The stars will be out in Hico Friday night.
Independence’s Kennedy Award candidate Atticus Goodson will be attending an important baseball event this weekend in Florida and will miss the annual Patriot Bowl, pitting Independence against Midland Trail. Goodson is also one of the state’s top baseball players and has verbally committed to one of the nation’s top JUCO baseball programs, Walters State.
“It’s something we’ve known about since June,” Independence coach John H. Lilly said. “His teammates don’t have a problem with it. His coaches don’t have a problem with it. If anybody else has a problem with it then that is their problem.”
Midland Trail’s Aden Isaacs, one of the top linebackers in the area (averaging 12 tackles per game) and one of the team’s key offensive players, is out with a knee injury suffered last week against Nicholas County.
“We got some good news on it (Wednesday) and it’s not as bad as they first thought,” Midland Trail coach Frank Isaacs said of his son’s injury. “They thought he might have a fractured knee. It turns out it was something that he was born with that we just found out about, and it looks like a fracture. But he could be back next Friday (against James Monroe).”
Still, the game must go on and for No. 3 Independence that means next man up.
That means Judah Price and Tyler Linkswiler will be more prevalent in the run game. Price doesn’t have the size of a runner like Goodson, but he does have speed. The Patriots diminutive dynamo has 220 yards rushing and two touchdowns and is also a terror on punt returns. Linkswiler has 120 yards and a touchdown.
You won’t find any opposing coaches who are selling Price short.
Coaches of the last three Independence opponents raved about what he has done so far this season.
Summers County coach Josh Evans opted to start going for it on fourth down last week in a 56-7 Indy win because he didn’t want to kick to Price, who returned one punt for a touchdown and had a couple called back.
Isaacs is no different.
“I don’t know all the names, but No. 10 (Price) is a football player,” said Isaacs, himself once an undersized nose guard during his high school days. “I told somebody just the other day that he reminds me of Tavon Austin (the former Mountaineer mighty mite who went on to play in the NFL as a return man). He’s got outstanding speed and he can play the game.”
Trail has its own compact runner in Robert Ruffner, who has 339 yards and is coming off back-to-back 100-yard games, including 112 last week at Nicholas County.
The battle is also shaping up as a good one between two quality quarterbacks, both seniors who are starters for the first time, Midland Trail’s Josh Dickerson and Independence’s Logan Phalin.
In fact, Dickerson is playing high school football for the first time. Dickerson has completed 29 of 41 passes for 526 yards and nine touchdowns.
Phalin, a lefty, completed 18 of 30 for 403 yards and eight touchdowns. He also has 123 rush yards.
Both quarterbacks have thrown just one interception.
Ayden Simms is the top receiver at Trail with 11 catches for 241 yards and five touchdowns. Issacs is the second at nine for 159 and a touchdown and Cody Harrell has seven catches for 123 yards and two touchdowns.
Independence is led by Trey Bowers, who has eight catches for 145 yards and four touchdowns. Cyrus Goodson has seven catches for 194 yard and three touchdowns and Price has four catches for 89 and a touchdown.
Trail has won the last four contests in the series, which was not played last year due to Covid.
“When you play Midland Trail you better strap it up,” Lilly said. “They have always been a physical team and Frankie and those guys have done a great job with that program. They have given us a beating in the recent past and if we want to change that we better understand we have to show up to play.”
“Independence beat us the first two seasons we were here, back when they had Noah Adams and that bunch, and we felt like they didn’t take us seriously, that it wasn’t a rivalry for them, it was just the first game (the game was always played the opening week in the past)," Isaacs said.
The first four Independence games have all been played on a running clock in most of the second half, and some have seen quarter times cut down.
“We have been preaching to the kids this week, don’t eat the cheese,” Lilly said. “In other words, don’t believe all the great things people are saying about you. Just go out and do your job and let that take care of things.”
The game is a 7:30 p.m. kickoff.
Liberty at Westside
Nobody has been hotter than the Liberty’s Logan Dodrill of late.
Not surprising, the Raiders (3-1) have been hot as well.
After opening with a 47-0 loss to rival Independence, the Raiders reeled off three straight wins, two against Class AA Top 10 teams Logan and Clay County. Liberty has rebounded nicely to the No. 7 spot in Class AA.
It’s not done with mirrors, Liberty coach Mark Montgomery said.
“I’m not going back to the drawing board,” he said. “We do what we do on offense, and we do what we do on defense. We take what the other team is giving us and (in the last three games) we’ve been able to take advantage of that. I told the guys after the Independence game I’ve been a part of 8-2, 7-3 teams that lost the first one. You can’t put all your eggs in that one basket.”
Dodrill has rushed for over 100 yards in each of the last three games, including a huge game last week when he had 223 yards and three touchdowns and accounted for 20 points in a 30-22 win against Wayne. He had an 84-yard touchdown run and the game winning 1-yard run with 1:45 left.
“Logan is a big back, 5-11, 6-foot, about 190 pounds and he can giddy-up and go,” Workman said. “But he is also a guy I can give the ball to when I need four yards. He has carried the mail for us lately.”
“They definitely run the ball well,” Westside coach Tyler Dunigon said. “It’s nothing spectacular but what I really see is Coach Workman has this program to the point where these kids expect to win games. When it comes time to make a play to win a game, like getting the interception when it’s thrown right to you and not dropping it, keeping a drive alive with another first down, they do what they need to do to win games.”
Westside is coming off a long week, where they played three games in seven days, at Indy on Sept. 28, hosted Shady Spring Friday and went to PikeView Monday. They won the final two on the field, but the win over Shady was forfeited because Westside used ineligible players. The players in question had been out to start the season but met their eligibility requirements, but there was a discrepancy over the six-week window, and they had only been in school 27 days, not 30.
Those players sat out at PikeView and are now eligible, including Blake Goode, who had returned with 160 yards and a touchdown against Shady Spring. The others are linemen who helped return some experience up front.
“We are ready to get passed (the forfeit situation), I’ve talked about it enough,” Dunigon said.
“They have a good one-two punch in that backfield with (Jaxon) Cogar and Goode,” Workman said. “They have some good receivers. Goode gives them a little speed back there and he can do a lot of things to hurt you.”
Indeed, he has played quarterback and is skilled in the passing game. Against Shady he lined up at several different positions depending on the offense, and even attempted a pass on a fake punt, though it was intercepted.
Another player who has excelled for Westside has been recover Hansel Bledsoe, who has three touchdown receptions in the last three game (10 receptions, 104 yards, 3 TDs).
“He is a savvy route runner. He has a knack for find grass, he’s a savvy route runner,” Dunigon said of the first-year player. “He usually makes the right decisions, which is a little surprising for a first-year player, but he has been really good for us.”
James Monroe at Greenbrier West
Greenbrier West got Kadin Parker back this week, just in time for this key Class A battle between the No. 13 Cavaliers (4-1) and No. 14 James Monroe (3-1).
Parker was expected to be an impact player for the Cavaliers, and he was that when he suffered a fractured jaw in the opener against Buffalo.
“He had two touchdowns and an interception when he was hurt,” veteran coach Toby Harris said. “When I heard that I wasn’t sure he would be able to return. That’s an inury that I hadn’t heard of (happening on the football field) before. We are glad to have him back.”
Remember the impact mentioned before.
He returned and in limited time had two more touchdowns and another interception.
James Monroe, which welcomed longtime coach John Mustain back to the bench this season, was also missing a player in its opener, a 19-8 loss to Sherman which had been in the Class A Top 10 before falling to Mount View and falling to No. 17.
Cooper Ridgeway has returned after the opener and rushed for 344 yards and six touchdowns.
Oak Hill at Greenbrier East
Two of the area’s top running backs will be in action when the Red Devils (2-4) head to East, where they haven’t won since 2003.
This is the 26th meeting, and the Spartans lead the all-time series 18-7.
Oak Hill’s Leonard Farrow was slowed last week against Class AAA No. 7 Cabell Midland, but he still leads the area in rushing with 886 yards and 17 rushing touchdowns in six games.
The Red Devils' wing-T is averaging 320.9 yards per game rushing.
Greenbrier East's offense has continued to expand. The No. 9 Spartans (4-1) did not have talented sophomore running back Ian Cline last week. Cline has 517 yards and four touchdowns.
The offense has evolved to the point where quarterback Monquelle Davis can switch effortlessly to wide receiver to use his skills as a versatile football player and move Gavin Bennett (11-16, 135 yards, 2 TDs) to quarterback.
Davis is 37-of-61 (60.7 percent) for 548 yards and nine touchdowns, has rushed for 264 yards and three touchdowns and has five receptions for 80 yards and two touchdowns.
Shady Spring at Wyoming East
Shady Spring’s last trip to Wyoming County was certainly memorable. Last week the Tigers fell to Westside 34-20 but at the beginning of this week were awarded a win when it was discovered Westside used ineligible players.
Shady is 3-2 and suddenly alive in the playoff picture at No. 20 in Class AA.
Quarterback Cam Manns has passed for over 100 yards in four of five games (586 total yards passing) and has thrown for six touchdowns and run for four. Caleb Whittaker has 301 yards rushing.
After opening the season with a 28-6 win over Westside, Wyoming East has scored just 26 points in the next three.
Quarterback Jackson Danielson suffered a hand injury and Chandler Johnson was behind center against Nicholas County in the Warriors' last game. Wyoming East coach Jimmy Adkins said Danielson is a week or two away from returning behind center.
Woodrow Wilson at Huntington
A week after getting a shot and nearly toppling No. 5 Princeton, Woodrow gets a shot at the biggest dog when it travels to Huntington to face the Class AAA No. 1 Highlanders (6-0).
A fumble on their own goal line and a 96-yard interception return for a touchdown by Princeton’s Dominick Collins sealed the Flying Eagles’ 21-14 loss to the Tigers last week.
Jay Jones continues to have a solid season for Woodrow on defense, averaging 15 tackles per game and he has 10 tackles for a loss.
Other games include Nicholas County at Braxton County (7 p.m.), Webster County at Meadow Bridge and Richwood at Grafton (7 p.m.).