Capital riding high
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- With the successful past it inherited, it's kind of hard to believe that Capital's the program short on postseason experience for tonight's first-round playoff game against Musselman.
Kickoff between the No. 7 seed Cougars (7-3) and No. 10 Applemen (7-3) is set for 7:30 at Laidley Field.
Capital, formed in 1989 with the consolidation of Charleston and Stonewall Jackson, accounts for 10 Class AAA championships - three of its own, five by CHS and two by Stonewall.
But the Cougars didn't make the playoffs last year, and only sport two players who have ever started a postseason game - senior safety Davon Tyson and junior running back-defensive back James Richmond. Musselman, by comparison, is a senior-dominated squad that appears in the postseason for a second straight year.
Still, Capital coach Jon Carpenter doesn't expect his youthful squad to be overwhelmed by the whole experience.
"The biggest change for them this week is [the end of] daylight saving time,'' Carpenter said. "It gets dark at practice now. That's the first thing they noticed this week, but they got over it.
"Davon and some of those guys who have been here a while, they see that it's going to be over before long, and they've been telling the other kids don't take it for granted. They've had that conversation with them: Enjoy this, because you never know when you're going to be back.''
The work-in-progress Cougars are certainly riding a high the last month, as they closed the regular season with victories over George Washington, Woodrow Wilson and Huntington - three AAA playoff teams that were all ranked in the top 10 at the time of the game. Those wins shot the Cougars from 19th to seventh in the ratings and gave them a home playoff game.
"They've been grounded,'' Carpenter said of this players. "We've had good practices, and that's the barometer for how they respond - how well they'll come out and practice. Coaches like practice players. They've come out and worked hard all week, and that's been a good sign.''
Musselman isn't shy of experience anywhere, not even in the coaching position, as Denny Price, the all-time career wins leader in West Virginia, walks the sideline with the Applemen for a 40th season.
His team has been able to put a lot of points on the board, scoring 41 or more six times, which could indicate a shootout against a Capital squad that's tallied at least 35 points seven times.
However, Musselman's season also includes an inexplicable 73-0 wipeout loss against Martinsburg, the two-time defending AAA champ. Martinsburg is the only one of Musselman's seven in-state opponents that made the playoffs this year.
"Obviously, Martinsburg's a different cat,'' Price said. "They're good, and they've been good for a while. They put it on us pretty good. Other than that, our offense has done a pretty good job throughout the year.
"It's just that we've been more balanced this year than in the past. We're capable of throwing the ball fairly effectively and we have a couple of nice running backs. Most of our kids played as sophomores and juniors. We have a lot of seniors in the lineup, particularly the skill-position players, and that's helped us.''
Quarterback Caleb Dembeck (1,944 yards, 25 touchdowns) is a senior, as are running backs Josh Ferguson (1,067 yards, 14 TDs) and Maverick Keller (547 yards, six TDs). Top receivers include senior Darren Zombro and junior Trevon Wesco.
For Capital, versatile sophomore Kashuan Haley is expected to play after suffering an ankle injury last week that limited his practice time.
Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or firstname.lastname@example.org.