Week 4 prep grid takeaways

The emergence of a legitimate Class A Kennedy Award candidate, two AA schools on win streaks, and three down-to-the wire finishes highlight last week in high school football.

St. Marys and Marietta (Ohio) kicked off the gridiron action last week on Thursday. The reigning Class AA champions made for a tough act to follow after a 63-19 win over an offensively gifted Tigers’ squad.

Perhaps the most impressive part of the evening was the Blue Devils’ Jaiden Smith absolutely going off on offense and special teams. Jodi Mote’s tailback picked up 266 yards rushing on just 17 carries with three scores. In addition, he busted out an 86-yard punt return touchdown. He easily sat at more than 400 all-purpose yards on the evening, and is quickly approaching 1,000 stripes overall.

Defensively, he was just as strong.

St. Marys faced one of the better running backs in Ohio, but Smith won the linebacker/rusher battle against the Tigers’ Dominic Vanfossen. Several times the duo met mano-a-mano, with the Blue Devil ‘backer sending the 6-foot-1, 205 lbs. Tiger rusher backwards.

By the way, I mentioned him approaching 1,000 all-purpose yards on the season. All the production essentially came in just two games, as Smith played one half each against Wirt County and Ritchie County.

Any Class A player winning the top gridiron award in the state is difficult. Thirty-one years have passed since Sistersville’s Jeff Swisher won the award, but I have no doubt Smith can break the streak.

I’ve seen him play in person plenty as I followed the Blue Devils on the run to the state title last year, and he could easily perform at any of the three levels in the Mountain State.

Much further South and up one classification to AA sits top-ranked, undefeated Bluefield.

Fred Simon’s team experienced an uncharacteristic 4-6 campaign last season, but has returned with a vengeance in 2017. Mookie Collier and Truck Edwards lead a rushing attack overwhelming teams, including three AAA schools, as the Beavers look to get back to the postseason.

Closer to home, the Poca Dots are winners of two straight after snapping a miserable multi-year losing streak. They need a lot of help, however, to keep things going when they travel to take on reigning AA state champion Mingo Central and 2016 Kennedy Award winner Jeremy Dillon Friday.

A trio of Friday night barnburners round out my top moments.

Class AA rivals Fairmont Senior and Bridgeport battled on the Indians’ home field. Bridgeport was undefeated on their turf since coming down to AA in 2012 and riding a 31 regular-season game winning streak, but the Polar Bears (another great nickname) weren’t phased.

Connor Neal hit Antonio Parsons on a 15-yard scoring connection with 1:26 left in the game, then watched the defense shut down their rivals for a 14-10 victory.

Two final-minute victories were on tap for Class AAA.

I can’t decide on the crazier one, but read for the wild endings.

Top-ranked University and No. 7 Wheeling Park met in a game between two high-scoring offenses, with fans not leaving disappointed at the outcome.

Park dug itself out of a 21-0 hole early, before coming back to knot things up at 34-34 late when Cross Wilkinson connected with TJ Reed in the back of the end zone with 33 seconds left. Things appeared to be heading toward overtime. However, Park was flagged for two late hits that helped move the ball into Hawks’ kicker Jonah Phares field-goal range.

Phares made sure to thank the Patriots. He sent the Hawks to a 4-0 record with a 33-yard field goal boot with three seconds left in the game.

Right around the time University walked home with a road win, Capital claimed a 55-49 victory over Cabell Midland.

Cougar quarterback Kerry Martin Jr. found Antonio Pittman on a 65-yard Hail Mary pass with zero time left on the clock. Capital got two tries at a game-winning chuck, after the Knights were whistled for a pass interference penalty on the first heave.

Tim Salmons’ team won’t easily get over this defeat. A win was in sight after Cameron Grobe connected on a 34-yard field goal with nine seconds left in the game.

I really wish human teleportation was possible. I would have loved to be at all three contests at the end, but oh well.

Make sure to stop by again next week readers for my analysis of Week 5.

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