CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- In the cut-throat world of Mountain State Athletic Conference football, there aren't many gimmes. There are, however, some toss-ups, and if you have any designs on getting in the Class AAA playoffs, you'd better win your share of those.
One such game kicks off at 7:30 tonight in Putnam County, when Hurricane hosts Princeton. The Redskins (2-1) are tied for 16th in the playoff ratings, three spots ahead of the Tigers (2-1).
The teams haven't met in three years, and both have been tested this season by unbeaten powers. Hurricane dropped its opener to No. 1 Huntington 23-8, and Princeton lost the lead twice last week against Capital and fell 29-28 in overtime at Laidley Field.
Randy Peek, the Tigers' second-year coach, feels like his players were encouraged, and not discouraged, by last week's outcome.
"I think they're encouraged,'' he said. "Now they realize they can play with anybody in the state. Capital could be one of the teams that's a state finalist.''
Hurricane coach Jeremy Taylor came away impressed after watching game video of Princeton.
"They are the most disciplined team I've seen in two years,'' Taylor said. "They remind me of Navy or one of the academies with that triple-option offense they run. There's nothing to it, but they do it really well.
"They use a four-point stance on the line, and I haven't seen that since the '70s or '80s. I guess they've brought back old-school football. They're definitely better than the 2-8 team they were last year. They look like a playoff team to me. They came within a whisker of beating Capital.''
Princeton relies on the savvy of quarterback Jay Palmer, a second-year starter, and the bursts of running back Tahj Sho-Johnson, who has rushed for 483 yards and seven touchdowns and doubles as the team's place-kicker and punter.
Palmer, operating the Tigers' flexbone, has run for 140 yards and two TDs and thrown for 206 yards and three scores. His favorite target is 6-foot-5, 210-pound Zen Clements.