Hurricane closes at No. 1 Midland
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Jeremy Taylor hasn't even been Hurricane's coach for a full season yet, but he knows full well what's coming tonight in Ona.
His team, on the cusp of the Class AAA playoffs, runs into an unbeaten and No. 1-ranked Cabell Midland squad that likes to pound the ball on the ground - just in time for the chill and winds of November and the recent change of weather.
The Redskins will have to deal with the Knights' relentless running game at 7:30 tonight if they want to enhance their playoff status. Hurricane (6-3) enters the game ranked 10th in AAA, and a win would probably lock up a spot in the top eight and home-field advantage for the first round.
However, the Redskins have given up some yardage on the ground at times this season, and few teams run the ball like Midland (9-0), which averages about 390 yards per game on the ground, led by a pair of 1,000-yard rushers in David Gaydosz, a transfer from nearby Winfield, and Lowell Farley.
"But they're not your Jim Thornburg Barboursville any more,'' said Taylor, referring to the former coach at one of the schools that formed Cabell Midland. "They still come at you out of the wing-T, but they're more about speed. They hit the hole and break a couple tackles.
"Gaydosz, of course, is one of those kids we've been chasing around for years. Now he's even got a better line in front of him, and he's tough to stop.''
Hurricane, which allows 205 rushing yards per game, was torched in a 55-27 loss to ground-bound Spring Valley, which rolled up 656 yards.
"Cabell Midland's not like Spring Valley,'' Taylor said. "They're going to do some of the things they do. They're faster, and their offensive line is not as big as Spring Valley. They can move. Instead of 320 pounds, they've got 275 that can move. That's a big difference.
"At least we've seen the wing-T. The kids aren't going to be shocked when they see all that stuff this week. It all comes down to blocking and tackling. If we do that, we can be in the game.''
Unlike Hurricane, Cabell Midland - the last remaining unbeaten in Class AAA - can't enhance its playoff status tonight. The Knights are going to be No. 1 with a win or a loss, though a victory would give the school its first 10-0 regular season ever.
Taylor estimates that Hurricane will wind up either as high as sixth in the ratings or as low as 14th after tonight's game, so Knights coach Luke Salmons realizes he's going to get the Skins' best shot.
"We've been counting on that all week,'' Salmons said. "We've told our kids they want to beat you guys just like anyone else, but the difference is they want to get a good seed. We know we're going to get their best. They're not going to leave anything out - trick plays, they do a lot of that anyway, and they're going to play to win. We're going to have to do our best, too.''
Midland's two-platoon system, a rarity even for a Class AAA team in West Virginia, has allowed the team to remain fresh deep into the season.
"It really wears on a lot of people,'' Taylor said, "especially at the beginning of the year when there's a lot of heat. I don't think it's going to have as big an effect on us, but it's still going to have an effect. I don't think they'll be able to wear us down like some of the teams they play. We play 24 kids on offense and defense, so I think we'll be OK there as far as depth.''
Salmons said going 10-0 has crossed the minds of his players and coaches this week, but only because they begin the game 9-0.
"Through the course of the year,'' he said, "we don't talk about being 10-0. You're always pushing to win every game, but we don't talk about 10-0 or the playoffs until we get to the playoffs. We try to focus on each week and getting better and things like that.
"When we were 7-0 or 8-0, we didn't mention being 10-0. As the season goes on, each week becomes the most important game. Now we're at the point where we can be 10-0, and to be where we're at is a great honor. But at the same time, we want to beat Hurricane.''
Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or firstname.lastname@example.org.