By Cam Huffman
— Editor’s note: This is the first of a series of previews on this weekend’s area playoff matchups. Check Friday and Saturday’s Register-Herald for previews of other area games.
PATH TO THE POSTSEASON
The Red Devils’ season has been anything but boring.
It all started with a 43-36 shootout loss to Elkins on Aug. 24, but over the next six weeks, Oak Hill won five games and established itself as a major player in its first season back in Class AAA.
Webster County (61-18), Princeton (55-15), Nicholas County (40-0), Shady Spring (20-0) and Point Pleasant (34-14) all fell victim to the Red Devils’ offensive machine, and when they made the trip to Lewis County on Oct. 12, they were riding high and quickly climbing up the ratings.
Then came two difficult losses. The first, a 37-19 loss to Lewis County caught everybody by surprise, especially because of the margin of victory, and the next was a heartbreaking 51-50 loss to Bluefield on a last-second field goal.
That defeat, though, knocked the Red Devils out of the top 16 and left the postseason in doubt, but they got a big boost when it was announced that Elkins would have to forfeit all its wins, including the one over Oak Hill.
The Red Devils suddenly found themselves not only in the playoff picture, but with the possibility of hosting a first-round game after it beat PikeView 62-6.
Then came the news that Elkins wouldn’t have to forfeit its wins, because of a federal law that the WVSSAC couldn’t ignore. That left Oak Hill at No. 17, on the outside looking in at a possible playoff spot.
The Red Devils did all they could do, downing Lincoln County 72-42 to end the regular season, and that proved to be enough to earn the No. 16 and final seed in Class AAA.
Oak Hill will enter the playoffs with a 7-3 record.
The Knights didn’t have to sweat out their playoff spot, at all.
From the first game of the season, a 21-13 win over Spring Valley, it was clear that this team was going to be special, and it proved it over the following 10 weeks, marching to an undefeated 10-0 record and the No. 1 seed in Class AAA.
Five AAA playoff teams — No. 4 Huntington (14-13), No. 7 Capital (21-13), No. 8 Spring Valley (21-13), No. 14 Hurricane (31-13) and No. 15 Woodrow Wilson (70-34) — were among the victims, with the other wins coming against Parkersburg, Riverside, South Charleston, Winfield and Princeton.
WHAT’S ON THE LINE?
The winner of this game will move on to play the winner between No. 8 Spring Valley and No. 9 Wheeling Park in the second round.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Jalen Jones, RB/K — One of the state’s most dynamic players, Jones gave the Red Devils a chance in almost any game by himself. For the season, the junior has rushed for 2,046 yards and 25 touchdowns. He’s returned 10 punts for 317 yards and two TDs and six kickoffs for 159 yards. In total, he’s scored 197 points on 27 touchdowns, five 2-point conversions and 25 extra points.
Antonio Gray, S — The 5-foot-8 safety leads the team in tackles with 89 total stops. He also has a pair of interceptions and two fumble recoveries to his credit.
David Gydosz, RB — The Knights’ top offensive threat has rushed for 1,455 yards and 22 touchdowns during his senior season.
Lowell Farley, RB — The other half of Cabell Midland’s dynamic backfield, Farley has also topped the 1,000-yard mark, rushing for 1,260 yards and 13 touchdowns.
KEYS TO THE GAME
It sounds obvious, but the team that does the best job of stopping the run is likely to advance to the second round.
Both of these offenses are built on running the football, and they get themselves in trouble when put in obvious passing situations.
Oak Hill has used a couple different quarterbacks this season, but its top guy, Deon Marion, has completed just 15 passes for 294 yards and four touchdowns all year.
The concern for the Red Devils is the battle in the trenches. Cabell Midland has big, strong offensive and defensive lines and will try to pound away at Oak Hill and see if it can continue to fight back.