A few months ago, tonight's Scott at Sissonville game wouldn't have looked like a matchup between the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the Class AA playoff ratings.
But, indeed, that's what it is when the top-rated Skyhawks (3-0) and No. 2 Indians (2-0) tangle tonight at 7:30 in a battle of Cardinal Conference unbeatens at Joe Sawyer Field.
Sissonville hasn't appeared in the playoffs since 2007, which was its last winning season. In the previous three years, the Indians have gone a mere 5-25.
Scott coach Shane Griffith said the difference has to do with Indians second-year coach Eddie Smolder.
"The first thing is that Coach Smolder has got them believing,'' Griffith said. "His background in football is a winner's background. He got them to buy into the type of program you have to have to be successful, and got them believing in it. They had a good offseason last year, got a lot of returners and right now are playing with a lot of energy.''
Griffith said the foundation for his own program's success has been a senior-dominated offensive line, led by fourth-year starters Dakota Ball, Caleb Linville and Charlie Sutphin. They've led the interference for a ground game that averages 354 yards.
"We've graduated a lot of tailbacks,'' Griffith said, "but we always find a way to run the football, because that's our identity - what we've built the program around. We believe running the football sets the tone of the game and takes the game over as far as atmosphere and time of possession. You limit the other team's number of plays. It takes momentum from the other team. Nobody likes to be shoved around, and when you run the football, that's how it happens.''
Scott has thrived despite the transfer to Van of Draven Riffe, last year's top rusher.
In tonight's other games involving Kanawha Valley teams:
Capital came off its bye week as one of just two unbeaten teams in the Kanawha Valley, along with Sissonville. The Cougars won this contest 55-21 last year at Princeton.
Tonight's home opener for Capital has been designated as "The Jack D. Woolwine Jr. Memorial Football Game,'' honoring the former Cougars coach who died in July.
Now they face a Knights team that features three players averaging better than 100 yards per game on the ground - Lowell Farley (482 yards, five TDs), David Gaydosz (332 yards, four TDs) and Steve Matthews (304 yards, five TDs).
Midland won last year's game 27-21, running for 364 yards and four TDs.
"They defensed him well,'' Bison coach Mike Sawyer said of the Dots. "Two of our receivers were sick - but played - and two of our linemen went down with injuries, and Levi wasn't on top of his game. Not his typical self passing the ball. They have a good defense and that had a lot to do with it, but there were other complications involved in it, too.''
The Cavaliers have averaged 36 points in victories against AA Nicholas County (2-1), Richwood (2-1) and AA Independence (1-1), giving those teams their only losses.
Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or rickr...@wvgazette.com.