PHS, John Marshall set for playoff clash Friday

PARKERSBURG — First-year Parkersburg High head football coach Mike Byus lost his car keys before he went home after practice Monday night.

He scoured the field for two hours, but to no avail until finally finding them locked in his car and was able to have them retrieved.

Byus hopes that will be the only football-related mishap this week, including Friday when his playoff-bound No. 7 Big Reds and No. 10 John Marshall clash in a first-round Class AAA contest at 7:30 p.m. at Stadium Field.

The first home playoff game for PHS in 10 years pits two 7-3 teams, with the visiting Monarchs also having a notable “10” too with Friday being their first state playoff appearance in 10 years.

After watching tapes of John Marshall, Byus thought the Monarchs are “well coached, very disciplined and a strong bunch. They’re going to run downhill right at us, and we’re going to have to get on the train tracks if we want to stop them because they’re going to bring it right at us.”

That was obvious back on Sept. 22 when John Marshall, led by senior running back Dereck Hess who romped past Parkersburg South to the tune of 186 yards and four touchdowns on 24 carries, downed the Patriots 40-17 at the Erickson All-Sports Facility.

Byus noted, however, that John Marshall “will just run it with three pretty good backs (Hess, Nick Coulter and Chaz McCool) if we don’t stop them. So we’ll have to tackle well and gang-tackle. But then they do a few things off of their runs, so we’ll have to be prepared. Every run they have has a play-action pass to it, so it’s well designed.”

And for PHS on offense, “we’re going to have to do a good job executing,” said Byus, who continued, “John Marshall may not be the fastest defense in the world, but you look at their whole program and you can tell they’ve been in the weight room — big kids, strong kids who do what they do very well.”

Byus, though, does know about John Marshall because “a family friend (Mike Linsky) of ours started the program up there. And we really liked Mike, so when I was younger, my dad and I went up there and watched his team play. I don’t know if I was even in high school then.”

Byus admitted being “concerned about his players having a little bit of a let-up” after last week’s rivalry win over South. “When those type of games are the last ones of the regular season, if you’re making the playoffs, there’s always a danger of having a little letdown. We’ll see. But I hope the magnitude of the fact that we’re playing a home playoff game overrides it, and the crowd will get ’em going.”

For Richard Goodrich, John Marshall head football head coach whose team was only 2-8 last season, the biggest change this year was “we have some great senior leadership. Let’s not be stupid; we have some good athletes and that makes all the difference in the world. We are doing the same thing this year we did last year with just a little bit better people.”

Plus, Goodrich added that “a great offseason too I think was a springboard into this season because our juniors becoming seniors who were really disappointed with the results (in 2016) wanted to take ownership of this team and be the group that brought this program back to respectability.”

He knows Friday’s game will be a physical matchup with the Big Reds. “PHS is very physical and is something we told our kids Saturday — that they better strap it on because these guys are coming after you and they are good,” said Goodrich. “They have a good running back (Tyler Moler), a nice receiver (Brenton Strange) and their quarterback (Kam Mace) does a nice job. Their offensive and defensive lines are as good as we have seen. They are very aggressive, so we have to be ready to go. It is going to be a huge challenge for us.”

Goodrich sees the game as “the biggest this school has been involved in for 10 years. Our kids are excited, but we have to keep them focused and not get all giddy because we are in the playoffs.

“Yeah, our goal was to make the playoffs. But now we’ve refocused our goals on winning in the playoffs and not just being there.”

For John Marshall under Goodrich, “the four years prior to my arrival, they hadn’t been very good and it took us a few years to get our system in place and get the kids believing in what we were doing,” he said. “I am satisfied and pleased to be a small part of what is going on to bring the program back to prosperity and a state-recognition level that we hopefully can keep going.”