By Cam Huffman
Woodrow Wilson will hit the practice fields and go to work this week, not knowing whether it will actually play another game.
The Flying Eagles (6-4) were No. 10 in the latest WVSSAC Class AAA ratings, but after a 35-14 loss to No. 13 Capital at Laidley Field Friday night, their postseason future is cloudy.
With another week left in the high school season, other AAA teams will have a chance to rack up points and perhaps jump Woodrow — and the ratings could be further jumbled as lawyers and the WVSSAC try to sort out whether Elkins will have to forfeit seven wins.
All Beckley can do now is wait, and maybe pull out a few lucky charms.
“We’re in the wait-and-see business,” said Flying Eagle head coach John H. Lilly. “But that’s just how it goes when you have an open date in the last game. We wanted to win and get that home field advantage, but now we’ll just have to take a look at it and see what happens.”
Woodrow had an opportunity to avoid the nervous nights, but Capital (6-3), coming off a major upset over George Washington last week, didn’t let the Flying Eagles capitalize on four Cougar turnovers.
“We didn’t want to have a letdown after a big win,” said Capital head coach Jon Carpenter. “It was impressive to see our guys come out and play hard. It makes you feel a little better when you know your defense is playing well.”
Capital’s defense, which Lilly said was the only one his team has played all year with as much speed as the Flying Eagle offense, didn’t let Woodrow get to the corner all evening long, and the middle of the field wasn’t the place for Beckley to go, as the Cougar defensive line clearly won the battle up front.
The Flying Eagles managed just 69 yards of rushing on an unseasonably warm evening, and a pair of Andrew Johnson interceptions negated the big plays they made in the passing game.
“They just kicked our butt on the line of scrimmage,” said Lilly. “There’s no special defense or no special offense when you get your butt kicked on the line. That’s what happened to us.”
Capital, meanwhile, did plenty of damage on the ground. James Richmond, who filled in for Kashaun Haley in the second half — after Haley, who rushed for 35 yards on eight carries through the first two quarters, left the game with a thumb injury — racked up 105 yards on the ground, using both speed and power to push back the Beckley defense.
After completing just four of his first nine passes, freshman quarterback Tyhree Pratt got hot in the second half as well, completing all six passes he threw after the break. He finished with 152 yards through the air, tossing two touchdowns and avoiding picks.
“I don’t know how he does what he does,” said Carpenter. “Those two touchdown passes were almost perfect.”
Woodrow was able to drive 48 yards for a touchdown on its opening drive of the second half, after Anthony Hosea picked up a Haley fumble, but Capital’s lone touchdown of the second half, a 15-yard Pratt pass to Khalil Bush, was more than enough to close the deal after a dominating opening half.
“I thought we showed a little bit of character,” said Lilly of the third-quarter drive. “That’s a good football team over there, and we could have rolled over. That was a positive sign.”
The mistakes that Woodrow Wilson has been able to overcome for much of the year proved costly in the opening half as Capital did what other opponents couldn’t and made the Beckley miscues count.
The first came after the Cougars’ opening possession, when a Capital punt turned into disaster for the visitors. Ramon Edwards stepped up to field the punt but couldn’t find the handle. Capital’s Jonathan Pittman recovered at the Beckley 19-yard line, and one play later Haley went off the right side for the game’s first score.
Pittman played a part in the next big play as well, this one a big mistake by Johnson. On a third-and-6 at his own 5-yard line, the Flying Eagle quarterback was about to be sacked when he tossed an underhand pass into the open space to try to keep the play alive.
Pittman was in the right spot at the right time, and the ball landed in his hands. The Capital linebacker walked into the end zone to make the score 14-0.
“When we play good teams, we can’t have things like that happen,” said Lilly. “We can’t do stupid stuff. And on the flip side, we have to take advantage of other people’s mistakes.”
Capital’s only real scoring drive of the first half came midway through the second quarter when it marched 57 yards on nine plays, a 24-yard seam pass from Pratt to Richmond capping the drive.
Already ahead by three scores, the Cougars scored again on a punt return when Haley, who appeared ready to let Johnson’s punt die, decided to field the bounding pigskin at the last second. With the Beckley defense asleep, he needed only to make a couple Flying Eagles miss, and he was in the end zone seconds later after a 40-yard touchdown return.
Woodrow’s only score of the opening half came after a 39-yard pass from Johnson to Donte Nabors down to the 2-yard line. Fullback Marcus Mickey finished the deal with a 2-yard run, and the Flying Eagles went into the break down 28-6, after managing just 70 total yards of offense through the first two quarters.
Capital, now one of the state’s hottest teams, will have one game remaining, on the road at Huntington, with a chance to not only lock up a playoff spot, but also get a major boost to its seeding.
Woodrow will have to wait to learn its future, but Lilly said he won’t having any problem keeping his team focused in the coming week.
“We’re going to watch this film,” he laughed. “So we won’t have any problem getting motivated. I can promise you that.”
— E-mail: email@example.com and follow on Twitter @CamHuffmanRH.
Capital 35, Woodrow Wilson 14
WW (6-4) 0 6 8 0 — 14
C (6-3) 14 14 7 0 — 35
C: Kashaun Haley 19 run (Logan Garrison kick) 9:01
C: Jonathan Pittman 5 INT return (Garrison kick) 0:17
C: James Richmond 24 pass from Tyhree Pratt (Garrison kick) 7:19
C: Haley 40 punt return (Garrison kick) 5:28
WW: Marcus Mickey 2 run (Chase Hancock run fails) 3:03
WW: Andrew Johnson 1 run (Nabors pass from Johnson) 8:38
C: Khalil Bush 15 pass from Tyhree Pratt (Garrison kick) 5:09
RUSHING — WW: Chase Hancock 7-(-1), Ramon Edwards 6-32, Andrew Johnson 12-24, Jacob Meadows 2-7, Joshua Creed 1-2, Marcus Mickey 2-2, Brent Osborne 1-3. C: Kashaun Haley 8-35, Tyhree Pratt 7-10, James Richmond 18-105, Tyrell Davis 5-32, Cliffaun Pratt 1-3, Rayqon Vanover 2-12.
PASSING — WW: Andrew Johnson 10-24-2-89-0. C: Tyhree Pratt 10-15-0-154-2.
RECEIVING — WW: Edwards 2-15, Donte Nabors 5-93, Hancock 2-13. C: James Richmond 2-68, Davon Tyson 3-39, Cliffaun Pratt 2-15, Tyrell Davis 1-3, Khalil Bush 1-15, Rashad Cunningham 1-14.
TURNOVERS — WW: Dakota Sizemore (FR), Anthony Hosea (FR), Timothy Culicerto (FR), Donte Nabors (FR). C: Jonathan Pittman (FR, INT) Edmond Harvey (INT).