By Gary Fauber
Assistant Sports Editor
PATH TO THE POSTSEASON
If it’s the second weekend of November, you can count on football season in Charmco.
Playing in the postseason has become a rite for Greenbrier West, be it at Class AA or Class A. The Cavaliers posted their second straight 9-1 regular season in their first season back in the lower level.
The Cavaliers are known for their running attack, although they have gone to the air a little more this season. West is not, however, a three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust type of team, mixing their personnel in different isolation, off-tackle and option formations.
Junior Malik Boatwright leads the way, either from the quarterback spot or at tailback. When he’s in the backfield, junior Mikey Goddard has filled in well under center.
Allowing the Cavaliers flexibility in the backfield is the use of a number of backs, including senior Tyler Parker (940 yards) and juniors Cory Cox and Chase McClung.
When West does throw the ball, 6-foot-6 wide receiver Josh Martin gives a prime target to either Boatwright or Goddard.
“Josh has great hands and runs fairly well,” coach Lewis McClung said. “We probably have thrown the ball a little bit more this year than in past years because of that. Malik and Mikey throw the ball pretty well and Josh gives them a good target.”
The Cavaliers won their first three games, beating Nicholas County — a Class AA playoff team — Richwood and Independence. Their only blemish came in a 29-20 home loss to Buffalo, when they killed themselves with six turnovers.
That loss was followed by dominating wins over Summers County (42-6) — another Class AA playoff team — and PikeView (44-0) en route to the Cavs’ current six-game winning streak.
The Wildcats are no stranger to the postseason, either. But there was some doubt as to whether they would be able to do it in 2012. There are only five seniors on the Meadow Bridge roster, meaning any success would rely on a youth movement.
That’s what happened for veteran coach Larry McClintic.
Meadow Bridge got started by walloping Van 38-6 and didn’t slow down much.
“We were a little bit thin in some places,” McClintic said. “We didn’t expect to have this kind of run. We lost a couple of games to some good football teams, but they were games we felt we played well but were capable of playing better than we did. When you play in those big, tough games, you have to make plays.”
The Wildcats’ losses were to Class A No. 9 Valley (38-18) and Class AA No. 11 Summers (48-12).
“The games we lost, we got outmuscled up front,” McClintic said. “Valley has that big strong line, and Summers County had those two running backs (Isaiah Brown and Dustin Smith) that we couldn’t put a hand on. And I didn’t feel like we had any intensity against Summers.”
Like West, the Wildcats like to run — and run some more. It’s not unusual for Meadow Bridge to rack up 2,000 yards on the ground each season. It’s just usually two players getting the bulk of those yards.
Not this year.
Junior Jake Parker has been the personification of the term “workhorse.” He ran for 2,211 yards and 28 touchdowns on 319 carries in the regular season. He had three 300-yard games.
“A lot of that is because of the offense itself,” McClintic said. “We’re an I-formation team and the tailback is going to get the ball 90 percent of the time. In years past we have alternated players at that position, but Jake has carried the load on his shoulders.
“I don’t think the rest of the kids complain that he gets all the carries. They go out there and they block for him. ... They do a good job blocking up front for him, but we have to be able to get him two or three yards past the line of scrimmage.”
WHAT’S ON THE LINE
It isn’t often that a playoff game also carries bragging rights, but this one has just that, to an extent. Greenbrier West and Meadow Bridge high schools are separated by just 16 miles.
However, the two have not played since 2007.
Today’s game, though, due to the recent snowfall, will be played in Fairlea at Greenbrier East High School.
The winner of the game will face the winner of No. 14 Buffalo and No. 3 Wahama. If things work out, the Cavaliers could get a shot at avenging their only loss.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Malik Boatwright, QB — He’s listed as quarterback, but Boatwright also lines up at tailback. Either way, he’s a threat in the run game, evidenced by his team-high 1,480 yards.
Tyler Parker, LB — As important as Parker is offensively, he might mean even more on defense. He is the team’s leading tackler and a three-year starter.
Jake Parker, RB — That was easy. A nonquarterback who touches the ball on 90 percent of his team’s snaps is going to get the defense’s attention. Thing is, no one has stopped him yet.
Cody White, LB — Like Parker for West, White leads the Wildcats in tackles. McClintic likes the 6-2, 220-pound senior’s motor.
KEYS TO THE GAME
Simply, whichever team is more successful at stopping the run should win easily. West would seem to have the advantage there, with senior center Zack Johnson, a four-year starter, and junior tackle Justin Hamrick providing loads of experience blocking and protecting for Boatwright and Co.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
“The expectations have become that we expect to make the playoffs every year and be in position to host one or two playoff games.” — Lewis McClung
“If you look at it, they just dropped to Class A and are the largest Class A school in the state, and we are one of the smaller ones. We will have to play over our heads to stay on the field with them.” — Larry McClintic
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