Oak Hill takes on No. 1 Midland
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Class AAA No. 1 Cabell Midland has gained a reputation this season as one of the strongest run-first teams in the state behind a stable of solid running backs and one of the best offensive lines in the state.
No. 16 Oak Hill, which travels to Ona tonight to take on the top-seeded Knights in the first round of the Class AAA playoffs, will have a tough test on its hands in wrangling the duo of David Gaydosz and Lowell Farley.
The Red Devils, however, are no slouches in the run game themselves.
Oak Hill (7-3) has a strong duo of its own in junior Jalen Jones and senior Ray Sullivan.
"We're primarily a running team," Red Devils coach Eddie Souk said. "We throw a little bit but I'd rather run. It's all about working on your block schemes. Good things can happen if you've got good people running the ball."
Souk said K.K. Goodman was another option for Oak Hill in the backfield, and that as much as the Red Dvils run the ball they like to use that to set up play-action opportunities.
"If we have to throw it we will throw it," he said. "We run a lot of play action. That's basically the same thing Cabell Midland does."
Midland's Gaydosz and Farley have been perhaps the best one-two ground combination in the state this season. Gaydosz, who transferred to Cabell Midland from Winfield prior to this season, has run for 1,455 yards and accounted for 22 touchdowns while Farley has amassed 1,260 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Knights coach Luke Salmons, who starred as a player at Ravenswood High and Marshall, said despite his team's success this year they have to stay focused to keep their season alive.
"Whenever we've played this year we've played well but we haven't put a complete week together," Salmons said. "We've won but at the same time we don't feel like we've played our best. We can't commit penalties and hurt ourselves. We've got to stay focused. We can't be first-and-20 or first-and-25. We've got to move the chains and that's a key to winning - focusing on being mentally tough."
Salmons, who took Lawrence County (Ky.) High from an 0-11 record his first season to 13-1 his second season prior to arriving at Cabell Midland, said his team knows it has a target on its back but is happy to have brought the Knights to the top spot in West Virginia's largest division. He said as a coach there is always the worry with a good team that it might look past a team early in the playoffs, but he does not think that's going to be an issue with Midland.
"They've been No. 1 pretty much since the rankings came out so you worry about that as a coach," he said. "They've been businesslike and had ups and downs through the season and have still been able to win. They're hungry. They don't talk about it. They're more mature than a lot of teams I've coached, and you don't have to do certain things with them."
For Souk and the Red Devils, getting past Midland will be a challenge, but the longtime coach said his team knows what it is up against and is ready for the challenge
"They're good offensively and they're good defensively," Souk said. "They don't give up many points. You don't go undefeated in the MSAC unless you're a daggone good football team."
Reach Tom Bragg at email@example.com.