O-line paved way for Pats
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Thanks to a dominant effort on the line of scrimmage, the outlook has changed dramatically for George Washington at the outset of the 2013 season.
The Patriots, who lost a two-time Kennedy Award winner in tailback Ryan Switzer and a two-year starting quarterback in Trevor Bell, might have wondered how they would make up for those losses with two tough games to start their season.
After knocking heads with much-improved rival South Charleston in the opener, GW was set to travel to Ashland, Ky., to face Paul Blazer, a team that handed the Patriots a regular-season loss last year.
Well, some of those answers were unearthed Thursday when GW began the year with a 34-27 victory over SC, gaining 525 yards on the ground behind superb blocking from not just its offensive line, but also its wideouts.
"It's everybody,'' said GW coach Steve Edwards Jr. "The line's making nice blocks and our kids downfield . . . our receivers were blocking tremendously downfield. Our backs have the ability to make cuts and make holes and find holes for the blocking, so it's a combination of all of that. I really thought they did a nice job.''
Leading the way for George Washington was senior running Draven Riffe, a transfer who carried 28 times for 262 yards and three touchdowns.
Such a performance should boost the Patriots' confidence heading into Friday's game in Ashland. The Tomcats (1-1) figured to have a bit of an advantage since they have already played twice during the regular season.
"It will be [to their advantage],'' Edwards said, "but hopefully the old adage [works] - I'm hoping I'm better in the second game than I was the first game.''
Paul Blazer flashed a flair for the dramatic on Friday in winning its first game under new coach Tony Love, a 35-34 overtime victory against Raceland.
Ashland trailed 14-0 and 21-7 before making a comeback and forcing OT. After falling behind 34-27 in the overtime, the Tomcats got a 10-yard TD run by quarterback Hunter Prince to make it 34-33, then Prince threw to Jordan Kennedy for the winning 2-point conversion.
It marked Ashland's only lead of the game. Prince threw for two TDs and ran for three scores.
"They're a fine ballclub,'' Edwards said. "It's a hostile environment, but it's a great environment. It's a super place to play and we're looking forward to the opportunity of another game.''
South Charleston's Donnie Mays, a first-year head coach and former Black Eagles offensive coordinator, found out there can be a downside to calling plays at the line of scrimmage in his team's no-huddle, hurry-up offense.
That's when the other team has a month of preseason drills to prepare for its opening opponent and knows that opponent so well it can detect play calls at the line of scrimmage.
"We're out there calling plays in our no-huddle,'' Mays said, "and they knew what was coming. They were calling out the plays.
"But that's no excuse. That's why we had to change our game plan. It's not that we didn't prepare not to go to the no-huddle. We huddled and we no-huddled just in case that happened - and it did. And it changed our outlook on how we need to play. We're a tempo football team.''
SC debuts on its new campus field Friday when it hosts St. Albans at 7:30.
Herbert Hoover coach Tim Meyer said that the switch from senior quarterback Brenden Holbrook to junior Tyler Americo in the second half of his team's 40-35 comeback win against Scott had nothing to do with Holbrook's level of play.
"It was preplanned,'' Meyer said. "I think both of them played very well. We feel like either one of them can do the job. I don't think that really had a lot to do with the comeback that we had. I think we had the big boys up front and at the end of the game, they played hard.''
Holbrook played the first half and threw for 114 yards and one touchdown, but was picked off twice. Americo entered in the second half and went 3 of 6 for 23 yards on short passes and ran nine times for 45 yards and one TD. Both QBs started games last year.
The Huskies, who trailed 29-13 at the break against Scott, got big second-half efforts from running backs Shaun Dotson and Colton Thomas. Dotson ran for 165 yards and three touchdowns and caught three passes for 104 yards and another score, and fullback Thomas carried 13 times for 76 yards and one TD.
"Colton and Shaun are both hard, physical runners,'' Meyer said, "and after pounding away for three quarters, those two kids get so many carries and both of them will hit you. It was a hot day and our line and those two backs had momentum on their side, and it took off from there.
"I think a lot of [the early deficit] was opening-game nerves. The kids put so much into it, I think they were a little nervous going in. We made some mistakes both offensively and defensively and got ourselves into a hole. But the other side of it was that they kept their heads up [because] we had another half of football.''
Every high school football team gets hit with injuries, but already this season, Buffalo's had more than its fair share.
First, the Bison lost perhaps its quickest and most skilled player, senior tailback Laythen Good, for the season to a knee injury during the three-week June practice period.
Then one of the team's four remaining seniors, receiver-slotback Gabe Garrison, tweaked his knee during August drills. He tried to play in Saturday's 42-12 loss to Parkersburg Catholic in Vienna, but was taken out of the game in the first quarter and didn't return because of his knee.
On the opening kickoff against Catholic, Buffalo lost its starting quarterback, senior transfer Austin Hensley, who injured his throwing shoulder making the tackle. That limited the offense the entire game, since inexperienced sophomore Ty Smith had to run the show with little preparation.
Smith became more comfortable as the game progressed, but the Bison's first four possessions went nowhere (six net yards, one turnover), bogged down by dropped snaps, bad handoffs and errant pitchouts. Buffalo didn't get a first down until 5:41 remained in the second quarter when it trailed 22-0.
"The thing is that all of our older kids are hurt,'' said Bison coach Mike Sawyer, "so the leadership's a little tough. We've got to grow up in a hurry. We've been practicing for a month, but it looked like we just started practice out there. We've got a lot of young kids and they've got to get better.''
Buffalo's 29-man roster includes 13 freshmen.
Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or email@example.com.