CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Seniors Austin Hensley and Zach Pate are two of the most prolific offensive players in Hurricane football history, but their careers are hanging by a thread tonight as the Redskins invade Spring Valley.
Hurricane (5-4), ranked No. 18, needs a victory to stay alive in the Class AAA playoff chase, while the No. 13 Timberwolves (6-3) are in a slightly better position - win and they're definitely in the 16-team field. The Redskins aren't assured of a postseason spot even with a victory tonight.
The Redskins are one of the state's highest-scoring teams, led by the combination of Hensley and Pate, each a third-year regular.
Hensley, who makes his 33rd straight start at quarterback, has thrown for 5,376 career yards and 56 touchdowns. The versatile Pate has run for 1,989 yards and 26 TDs and owns 1,402 yards receiving with 14 more scores. He's five receptions shy of 100 for his varsity career.
Hurricane was bludgeoned by Spring Valley's ground game last year, falling 55-27. The Timberwolves rolled up 636 yards rushing.
"I tell the team don't make excuses,'' said Redskins coach Jeremy Taylor, "so I can't make them right now for them, either. They've just got to win. Hopefully we're backed into a corner, and we'll see how it goes.
"We can beat Spring Valley. We can get in the playoffs and anything can happen. We've got a good team. It's just that sometimes, you've got to look at the man in the mirror. If you want to be there, you've got to do it. And that goes for coaches and everybody, man, not just the players. When things go wrong, that's when you've got to stick together.''
The Highlanders are gunning for the ultimate turnaround in four years' time - Huntington went 0-10 in 2009, coach Billy Seals' first season, and a win tonight would mark the first 10-0 regular season since the old Huntington High and East consolidated.
Red-hot Dominic Walker has scored 10 TDs in his last three games for Sissonville and has run for more than 100 yards five straight times - and seven times in all this year. The Eagles complete a rough schedule that may see them meet seven playoff teams.
Hoover's Shaun Dotson trails Sissonville's Walker by 35 yards for the Cardinal Conference rushing title (1,236-1,201). Nitro has a pair of runners in the MSAC leaders - Nick Brown (651 yards, four TDs) and Brayden Underwood (628 yards, eight TDs).
Lincoln County, led by former SA coach Derek Christian, tries to avoid its 20th straight loss. The Panthers' closest game came last week in a 15-6 setback to River View - every other game they've dropped by at least 20 points.
The Rebels topped the Dots last year 32-14, rushing for 274 yards and taking advantage of four lost fumbles by Poca to break open what had been a tight game through three quarters.
Bluefield leads the series 5-3, but Wayne has won the last two meetings - 54-3 in 2011 (the worst home loss in Beavers' history) and 45-14 last year at Wayne. The Pioneers risk a 32-game winning streak.
The Skyhawks, meanwhile, finish out a season wondering what might have been. They've lost their only four games decided by a TD or less. Had they split them, they would likely also be playing for a postseason spot.
Two games ago, Kane Roush became the all-time rushing leader at Wahama and enters the game with 29 overall touchdowns, 17 of them rushing. Versatile Jordan Tucker has scored 22 TDs for the Bison.
Montgomery, a predecessor of Valley, went 10-0 in 1969 but didn't make the two-team playoff that year. Valley opened in 1976 and veteran Benny Hopkins has been head coach since 1979.
Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or rickr...@wvgazette.com.