MASON - Both No. 3 Wahama and No. 2 Williamstown have made a habit of reaching the Class A playoffs.
That's why it is a bit ironic that when the White Falcons and Yellowjackets meet in a battle of 12-0 teams at 7:30 p.m. today at Williamstown in a Class A semifinal game, it will be just the second time they have met in the postseason.
The two small school powers played during the second round of the 2007 playoffs with the maroon and gold posting a 48-3 victory. The stakes weren't nearly as high then as they are tonight, with a berth in the Super Six state championship game next Saturday night on the line. The Williamstown-Wahama winner will face the winner between No. 1 Wheeling Central and No. 5 East Hardy, who will meet in the other half of the bracket at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Wheeling Island Stadium.
Wahama coach Ed Cromley has nothing but respect for the Yellowjackets and his coaching counterpart.
"Coach (Terry) Smith always has his team prepared," said Cromley. "They believe in what they do. He's doing the right stuff and because of that they are going to be good."
Part of that is a philosophy surrounding the running game.
White Falcons (12-0)
Sept. 2: d. Trimble (OH), 47-22
Sept. 9: d. Eastern (OH), 69-0
Sept. 16: d. Belpre (OH), 61-3
Sept. 23: d. Waterford (OH), 61-8
Sept. 30: d. Southern (OH), 67-20
Oct. 7: d. Federal Hocking (OH), 49-0
Oct. 14: d. South Gallia (OH), 28-6
Oct. 21: d. Madonna, 33-0
Oct. 28: d. Miller (OH), 74-8
Nov. 4: d. Buffalo, 27-8
Nov. 12: d. Pocahontas County, 31-20
Nov. 18: Fayetteville, 45-20
Nov. 25: at Williamstown, 7:30 p.m.
"We need to stop the run," said Cromley. "Coach Smith is correct there. This time of year has weather issues that affect the passing game more than the run. The team that can establish the run will definitely have the advantage."
Something the No. 3 White Falcons have done throughout their season.
Senior all-state performer Anthony Grimm leads the way with 1,317 yards and 28 touchdowns on only 150 carries, but he is just one of seven Wahama running backs who average 8 yards or better per carry. Kane Roush chips in with 612 yards and eight scores on 61 totes of the pigskin followed by Isaac Lee (66-566, 7 TDs), Zack Wamsley (27-361, 4 TDs), Crandale Neal (23-264, 5 TDs), J.R. Jewell (8-201, 2 TDs) and Colton Neal (6-145, 2 TDs).
"We don't really rely on the big play, but they occur," Cromley said. "A lot of that credit goes to our offensive coordinator and the kids that play on our offensive line."
One of those is returning first-team all-state selection Jamin Branch.
"He (Branch) consistently does his assignment on offense. I probably haven't had a kid be more consistent. Now, the leadership is there as well. He is constantly talking to the other linemen about what they are supposed to be doing on a play."
Wahama's ground game has propelled the White Falcons to lopsided playoff victories over No. 14 Pocahontas County (31-20) and No. 6 Fayetteville (45-20). Grimm finished with a game-high 163 yards in the win over the Pirates.
"A lot of what we do starts with him (Grimm), but we feel like we have a lot of kids that are just as capable of having a big night if teams pay too much attention to Anthony."
One of those is junior quarterback Trenton Gibbs.
The two-year starter has completed 52 of his 102 attempts for 1,127 yards and 15 touchdowns. His favorite target is Lee, who has 19 receptions for 575 yards and seven touchdowns and hauled in a 51-yard scoring strike in the win over Fayetteville last Friday night.
Wahama's receiving corps isn't just Lee as Kane and Tyler Roush have combined for 23 catches for 449 yards and eight touchdowns. Gibbs can also run with the football as the junior has rushed for 237 yards and five touchdowns on 76 carries.
"I think that is what makes him (Gibbs) so effective," said Cromley. "He can drop back and throw, but if he is pressured, he has the speed to get out of trouble and turn a negative into a positive."
Something he might have to do against a Williamstown defense that has limited opposing offenses to a mere 208.1 yards per game (83.4 rushing, 124.6 passing) and has recorded 69 tackles for losses and 41 quarterback sacks.
"Obviously, the keys for us are to run the football on offense and stop the big play on defense," said Cromley. "If we can do that, then we will have a chance to get back to Wheeling next weekend."