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Lewis County has next shot at trying to contain GW's Switzer

Chip Ellis
Running back Ryan Switzer has posted his second straight 2,000-yard rushing season for George Washington.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The longer the season goes, the more George Washington finds teams willing to sell out defensively against running back Ryan Switzer.

Don't expect upstart Lewis County to ignore that script when the teams lock up tonight in the Class AAA playoff quarterfinals at Steve Edwards Sr. Field in South Hills. Kickoff is set for 7:30.

"I think you have to,'' said Minuteman coach Eddie Vincent of ganging up on Switzer, the 2011 Kennedy Award winner and North Carolina recruit. "The kid's so explosive and can score from anywhere on the field when he touches the ball.

"You have to try and keep him from getting the home run - the 70- or 80-yard run or punt or interception return. Sometimes the only way to beat them is to keep him from doing those kinds of things.''

Switzer was actually running ahead of last year's pace coming into the home stretch of the regular season, but three of his lowest career games have happened in the last month.

First, it was a season-low 131 yards (for a full game) on a season-high 29 carries in a loss to Capital - a night in which his 20-game touchdown streak was halted. The following week, the standard fell to 85 yards on 16 carries in a win over Columbus DeSales. After a big effort in a victory against Parkersburg, Switzer was limited to 105 yards on 15 attempts in a first-round playoff win over Hurricane.

Last year, Switzer had at least 145 yards in all but two games. Just as significant, he's finding it harder to break off his trademark 50-plus bursts for touchdowns. Against Hurricane last week, he managed just one run longer than 13 yards.

Part of that plan from opponents likely comes from Switzer no longer having his lead blocker, 230-pound Charlotte recruit Dustin Crouser, to clear his path. Crouser has been lost for the season with a knee injury.

GW coach Steve Edwards Sr. realizes that defenses locked in on Switzer can be vulnerable to other plays from other players.

"When you go to sell out,'' Edwards said, "you force somebody to beat you with another weapon, and it seems like that's what everybody tries to do. We've been fortunate that our kids - the ones we've asked [to help] have performed, and they're very capable of doing it, and we're very fortunate we're still playing.

"They've responded, and if they continue to do that, it continues to make us that much better. But we miss the big bull up front - the importance of him, a Division I player, sustaining blocks and the importance of him carrying the ball helps the whole situation. We've got to get guys to play their roles and perform up to their abilities.''

Quarterback Trevor Bell has been asked to do more in recent games for the No. 3-seeded Patriots (9-2), completing 39 of 57 passes for 570 yards and seven TDs over his last four games. That's more yards and TDs than he turned in over his first seven starts.

New fullbacks Trevon Johnson and Zack Malone have seen their carries and catches go up and Jordan Clay has 15 of his 28 receptions over the last four games.

"The thing about GW,'' Vincent said, "is that they've got [Switzer], but they've got other kids who can play. It's dangerous and scary to prepare for so many athletes.''

The wing-T attack of No. 11 seed Lewis County (9-2) will try to shorten the game and keep the ball in the hands of its own offense, utilizing a pair of 1,000-yard rushers in Caleb Butcher (1,180 yards, 15 TDs) and fullback Mark Metzgar (1,014 yards, 15 TDs).

The Minutemen, who allow less than 12 points per game, also had a pair of defensive TDs in last week's 24-23 win at No. 6 University, a team they lost to 28 points in the regular season.

"I don't think we have any pressure on us,'' Vincent said. "We just want to do what we've been doing.''

The quarterfinal round hasn't always been kind to GW, especially against lower seeds.

The Patriots are just 2-3 in the quarterfinal round the past five years, losing twice at home as the top seed to No. 8s (East Fairmont in 2007, Brooke in 2010). Conversely, GW is 2-0 in the semifinals since 2007.

Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or rickryan@wvgazette.com.

 


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