Midland-Morgantown to be decided in the trenches
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- It'll be all on the line in more ways than one when No. 1 Cabell Midland and No. 5 Morgantown collide Friday night in the Class AAA playoff semifinals at Ona.
First off, the winner advances to the state championship game at Wheeling Island Stadium on Dec. 1. For the Mohigans (10-2), it would be their first visit to the finals since 2005 and for the Knights (12-0), it would mark their first-ever title game appearance.
And the performance of each team's offensive and defensive line will play a large part - some say the largest role - in which side advances to that title game.
For years, the Mohigans have supplied some of the state's biggest and best linemen - and top-notch running backs - out of an offense that took pride in pounding the ball down the field from a variety of angles and runners. Most of those teams could throw the ball decently, but chose to rely on the run almost exclusively.
Sound familiar? It's the same formula Midland has followed all season in capturing the No. 1 seed in the playoffs and standing as the lone unbeaten in the AAA field.
"We think we've got a good line on both sides of the ball,'' said Knights coach Luke Salmons. "I think they do, too. It's going to be interesting to see how it pans out.
"They're a lot like us. They pride themselves on being tough and physical and they play hard, fundamental football.''
Mohigans coach John Bowers also relishes the thought of his team going against an opponent who follows the same blueprint to success.
"We know how good Cabell Midland's line is,'' Bower said, "and we like to think our line is pretty good.
"We want to establish our running game, and it will become a battle of wills since both teams run the ball. We only run six, seven offensive plays anyway when we run the ball. We don't do a whole lot, but we try to do it real well.''
The Mohigans had to change their offense on the fly a couple weeks ago when leading rusher Chazzy Thomas (1,503 yards, 20 touchdowns) went down at the end of the regular season with an ankle injury.
But the combination of Shane Commodore and Alex Weidman has served Bowers' club quite well in the playoffs. Commodore has carried 33 times in two postseason games for 396 yards and seven TDs, and Weidman has added 181 yards and two scores on 18 attempts.
"They've got good backs who run hard,'' Salmons said, "and their line makes them look even better. They've got multiple kids who run the ball and they rotate kids in and out - just like us. They play a lot of kids.''
Midland's stable of backs includes elusive David Gaydosz (1,886 yards, 26 TDs), fullback Lowell Farley (1,471 yards, 19 TDs) and Kasey Thomas (617 yards, four TDs), who has also split time recently at quarterback with Coy Pettit.
"Gaydosz is a home-run hitter,'' Bowers said. "He's a stud - a really, really good back with a lot of speed. Now Farley is not only a tough guy and a hard runner, but he's fast, too. He ran 99 yards for a touchdown against Parkersburg - that tells you how fast he is.
"They've got two wingbacks who do a nice job, too, but the consistent part of their offense is a physical, nasty line. They're a nice club offensively.''
Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or firstname.lastname@example.org.