GAMEDAY: Wirt County begins tough stretch Friday night

Tigers face Catholic at PHS?Stadium Field

PARKERSBURG — Three measly points.

These are the only factors keeping Wirt County from a 3-0 record heading into Week 4 of the regular season.

Jason Hickman’s squad responded well to a close season-opening loss to Calhoun County with two straight wins. Blowouts over Paden City and Gilmer County allowed his Tigers to build positive momentum heading into their upcoming four games.

This is good news because the Elizabeth school’s slate considerably ramps up during these contests.

Little Kanawha Conference foes Doddridge County, Tyler Consolidated, St. Marys and Parkersburg Catholic appear during the challenging stretch. Three of those teams qualified for the playoffs last season, while St. Marys appears back on track after a dominating 2-0 beginning to the campaign.

Lance Binegar’s unhappy Crusader (1-2) squad appears first on the schedule. Catholic’s bad mood likely stems from the two-game slide they bring with them to the 7 p.m. Friday showdown at Parkersburg High’s Stadium Field.

“We ran through a few speed bumps and killed ourselves in my opinion,” said Binegar of the two-game losing streak. “We had a lot of illnesses and couldn’t stop what our opposition wanted to do. We are making some personnel changes. The thing we have been stressing to them is we have to be a team. Everyone has their part and if you don’t do your job or your roll the team suffers on the field.”

Bingear’s group doesn’t plan to make things easy for the Tigers. And they are by far the best oppenent Wirt has seen this season.

Catholic however will have to deal with the absence of one of their top lineman. Wade Smitley won’t suit up for the contest as he is dealing with an undisclosed illness. It turned a pretty big size advantage up front for the Crusaders into a little less of an advantage.

Regardless, a stout run stopping effort would help the Tigers unleash their dominant secondary. The back level of the defense has been largely a no-fly zone through the opening games. Wirt has picked off 12 passes, including 10 against Paden City, in the last two weeks.

“They are smaller than us but a scrappy team and they will get after you,” said Binegar. “It isn’t the size of the dog in the fight but the fight in the dog.”

Crusader quarterback accuracy hasn’t been anything to write home about in the last two weeks. Catholic quarterbacks have connected on just 7 of 27 passes and threw three interceptions last week against South Harrison.

Still, the Tigers aren’t taking anything for granted in the matchup.

“The 1-2 record isn’t fooling me at all,” said Hickman. “Their running backs are explosive and they have some dynamic kids. (Jeb) Boice is amazing and they put him pretty much everywhere. And as much as he does on offense he might be even better on defense.”

Wirt has to have that approach as they will be without the suspended Trent Richards, and as running back Garrett Parsons is dealing with an ankle injury. Regardless, Hickman still likes where his team is going into the matchup.

“You can see the kids confidence growing,” he said. “The kids wanted to win starting from week 1 and they are now learning how to win and how to finish things off. I am very proud of the effort the last three weeks. The boys started playing and relaxing and we hope that lends itself to the rest of the season beginning tonight.”

Contact Joe Albright at jalbright@newsandsentinel.com