Spot in semis on the line in ’Jackets/Knights clash
WILLIAMSTOWN — A spot in the Class A semifinals is on the line when No. 6 Williamstown and No. 3 Mount View clash at 7:30 p.m. Friday inside Princeton’s Hunnicut Stadium.
The winner moves on to face the victor of the concurrently played No. 7 Sherman vs. No. 2 Midland Trail matchup at Greenbrier East High School, next Friday or Saturday.
Terry Smith’s Yellowjackets used a second-half surge to pull away from Summers County for a 27-12 win Saturday, while Larry C. Thompson’s team forced two Ritchie County turnovers in the closing six minutes of the game and escaped an upset bid from the No. 14 Rebels, Friday night, 34-14.
“You have to give credit to Coach Haught,” said Thompson of the Rebels. “That was a very talented ball club. Our kids eventually settled down and started playing football. I think it served as a good wake-up call.”
Better late than never as the Knights play host to a second straight Little Kanawha Conference opponent. The league has won two of the last four state championships. Williamstown hoisted the trophy in 2014.
Smith’s team stands three wins away from the third title in school history.
Mount View is looking for the school’s deepest post-season run since the 1990 team advanced to the Class AAA title game against Brooke, a 14-7 loss.
In order to keep the dream alive, the ‘Jackets must pass a test against a Golden Knights’ team laying waste to opponents this season with size all over the field and two dominant running backs.
“They are fast and athletic,” said Smith. “They run the ball well and have a couple of good receivers. You can’t get too nosy and react to the run or the play action pass because they will fake the run and throw it. Our guys have to stay low in their blocks.”
Elijah Barner and Ty Powell are those dynamic running backs Smith referred to in the interview. Each rusher eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark on the season and each tallied over 100 yards last week against Ritchie County. Burner picked up 160 yards on the ground and two scores, while Powell tallied 106 stripes.
Williamstown excelled on run defense last week, holding Summers County to 82 yards on 18 rushes, but Smith knows this is a different type of rushing attack facing his team.
“They are a lot bigger than us and we are playing on turf as well,” said Smith. “Kinda makes you wonder how we are going to react. These running backs are good but they aren’t (Doddridge County back) Hunter America good. The good thing is it is same for both teams on turf.”
Like many teams who make it this far in the postseason, Mount View isn’t a one-trick pony. Quarterback Jesse Rose has thrown for 970 yards and 16 touchdowns on the season. Marqus Ray has 23 of those receptions for 638 yards and nine scores.
As worried as Smith is about his opponent, Thompson stands just as concerned with the task laid out before his group.
“I watched their game against Summers County and they are a fundamentally sound football team,” he said. “Williamstown is a tenured football program that comes in with a lot of success. They come in with a lot of experience. We are going to have to play with intensity all night from start to finish.”
Thompson specifically highlighted running back Donathan Taylor’s impact on the ground game. The junior bulldozed his way to 152 yards on 15 carries against the Bobcats in the opening round. “He doesn’t go down easily and almost never on first contact,” said Thompson.
Owning much home-field advantage won’t be happening either seeing as the Knights must drive an hour to Princeton.
In addition, road games didn’t bother their visitors much in the regular season. The ‘Jackets outscored opponents 181-76. Marietta’s 22 points were the most surrendered by the defense.
Smith doesn’t think the trip will be a problem in the postseason either. Most of the team experienced a five-hour bus ride to East Hardy High School each of the past two seasons.
“We haven’t done the road trip very often,” said Smith. “But I think the guys will enjoy it and they can concentrate on football.
“We are hoping they haven’t seen anybody as quite as balanced as we are because now that I look at it we are pretty balanced.”