The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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October 31, 2013

It’s make or break time on high school gridiron

The playoffs don’t officially begin for another two weeks, but for some area high school football teams it’s win or go home time already.

Playoff spots and seeding are on the line in Week 10 with some big matchups — including old rivalries renewed — on the slate.

n Woodrow Wilson at Oak Hill

Tonight’s game might not have the buzz it appeared it would have a couple of weeks ago. The Red Devils (6-2) have slipped a little with two losses in their last three games — by a combined score of 100-30 — and have dropped to No. 11 in the Class AAA rankings. The Flying Eagles (3-5), meanwhile, have fallen out of playoff contention and are now fighting for .500.

Still, there’s plenty of excitement surrounding the old rivalry, renewed for the first time since 2003.

Oak Hill is led by 2012 Register-Herald Offensive Player of the Year Jalen Jones. He’s had another strong season, but he’s struggled in recent weeks, totalling just 141 total yards on the ground in the last three games.

Woodrow is led by quarterback Brent Osborne, who rushed for 131 yards and a pair of touchdowns in last week’s loss to Princeton. The offense, though, has been hampered by the loss of Donte Nabors at the receiver spot. Chase Hancock has drawn more attention from the defense with Nabors out, and his numbers haven’t been the same.

n Shady Spring at Liberty

The playoff hopes for both teams have already been dashed, but that doesn’t mean this isn’t an important one for the two Raleigh County rivals. The Tigers’ (1-7) only other win came against the other Class AA county rival, Independence. Liberty (3-5) has wins over Independence, PikeView and Sherman.

Tyler Hanson leads Shady’s ground attack with 519 yards, and Timmy Culicerto is approaching 800 yards through the air.

 Christian Whittaker leads Liberty’s ground attack. He had 132 rushing yards in the Raiders’ win over Independence.

n Valley at Midland Trail

The Greyhounds (8-0) are two wins away from a perfect regular season, but the Patriots (4-4) would love to play spoiler. Midland Trail also has an outside shot at the playoffs, but a win over the No. 3 team in Class A is a must if it wants to keep that dream alive.

Valley had two 100-yard rushers in its lopsided win over Richwood last week. Dante Wilkerson rushed for 129 and a pair of touchdowns, while Keyshawn Payne went for 104 yards and two scores. The Greyhounds are averaging more than 33 points per game and have held all but two opponents to 15 or fewer points.

Trail is playing with some momentum, as well, having won two straight to get back to .500. Ryan Wilson has rushed for 1,152 yards and 10 touchdowns and is averaging 6.8 yards per rush. Austin Burdette is averaging 10.8 yards per carry.

n James Monroe

at Bluefield

Bluefield has everything going its way right now. It has moved to No. 1 in the Class AA rankings, and it’s coming off an impressive 51-15 thrashing of Class AAA power Oak Hill. The Beavers (7-1) will have a chance to really prove their worth next week when they host Class AA No. 2 and defending state champion Wayne, but they must first be careful to avoid a letdown against the Mavericks.

James Monroe (3-5) needs wins in each of its final two games just to finish .500, but it has won two straight and there would be no bigger shot in the arm than a win over Bluefield.

The Beavers have won six straight and have outscored opponents by an average score of 52-10 during that stretch. Quarterback R.J. Bourne threw for 230 yards and a touchdown and ran for two more scores in the win over Oak Hill, while D.J. Stewart ran for 95 yards and a pair of touchdowns. D.J. Edwards caught five passes for 126 yards and a touchdown.

n Westside at

Mount View

With playoffs out of the question for both teams, this one’s all about pride. Westside (3-5), coming off a bye week, is led by quarterback Justin Cogar, who’s back close to full strength after missing most of the season with a leg injury suffered in a preseason scrimmage. He threw for 205 yards in a win over James Monroe.

The Renegades are more than a passing team, though, as Mike Mullens is one of the state’s top rushers, topping the 100-yard mark in five games — including performances of 290 and 317.

Mount View (1-7) has won just one game this year and has allowed 171 points over the last three games.

n Summers County

at Richwood

The Bobcats (8-1) are a whisker from perfection but still playing for homefield advantage throughout much of the playoffs. Currently No. 4 in Class AA, Summers County is led by Isaiah Brown, who has rushed for 857 yards, and T.J. Smith, who’s up to 569 on the ground. Jaquan Ayers gives the Bobcats a third weapon on the ground, and he’s approaching 500 yards on the year.

Matt Ryan’s move to quarterback has allowed Summers County to get more of its playmakers in the right spots. Ryan, who can also use his legs, threw for a pair of touchdowns in a win over Mount View last week.

Summers County’s defense has been extremely stingy, as well, with many of the same playmakers excelling on that side of the ball.

Richwood (2-6) is playing better since the return of Michael Adams. The Lumberjacks have won two of the three games he’s played. Last week, he rushed for 163 yards in a loss to Valley.

n Wyoming East

at Independence

The Warriors (7-1) have had a great season, but there’s still work to be done if they want to secure a home game in the playoffs. They’re currently No. 6 in Class AA with two games to play.

Wyoming East has had impressive balance on offense with five strong running backs and a quarterback who can throw. Coty Bishop leads the running backs with 486 rushing yards, while quarterback Aaron Griffith has thrown for more than 700. His favorite target is Christian Hedinger, who has caught 32 passes for 552 yards.

Independence hasn’t had a great year under the guidance of first-year head coach Chris Vicars. The Patriots (2-6) do have a couple of good weapons, including Colton Ward and Dustin Justice. Brian Sexton has had good and bad moments at the quarterback position.

n Sherman at

Meadow Bridge

Meadow Bridge has an offense that can put up points, and Sherman has a defense that has allowed plenty.

That’s not a good recipe for the Tide (2-7), which will have to find a way to shut down Kennedy Award candidate Jake Parker, who’s rushed for 2,216 yards and 30 touchdowns this season. He’s coming off a 255-yard, six-touchdown performance last week.

This will likely be the final home game for Parker, whose Wildcats (7-2) are ranked No. 11 in Class A but aren’t likely to jump high enough for a home game.

n Fayetteville

at Greenbrier West

The road just keeps getting more difficult for the Pirates (3-5), who will face their sixth opponent ranked in the top 11 when they sail into Charmco tonight. That’s led to the less-than-stellar record, but Fayetteville does have some talent, including Tasheem Saunders, who’s coming off a 140-yard, two-touchdown performance last week. Jake Alton had 85 rushing yards and a touchdown in that win over Buffalo.

Greenbrier West (8-1), the No. 7 team in Class A, is playing to lock down a first-round home playoff game. The Cavaliers’ only loss came on the road at Class AA power Summers County.

Corey Cox scored four rushing touchdowns last week in West’s win over James River (Va.) and had 116 all-purpose yards, despite sitting for much of the second half. Quarterback Malik Boatwright, who does most of his damage on the ground, is the other big offensive threat, and the Cavs’ defense is giving up just 10 points per game.

— E-mail: chuffman and follow on Twitter @CamHuffmanRH.

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