Capital stymies GW 35-13
Anyone looking to write Capital's football obituary is going to have to wait. The Cougars certainly aren't done yet.
James Richmond and Kashaun Haley each rushed for more than 100 yards and quarterback Tyhree Pratt threw for a pair of touchdowns Friday night as the Cougars shocked everyone but themselves, running off with a 35-13 victory over state-ranked George Washington at Laidley Field.
Richmond and Haley ran for 129 yards apiece, Richmond on 13 carries (with two second-half TDs) and Haley on 14 attempts. Haley also caught a 54-yard scoring pass from Pratt, whose other TD toss went to Tyrell Davis from 1 yard out.
Rayqon Vanover helped seal the deal for the Cougars (5-3) when he picked off a Trevor Bell pass and returned it 21 yards for a touchdown and a 28-13 lead with 6:51 left in the game.
Second-half slumps contributed to Capital's three losses earlier this season and put its playoff hopes in peril, but on Friday it broke away from a 7-all halftime tie against the Patriots (6-2), snapping their five-game winning streak and soiling their No. 4 ranking in Class AAA.
"I think this is supposed to be where I take all the credit and say how smart I am,'' said Capital coach Jon Carpenter, "but I skipped practice two, three times this week and let the assistants go. Our young guys grew up. I've got to give the kids and the assistant coaches all the credit.''
The Cougars were able to contain GW tailback and Kennedy Award winner Ryan Switzer, holding him to a season-low 130 yards for a full game on a season-high 29 carries. Switzer failed to score a touchdown, halting a 20-game streak of getting at least one TD.
Switzer's longest run on Friday was 16 yards after he came into the game with 13 TDs of more than 50 yards.
"I love the D-line,'' said Capital defensive lineman Jaisson Dyer, who figured heavily into holding GW to 173 net yards rushing. "I love them to death. We were doing what we had to do. We were doing it. We have focus on what we've got to do this year, and it turned around this game.''
Switzer had only 69 yards in GW's opener against South Charleston, but exited that game with a concussion less than halfway through the first quarter. He sat out GW's only previous loss the following week against Ashland (Ky.), and had been averaging 291 yards for the five games since his return. He got less than half that Friday.
"I kept telling our linebacker [Jonathan Pittman] to keep an eye on 31 and 32 [GW fullback Dustin Crouser],'' Haley said. "If we stop them, we stop the run game, and we're going to win.''
GW coach Steve Edwards Jr. said Capital didn't do anything different from other opponents in its quest to slow down Switzer. The Cougars just did it better.
"They played harder than our kids,'' Edwards said. "They took it to us, and that happens. Their kids were hungry and played like they were hungry. They outplayed us in all facets of the ballgame.
"I felt like our kids didn't answer the call when they should have. They missed a lot of plays, missed a lot of opportunities. But credit [Capital's players]. They kept us out of the end zone several times. They can talk youth all they want, but they've got a lot of game-time experience over there. They did a really nice job preparing. They had a chance to turn away, and they didn't. They took advantage of us.''
The action really heated up in the second half.
Haley ran a fake punt 46 yards on fourth-and-14 from his own 48, putting Capital at the GW 6. Three plays later, Pratt sprinted left from the 1 and found a diving Davis in the end zone for a tiebreaking TD, putting Capital up 14-7.
GW drove 51 yards for its second score, an 8-yard Bell to Jacob Jackson toss in the left flat - their second scoring connection of the game. The extra-point attempt by Reed Deer, however, never had a chance as three Capital players arrived the instant he put his foot to the ball, snuffing out the try and leaving the Cougars ahead 14-13.
Richmond then got a do-over during perhaps the game's most crucial period.
From his own 40, Richmond took an option pitch, cut back against the grain and looked ready to sprint 60 yards for a TD. Switzer, however, tracked Richmond down at the goal line, coming all the way across the field to knock the ball loose as the two tumbled into the end zone. Switzer came up with the ball for a touchback.
But the good feeling lasted only a few seconds for the Patriots. On GW's second offensive play, a bad snap to Bell out of shotgun formation was covered by Capital's Khalil Bush at the Patriots 19. On the next play, Richmond broke off his first TD run.
"We had a big break right there,'' Edwards said, "but we had the bad snap. Those things are a lack of concentration. Plus, the other team forces you into a lack of concentration sometimes. They out-effort you sometimes.''
GW, now down 21-13, had to punt it away on its next two possessions and the third one ended with Vanover's pick-six for Capital.
The Patriots were forced to go for it on fourth-and-2 at their own 34 on the ensuing drive, but Pittman and James Walton submarined Crouser for no gain. That set up Richmond's 2-yard TD run with 2:54 to go that bumped the margin to 35-13.
Carpenter said he wasn't aware of what scheme his defensive coaches were using, and didn't care to know.
"I stay away from those defensive guys,'' Carpenter said. "I don't want to know the game plan. Just get me the ball back. I think our kids did a good job playing the box in front of them. That's what's hard about being a young guy. You have to trust what you've been coached to do. I think we did that tonight. If we could afford game balls, we'd give one to all of them, and give all the defensive coaches one.''
Pratt hit on 5 of 14 passes for 86 yards, and GW's Bell completed 8 of 16 for 73.
Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or firstname.lastname@example.org.