Williamstown set to battle at East Hardy in second round

Williamstown’s Harbor Haught (63) brings down a Greenbrier West ballcarrier during the ‘Jackets’ 48-20 win last Saturday. Now, Williamstown travels to East Hardy with a spot in the Class A semifinal round on the line. (Photo by Kerry Patrick)

WILLIAMSTOWN — Twice before in Williamstown’s playoff history the Yellowjackets have made the long trek to Baker only to leave with a postseason loss versus host East Hardy.

If Williamstown wants to advance out of the Class A state quarterfinals the sixth-seeded Yellowjackets (9-2) will have to find a way against the third-seeded 10-1 Cougars in a contest slated for a 7:30 p.m. Friday kickoff.

East Hardy rolled Meadow Bridge last week, 45-6, while the ‘Jackets of head man Chris Beck ran past Greenbrier West, 48-20.

Rickie Allen (23-209-2) and signal-caller Maxwell Molessa (23-195-2) combined for almost all of Williamstown’s 420 rushing yards versus the Cavaliers.

Cougar quarterback Mason Miller accounted for five touchdowns — three through the air and two with his feet. Miller not only is 83 rushing stripes shy of 1,000 with a baker’s dozen scores, but he’s also thrown for 1,744 yards with 26 TD strikes and 13 interceptions.

“East Hardy definitely presents some unique challenges,” said coach Beck. “Definitely a different set of challenges for us.”

The coach admitted 6-foot-3 wideout Dawson Price, who has 46 grabs for 1,079 yards and 14 touchdowns, is “probably the best receiver we’ve seen. He reminds you of a Tharp and some of the guys they’ve had in the past.

“I think most people will tell you this is a top three or four team. They are very good on defense, very sound on what they do. They do a good job flying to the football and creating turnovers. We’re going to have our hands full going to Baker trying to win.”

Aside from Price, fellow receiver Noah Lang has upped his season totals to 24 catches for 612 yards and nine TDs. Damian Iman is averaging 6.6 yards per carry and has rushed 145 times for 797 stripes and nine six-pointers.

This is actually the fourth time the two programs will collide — all in the playoffs. Williamstown played host to the Cougars in 2014 and secured a 42-22 triumph.

“Pretty happy with the execution on the offensive end Saturday,” added the coach. “None of the kids who had started that game had ever started a playoff game before. That was a byproduct of COVID last year and being young. In the back of my mind, I was kind of worried how they were going to react. They reacted well, controlled the line of scrimmage and moved the ball.

“If we want to have a chance to win Friday night, you have to execute at a higher level. We faced a good Greenbrier West team, and we know from here on out, we are facing top three, four teams in single-A. You are going to see the best of the best from here on. We got to execute at a higher level and play with intensity and hopefully we can do that on Friday.”

East Hardy’s defense, along with being opportunistic, also can apply heavy pressure with its pass rush.

Of course, the Yellowjackets prefer to keep the ball on the ground.

Molessa, who has rushed for 1,215 yards and 14 scores, has hit on 46 of 78 attempts this season. He’s thrown for 693 yards with five touchdowns against two interceptions.

Allen has toted 171 times for 1,280 yards and has found paydirt 18 times on the ground.

Paving the way in the trenches has been Colton Melrose (LT), Gunner Henry (LG), Jett Nestor (C), Isaac Joy (RT) and Aiden Corbett (RG).

“We’re going to go over there and treat it like every other road trip and try to do what we do,” coach Beck added. “Excited for the opportunity to be playing here in the second round. The run game is going to be tougher and tougher to establish. We’ll have to make more plays on the perimeter. We’ll have to do that. I’m really happy with the progress they’ve made to date and hopefully they keep getting better every week.

“So far they’ve responded to the challenge. I do think our schedule got us ready for this moment. We played some pretty good high-end teams. The key thing (defensively), I don’t think you can sit in one thing. Mixing and matching and making sure we are getting pressure at times or dropping at times, and see if we can’t cause a little confusion that will help us out.”

Contact Jay Bennett at jbennett@newsandsentinel.com


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