’Jackets’ road to finals runs through West Union
WILLIAMSTOWN — The road to the Super Six and Wheeling Island Stadium for head coach Chris Beck’s Williamstown Yellowjackets runs through West Union.
The two Little Kanawha Conference rivals are set to do battle starting at 1:30 p.m. Friday inside Doddridge County’s Cline Stansberry Stadium against the second-seeded 11-1 Bulldogs.
Of course, the No. 6 Yellowjackets (10-2) had quite the road trip last week. Host East Hardy had no answer for sophomore signal-caller Maxwell Molessa, who hit paydirt four times en route to 352 yards rushing on 21 attempts, as WHS left Baker with a convincing 44-24 triumph.
“It makes it a heckuva lot easier when you win. That’s the first time we got to experience that. It was a good ride home,” said coach Beck, who also watched Rickie Allen surpass the century mark on the ground.
“I was really happy with just the overall feel of a business trip, getting it done and taking care of the kids. That’s what it was all about.”
Coach Beck had a simple answer when asked why the ‘Jackets opted for a Friday afternoon tilt the day after Thanksgiving.
“I was just trying to give our kids the best chance to win,” admitted the coach. “We felt like we play well in the afternoons, for one, and two the kids are out of school.
“I don’t know what a kid is going to do all day Friday. They are not trying to get ready for somebody we haven’t seen before. We’re pretty familiar with each other at this point.”
For the most part, that is indeed the case.
Doddridge County head coach Bobby Burnside’s only setback this season was a 26-24 defeat back on Oct. 29 at Williamstown.
Coach Beck clearly remembers the last time WHS was in the state semifinals having to win at DCHS.
“Two years ago. It was Terry’s (Smith) last game,” Beck said of the 27-3 season-ending loss.
The biggest difference in the state semifinal game will be the fact Williamstown will have the services of Molessa, who didn’t play against DCHS in the regular season after he left injured the previous week against Fort Frye. Nonetheless, Colt Hesson filled in nicely and rushed for 124 yards. Allen scored all four six-pointers versus the Bulldogs and finished with 222 stripes on 27 carries.
“I hope the place is rocking,” coach Beck admitted. “Most people have that Friday off. It’s an afternoon game. If you want to do something that night or catch another game it gives you something else to do that night. It’s two pretty good teams and it should be a great game.
“We’re very grateful to have the opportunity this year. It feels good to be able to control your own destiny. Our kids have been remarkably resilient. They’ve played hard and practiced very hard, and got themselves now where they are in a position of being one win away from Wheeling.”
Without question, even having his starting quarterback and everyone else being about as healthy as expected at this point in the season, coach Beck knows winning any state semifinal game is a daunting task.
“We got to rise to the challenge,” Beck stressed. “For our guys, I think controlling the line of scrimmage has to be key and being fundamentally sound in all three phases has to be key, and playing with a lot of energy and physicality is going to be key.
“We’ve had to think about a lot of weeks (being tough) when you play a Fort Frye. Our guys have kind of been through it, very workmanlike every week. Have a goal getting better and see how it shakes out.”
In a contest where both programs are more than happy to keep pounding away on the ground, coach Beck knows a few solid plays in the passing game by either squad or costly turnovers could be the difference.
“I think the first time we played they had one turnover and we had none,” said Beck, who watched his team survive a Bulldog two-point attempt with 18 seconds left in the regular season. “A crucial turnover could turn the tide obviously. It’s going to be tight and little things are going to matter.
“Our guys just work hard. They are a fun group to coach and they deserve everything they are getting. They deserve the success they’ve had. During the pandemic they kept working even at home. Incredible resilience and work ethic. Every week we got a little bit better.”
Contact Jay Bennett at email@example.com