CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Most years, Class AAA coaches would set six victories as the goal for their teams. That magic number meant an almost-certain spot in the playoffs.
But this year, who knows?
What figures to be a glut of seven- and six-win teams could cloud the playoff picture heading into the final week of the regular season. As many as 10 teams could still finish at 6-4 in AAA, and would likely be vying for only a few spots in the 16-team bracket.
And then there's the Elkins situation, which could jumble the ratings even more depending on what the SSAC, Randolph County schools and possibly the judicial system decide this week about the status of running back L.J. Lawrence.
Lawrence, who leads Elkins with nearly 1,500 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns, was declared ineligible by the SSAC last week because of residency requirements, forcing the school to forfeit its seven wins and (at that point) a No. 8 ranking in Class AAA.
But the special circumstances surrounding Lawrence, who can technically be considered homeless, have prompted legal action on his part. A motion for a temporary restraining order has been filed in Randolph County and a judge is set to rule on the request today.
Thus, followers of state high school football have been left with two sets of playoff ratings - one with Elkins 7-2 and still eligible for the postseason and one with Elkins 0-9 and ineligible. Capital, for instance, coming into Friday's game, was No. 13 in the SSAC's official ratings (before the Elkins forfeits) and No. 15 in the other listing (figuring in the forfeits). The SSAC releases its weekly ratings on Tuesday afternoon.
It's been 13 years since a Mountain State Athletic Conference team finished with six wins and didn't make the AAA playoffs (Nitro, 1999).
So what does all that mean to Capital coach Jon Carpenter, whose team knocked off its second straight top-10 opponent with Friday's 35-14 win over Woodrow Wilson to get to 6-3?
"Now, we've got to have seven [wins],'' Carpenter said.
The Cougars travel to Huntington Friday to face the state's No. 3 Highlanders (8-1), whose stingy defense has allowed just 11 touchdowns in nine games.
"We're going to practice hard this week,'' said Capital running back James Richmond, who ran for 100 yards for a fourth straight game. "We're going to go out to Huntington this week and beat them. We're really confident.''
Among other Kanawha Valley contenders, George Washington locked up a spot in the AAA bracket with a 49-20 win over Columbus DeSales (Ohio), which put the Patriots at 7-2 and probably back in the No. 4 slot following a loss by previous No. 4 University. GW hosts Parkersburg (4-5) on Friday.
Hurricane (6-3) could be jostling with Capital for the No. 8 spot when the new ratings come out, but the Redskins finish up with No. 1 Cabell Midland (9-0), the lone unbeaten remaining in AAA.