The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

October 23, 2012

Woodrow’s fortunes take a leap this year

By Gary Fauber
Assistant Sports Editor

— It was slightly more than 366 days ago (this is a leap year, mind you) when Woodrow Wilson lost to Riverside for the second straight season.

There was no rock music blaring in the home locker room at Van Meter Stadium. There were no lockers being slammed, no random outbursts meant to release the frustration felt by a team that seemingly could not get over the hump.

But it was not the silence of a defeated team. The Capital Cougars would be visiting in a week’s time, and the sense in that locker room was that no way would the team from Charleston have any hope of winning.

Woodrow won that game 35-0 to finish the regular season at 5-5. The Flying Eagles had to wait through a bye week to see if .500 was good enough for a playoff berth.

Sure enough, when the final ratings were released, there was Woodrow Wilson, guaranteed at least an 11th game as the No. 16 team in Class AAA. The prize was a four-hour trip to invincible Martinsburg, which beat the Eagles en route to its second straight state championship.

Just how the postseason will shape out will be revealed in 12 days or so. One thing is for certain: Woodrow knows it will be involved in one way or another, and a week sooner than in 2011.

“I told my fellow seniors, I’m not trying to wait on nobody else to lose for us to get in,” quarterback Andrew Johnson said after Friday’s 36-13 win at Riverside. “I want to be in for sure.”

That mission was accomplished by defeating the Warriors. Woodrow was rated No. 11 going into the game, and should be right around there when the SSAC ratings are released today.

But there is still business to be done.

Capital (5-3) was 19th last week, but stands to vault considerably after its 35-13 upset of No. 4 George Washington last Friday.

Beating the Cougars this Friday at Laidley Field would cap a 7-3 regular season for Woodrow. But it could also send the Eagles into the top eight, meaning at least a first-round home playoff game.

Of course, they do have that Week 11 bye again, which would force another waiting game, albeit a bit different from what Woodrow went through last season.

Not that coach John H. Lilly is thinking that way.

“God put eyes in the front of your head so you look forward and never look back,” Lilly said. “(The win over Riverside) was one of those things. God blessed us with a great bunch of kids and I thought they stepped up when we needed them to. We rode our seniors, and we told them if you want to go to the playoffs, you’ve got to win tonight.”

“We want home-field advantage,” Johnson said. “When we go out here next week, we’ve got to be focused like we were (against Riverside) and play hard against Capital. They are a good team. Coach Lilly told us they are probably the biggest team we are going to play, and they are probably the fastest team we are going to play. So it’s going to be another dogfight.”

— E-mail: gfauber@