By Gary Fauber
Assistant Sports Editor
PATH TO POSTSEASON
Literally, the trek will start with a 266-mile bus ride to Ridgeley — just a hair shy of the state of Maryland. But figuratively, this journey is 15 years in the making.
Summers County, which narrowly missed the playoffs a year ago, cemented its berth with last Friday’s 28-20 win over Class A playoff entrant Valley. For the first time since 1997, the Bobcats will be playing beyond the regular season.
“The community has been really good about supporting us all year long,” Summers coach Josh Houchins said. “We thought this might be a possibility going into the season and by the way we progressed during the season.
“We are really happy for (the fans) and the players and those who played in the past and have been here for us.”
The game will be played at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, but the Bobcats plan to make a weekend of it.
“It’s a long way, but we are going to break it up over two days,” Houchins said. “We will go up there Friday night and be able to have all day Saturday to rest and prepare. So I don’t think travel will be a big deal, other than not playing on our home field.”
The Bobcats won their first three games, but a turnover-plagued 33-20 loss at Wyoming East started a three-game losing streak, making it appear that Summers’ season might be spiralling away. But a dominating 48-20 win at Independence got the Bobcats back on track.
They went on to post easy wins over Meadow Bridge (48-12) and Richwood (42-20) before closing out the regular season with the win over Valley.
The Bobcats have an arsenal of talent at their disposal. Receiver Isaiah Brown has been the Bobcats’ biggest threat, leading the way in rushing with 859 yards and receiving with 186 yards.
Quarterback T.J. Smith is right behind Brown at 726 yards. He also has completed 44 of 91 passes for 606 yards. Senior running back Dustin Smith has carried 137 times for 772 yards.
“Those guys get the stats and the bulk of the headlines, but a big part of that is you have to have an offensive line that makes holes for them,” Houchins said.
“And they all block for each other. There are no egos on this team.”
Houchins was quick to recognize freshman receiver Matt Ryan, senior tight end A.J. Bennett and junior receiver Erik Lindsey for their often unsung contributions.
The Falcons are predominantly a running team, and have used several players to accumulate 2,040 yards in the regular season. The biggest contributor has been senior Damian Morgan, who has 615 yards and 16 touchdowns on 115 carries.
Houchins said area football fans should be familiar with Frankfort’s attack.
“They are similar to a Fayetteville-type offense,” he said. “They have a lot of pulling guards and criss-cross action, misdirection in the backfield.”
Senior Chris Faidley has 513 yards and four touchdowns, while sophomore Brady Watson has gone for 460 yards and eight TDs.
Frankfort does have the ability to throw the ball. Quarterback Gage Shaffer is 57 of 109 for 1,249 yards with 12 touchdowns and four interceptions.
Defensively, Frankfort has forced 24 takeaways and held opponents to 268.7 yards per game.
“It’s a little bit difficult to judge their base defense,” Houchins said. “Sometimes they run a four-man front, sometimes they go to a five-man front or a six-man front. You just have to look and see how they adjust to certain formats.”
WHAT’S ON THE LINE
To win in this situation — their first playoff game in 15 years, 270 miles from home, after such a disastrous middle of the season — would be quite the accomplishment for the Bobcats.
The winner will take on either No. 3 Bridgeport or No. 14 River View in the second round.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Isaiah Brown, RB — The Summers offense has a lot of weapons, but Brown has been the centerpiece. His speed makes him a real threat every time he touches the ball.
Cody Harrah, NG, and Allen Brown, DE — Houchins likes the way these two play up front. Brown uses his power to his advantage, while Harrah uses quickness to wreak havoc in the backfield.
Thane Cutter, WR — When the Falcons take flight, it most often has been Cutter doing the damage. He has 32 receptions for 831 yards and seven touchdowns.
Randy Riley, DT — The 6-foot-1, 210-pound senior is a ball hawk. He has 49 tackles, three sacks, one forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
KEYS TO THE GAME
Frankfort must find a way to slow down Brown and contain both Smiths. Sustained drives that keep the Bobcats offense off the field would be a good way to do that. Which leads to the Summers defenders, who must stay home and fall prey to the Falcons’ misdirection.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
“The long distance will play a part as far as our fans (not) getting there, but for the players themselves I don’t see it having a big bearing on the game.” — Josh Houchins
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