CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Hurricane coach Jeremy Taylor can tell you all about life in the Mountain State Athletic Conference.
Earlier this season, his Redskins fell to Huntington, the state's No. 1 Class AAA team, and No. 7 Cabell Midland. Tonight, the Redskins (3-2) visit No. 2 George Washington (5-0).
Other games coming up include No. 8 Capital and No. 15 Spring Valley.
"We're just trying to survive, I guess,'' Taylor said. "We've got one of our better teams, but we're playing three of the top five teams in the state in a row.
"I'd kill someone to have one of those schedules that some other teams in triple-A have. But my [athletic director] tells me you have to play the best to be the best.''
GW and Hurricane actually tangle for the fifth time in just over two years. The Patriots have beaten the Redskins all four times, with the closest score being 35-10 in the first round of last year's playoffs.
In those games, the Patriots hurt the Redskins with fleet Kennedy Award-winning tailback Ryan Switzer, but now rely on a different weapon - senior sledgehammer Draven Riffe (1,158 yards, 15 touchdowns).
"He's big and fast,'' Taylor said of Riffe. "He's the real deal. His yards after contact are ridiculous. He gets hit in the hole sometimes and bounces off, and there he goes. He's got very good balance and a low center of gravity.''
The Redskins counter with a balanced attack that cranks out nearly 400 yards per game (162 rushing, 232 passing), led by third-year starting quarterback Austin Hensley.
Taylor said Hensley and tailback Zach Pate were both bruised and sore following a loss to Midland two weeks ago, and might not have been able to go last week if the Redskins didn't have a bye.
"That's one of the more physical games we've played,'' Taylor said, "and we were beat up pretty bad. But against Midland we schemed too much - we made our kids think too much, and that was our fault. This week we'll try to let them play instead and see what happens.
"We know that the only way to be physical is to practice that way. You can't be finesse and practice against air in T-shirts and shorts, then come out Friday and turn it on. You've got to go live up front, and that makes practice interesting.''
Ripley comes off its first win, a 41-20 conquest of Nitro in which quarterback Trevor Tucker accounted for 338 yards of total offense (185 passing, 153 rushing) and five TDs. SC quarterback Kentre Grier has thrown for at least 200 yards in nine of 11 career starts.
The Wildcats have averaged only 15 points following a 41-22 opening victory against Poca and have lost nine in a row against AAA foes. Brayden Underwood was held to 53 yards on 15 carries in last week's setback to Ripley.
Red Dragons QB Noah Reed has risen to sixth in the MSAC in passing with 723 yards. He's also thrown for 10 touchdowns and completes 64 percent of his attempts.
These teams haven't met since 2006, a 10-6 Spring Valley triumph. Colby Webb leads the Wolves in rushing with 447 yards and five TDs, and the Warriors lean on Will Jackson (390 yards, three TDs).
Sissonville is coming off a bye week following its first loss, that to two-time defending state champ Wayne. The Indians still average 322 yards rushing, while the Huskies check in at 253 per game.
The Miners rely on the connection of QB Stevie Hammond (455 yards, four TDs) to Alex "Booger'' Lee (21 catches, 313 yards, three TDs). Poca's revolving-door offense now features Hayden Webb under center and former QB Justin Stewart at running back.
The Bison, meanwhile, has seen its two-season losing streak grow to nine games. Jordan Tucker ranks second among single-A runners in the state with 951 yards and has scored 16 overall TDs.
Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or rickr...@wvgazette.com.
All games at 7:30 p.m. unless noted