South Charleston was staring down a second straight 1-4 start to its season on Friday night, and coach John Messinger knew that could deal his team's playoff hopes a fatal blow.
So the Black Eagles put together an unexpected rally from a 17-0 halftime deficit to capture a 20-17 victory over previously unbeaten Capital at Laidley Field, reviving SC's postseason chances.
Last year, South Charleston began 1-4 only to string together four straight wins and go into its regular-season finale with a chance to nab a playoff spot. A loss to Parkersburg, however, squelched that notion.
So even with his schedule again easing up in the coming weeks, Messinger didn't think his Black Eagles could recover from yet another 1-4 mark if they lost to Capital.
"No, we didn't want to do that again,'' Messinger said. "That really put us behind the 8-ball. Because I kept saying that this year's different. Look around the state. A 6-4 record this year isn't going to do anything for you - it just isn't going to do it.
"So we've got a lot of football to play and there are a lot of people on our schedule who can whip us, and we know that. So we're going to have to come around and get after it.''
SC's first five foes are now a combined 15-7 - including Black Eagles' losses to No. 1 Cabell Midland and No. 8 George Washington. SC's final five opponents are currently 7-18, which includes a pair of 0-5 teams (St. Albans, Lincoln County) coming up the next two weeks.
Capital, on the other hand, is also trying to avoid a repeat of its non-playoff effort in 2011. The Cougars, however, did it the other way around - they began 4-0, suffered some key injuries, and like SC finished 5-5 and out of the money.
With games remaining against the likes of Midland (5-0), GW (4-1), Woodrow Wilson (4-1) and Huntington (4-1), a youthful Capital club needs to shake off the doldrums of its first loss to ensure its own postseason spot.
"I think we'll be all right,'' said Cougars coach Jon Carpenter, pointing to the locker room presence of players like senior safety Davon Tyson and freshman quarterback Tyhree Pratt. "You heard Davon speak up there [in the locker room]. I think with him and Pratt and some of the other guys, they'll step up and be leaders.
"The problem with being young is they stand around in the second half and wait for somebody to make a play instead of going out and making it. Again, I can preach and preach to them about how things are supposed to go, but - like I tell them - you can see it happening out there and learn a lot better from it than I can tell them to.''
The Kanawha Valley's other highly ranked AAA team, George Washington (4-1), protected its spot among the top eight with a 61-11 win at Princeton. It marked the first game for the Patriots since the death of freshman lineman Drew Morton in an auto accident last Sunday.
The top eight teams in the final playoff ratings earn home-field advantage for the first round. Hurricane (2-2), tied for 16th, was idle last weekend. The Redskins host Capital on Friday.
Several large games loom on the statewide schedule this week, none of them bigger than a Class A clash of unbeaten teams in Fayette County.