (5-2) host better-than-its-record Spring Valley (4-3).

Following last week's 21-13 loss to No. 1 Cabell Midland, Capital finds itself in a tricky spot as far as the postseason. Not only do the Cougars have the No. 4 Patriots up next, but they close the season against Woodrow Wilson (5-3) and Huntington (6-1).

A 6-4 record might be good enough for the youthful Cougars to qualify, but they still need to turn around their misfortunes against some of the state's best teams. At this point, their three losses have come by a total of 14 points to the teams who will most likely be listed first (Midland), seventh (Hurricane) and 16th (South Charleston) in next week's SSAC ratings.

Close hasn't been good enough for Capital coach Jon Carpenter and his team, but he's still "encouraged'' by his team's effort.

"Yeah, we're encouraged,'' Carpenter said following Friday's loss. "We think we should have scored there at the end and made it 21-21. We had every chance to win that one. I'm more disappointed in myself, and not the football team. All these guys played hard.''

In GW, Capital will have to contend with a team that's hitting its stride since the return of senior tailback Ryan Switzer.

Switzer, who missed most of the Patriots' first two games with a concussion, and his team have ripped off five straight victories since falling to Ashland (Ky.) Paul Blazer. In that five-game stretch, Switzer has averaged 291 rushing yards and run for 18 touchdowns.

Last year, Switzer gained 227 yards and scored twice in GW's 39-29 win over Capital.

Hurricane, meanwhile, sits in pretty good position following its third straight victory - a 44-20 conquest of Greenbrier East. The Redskins should be in the top eight of the next playoff ratings list, which would be good enough for home-field advantage in the first round.

However, Hurricane can't take anything for granted the rest of the way, since following its game with Spring Valley, dates loom with Logan (5-2) and Midland to complete the regular season. The Redskins lost to both those teams to conclude the regular season last year.

The Timberwolves, who possibly project into a tie for 12th in the next AAA ratings, have been almost as luckless as Capital against a tough schedule. Spring Valley's only three losses have come to three of the state's top four teams - Midland, Huntington and GW.

Running in tandem

A pair of teams near the top of the state ratings have proven that a share-the-wealth approach can work in high school football.

Cabell Midland, the top team in AAA, has already seen a pair of its stable of running backs reach 1,000 yards for the season - tailback David Gaydosz and fullback Lowell Farley - while Scott has cemented its status in AA with a trio of ball-carriers.

Midland, which returned four of its five starters along the offensive line from last year, averages just under 400 yards on the ground per game, and besides Gaydosz and Farley features the bursts of Kasey Thomas and Steve Matthews. All four have turned in 100-yard rushing games this year.

"It's a good thing,'' said Knights coach Luke Salmons. "They know they're part of our offense, and if you don't have the ball, you've got to block. They know they can't be selfish. They're very focused, and very understanding. Winning helps that, too, but they understand.''

Farley said the team's secret comes down to hard work and dedication.

"It's been countless hours in the weight room over the winter and summer - all year long, working out, getting ready for the season,'' Farley said. "We haven't worked hard in past years, truthfully. When we get down in games and we're losing, we think of all that hard work we put in and [realize] we're not giving that up.''

Scott (6-1), a top-five team in AA, has hitched its playoff hopes to a triumvirate of backs that includes senior Robert Bias, junior Cameron Loftus and sophomore Tristan Crone.

Bias leads the squad, which averages a little more than 300 yards per game rushing, with a season total of 915 yards and eight TDs, while Loftus has 602 yards and nine scores and Crone 421 yards and 10 touchdowns.

"We feel confident with the backfield we've got,'' said Skyhawks coach Shane Griffith. They share their roles. They're not jealous.

"It's like a basketball team. You're looking for that guy that's got the hot hand. Sometimes different running backs feel it. They're seeing the gaps and the holes. At halftime, we see which one is reading the blocks well. These guys do a great job of sharing that role.''

Tommy R. Atkinson contributed to this report. Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or rickryan@wvgazette.com.


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