CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- It seems like a millennium ago that Capital was really relevant in the Class AAA playoffs and, in a way, it is.
But now the Cougars are back - in the playoff semifinals that is - for the first time since 1999.
Capital (11-1), the No. 3 seed, rides to Martinsburg this weekend to face the No. 2 Bulldogs (11-1), the three-time defending state champions, at 1:30 p.m. Saturday on the artificial turf of Cobourn Field. The winner advances to the state championship game on Dec. 7 at Wheeling Island Stadium.
While Kanawha County rivals South Charleston and George Washington have each made two trips to the Super Six state finals in Wheeling during the previous five seasons, Capital has been coming up short.
But not anymore.
The Cougars cemented their return to the final four with a resounding 65-14 victory over defensive-minded University last Saturday, earning them a trip to the Eastern Panhandle.
"It's big,'' said senior lineman James Walton. "We got to the semifinals. But you know, our ultimate goal is to win the state championship, and we haven't won one since 1995. So we look to make it in 2013 and add it on to the charts.''
Another of Capital's top seniors, lineman Jaisson Dyer, said it "felt good'' to put the Cougars back on the map among the top AAA teams in West Virginia.
"This year, going 9-1 technically [in the regular season], it just kind of felt good,'' Dyer said. "I feel like if we do what we're supposed to do these next two weeks, it'll form that legacy that we're going to leave behind as seniors.''
Capital coach Jon Carpenter, now in his fourth year, thinks getting his program, a three-time state champion, back into the semifinals returns some normalcy, but knows it was an uphill battle on many fronts.
"Like I said when I first got the job,'' Carpenter said, "if we can keep our kids here, this is how it should look. Capital is the one that should be here. I don't know what it shows yet. We play this week, and we're just excited to be here.''