CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- It's the game everyone in the Mountain State Athletic Conference wanted to see last year, but it still shapes up as a pretty good one this year.
This time, it's George Washington (6-0) out to protect an unbeaten record as the Patriots venture to Ona to take on Cabell Midland (5-2) at 7:30 tonight.
Last year, they were the top two teams in the MSAC, with Midland streaking to a 13-0 record and taking the Class AAA No. 1 playoff seed all the way to the Super Six state finals in Wheeling before losing to Martinsburg. However, they weren't scheduled to play in the regular season and avoided each other in the playoffs.
Each team had superior individual talent last fall, with GW sporting two-time Kennedy Award winning tailback Ryan Switzer and Midland flashing a backfield of David Gaydosz and Lowell Farley, who combined for more than 4,000 rushing yards and 51 touchdowns.
Both sides have rebuilt with success for this season, GW getting yeoman's work from senior running back Draven Riffe (1,379 yards, 18 TDs) and Midland utilizing a three-and four-headed ground game that cranks out 417 yards per game.
"They're really solid. They're a machine,'' said GW coach Steve Edwards Jr. "What concerns me is that they run at a quick pace and they're very disciplined in everything they do. Their kids play really hard, and that's something we've had to emulate in practice, something to try and get across to all our kids. Hopefully, we can match their intensity.''
The only two losses for Midland, ranked No. 10 in AAA, have come to No. 1 Huntington and No. 5 Capital. The Knights fell 35-26 to the Cougars last Friday, giving up five long scoring runs of 25 of more yards.
"When you play good teams, that's going to happen,'' said third-year Midland coach Luke Salmons. "That's life. You've got to execute when it matters. You lose some close ones, you've got to battle through it.
"They've responded well. We've had a great week of practice, and [Wednesday's workout] was probably the best practice since I've been here. They don't like [losing]. They're hungry. They want to win, that's their mindset. They're willing to do anything to win.''
GW presents Midland with a bit more of a smashmouth approach than Capital, especially with Riffe carrying the ball 26 times a game. But the Patriots can also spring a few big gainers with playmakers like Jacob Jackson and Austin Giacomo.