CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Because of a late-season surge, it's all on the line tonight for Capital.
The Cougars (6-3) play their third straight Class AAA top-10 opponent when they visit No. 3 Huntington (8-1) at Bob Sang Field. Kickoff is set for 7:30.
Capital, currently the No. 10 team in the playoff ratings, put itself on the verge of clinching a playoff spot with wins the last two weeks against George Washington and Woodrow Wilson. A victory tonight could possibly bump the Cougars into the top eight, giving them a home game in the first round of the postseason.
Coach Jon Carpenter isn't sure if Capital can qualify for the playoffs if it loses tonight, but doesn't care to dwell on the possibility.
"I told them we need to win,'' Carpenter said. "I think that's the mistake the prognosticators make. If you're going to win any games in the playoffs, you can't have the mindset of relaxing.''
The Highlanders, whose only loss was a 14-13 thriller against No. 1 Cabell Midland, pose peculiar problems for the Cougars.
On offense, they rely on a revolving door of skill players. No one has scored more than seven touchdowns on the season, but six different players have tallied two TDs in a game. On defense, however, they shine as a unit, having allowed just 11 TDs in nine starts and own three shutouts.
"We'll have to break that trend if we're going to stay alive,'' Carpenter said. "They're real fast on defense and really aggressive. They're pretty much in the same defense every snap. That's probably why they're so good. They don't outcoach themselves. They know what they're doing and they can play fast because they don't have to overthink and make a bunch of mistakes.
"It gives you the false impression that they're easy to prepare for, but at the same time it gives them a bunch of reps to know what they're doing.''
Carpenter realizes Huntington holds an advantage, as it was able to practice in the middle of the week while his team wasn't able to work out on Tuesday and Wednesday because classes were called off, and Kanawha County school policy forbids practice.
"I think we'll be all right,'' Carpenter said. "There's nothing we can do about it anyway.''
In other games tonight involving area schools:
"I've had a few in my career like that,'' said Buffalo coach Mike Sawyer of last week's defeat. "If you coach long enough, you will. You learn to try and deal with it.''
A victory for the No. 10 Bison should lock up home-field advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
The White Falcons, who haven't clinched home field in the opening round yet because nine teams in Class A are 8-1 or better, have played only one other state team this season, beating winless Fayetteville 35-7. Just three of the teams in Wahama's league, the Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division, had winning records.
Wahama's powerful offense cranks out 45 points per game and averages more than 430 yards, but its defense, oddly, has created only 17 turnovers in nine games.
It's been a record-breaking year for Winfield and first-year coach Craig Snyder, as quarterback Toby Show set a school season passing record with 1,310 yards, breaking the mark of Taylor Farley (1,200 in 2008). Running back Seth Lewis, with 1,224 yards, has run for more yardage than anyone at the school since at least the 1980s.
Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or rickr...@wvgazette.com.