By Luke Wiggs, Panhandle News Network Sports
Martinsburg, W.Va – For 4 of the 6 teams in the EPAC Conference, their season has been guaranteed to extend by a single game. Panhandle teams combined for a 33-27 record proving that this part of the state has as much to do with the AAA football scene as anywhere else in the state. With 2 contests to be played on Friday and 2 on Saturday let’s take a peek at a little playoff high school football.
#8 Musselman v #9 Wheeling Park: Friday, November 11th, 7:30, Inwood
The matchup of the 2 closest seeds in AAA proves to be a high-profile affair, and it’s no secret why it was chosen to be our Panhandle Game of the Week which you can listen to here. But remember it’s also a rematch.
Tough loss for the Applemen as @WPFOOTBALLTWBAI beats the #1 team in the state 34-7. Hear the highlights below!!@CoachDocWPHS #wvprepfb @MetroNewsPrep @FredPersinger @brettphillips_3 @Tankk_1k @Anthony92781804 @brayden_miller3 @keohnstephens @IsaiahZelaski @Ray_Adames1 pic.twitter.com/XL1RdgLpke
— Panhandle News Network: WEPM & WCST (@EPNewsNetwork) October 16, 2022
The spotlight was stolen by Jerrae Hawkins en route to 221 yards receiving and 3 scores. It was just a 6 point game at the half before Wheeling Park scored 21 unanswered in the second quarter. The game also saw a key loss for the Applemen on defense with star defensive end Troy Woolaston suffering a leg injury knocking him out for the rest of the season.
“Every week we play we have the fastest kid on the field,” Musselman head coach Brian Thomas said referring to receiver Ray Adames, “But not when we play Wheeling Park. He’s the fastest kid in the state and a really good player. And they’re coached really well. We need to know where (Hawkins) is but at the same time, they’ve got 2 or 3 other kids that can move as well, so we’ll need to play sound ball.”
Despite Musselmen coming up short against the Patriots, they have 2 key factors going their way the second time: A) They are at home where they have only lost once this season. It’s the same field that they slayed then #2 Morgantown and B) They are well aware of Wheeling Park’s defensive game plan that did a lot to hinder Ray Adames in the first matchup. Primarily a safety, Jerrae Hawkins played Adames 1 on 1 as a corner for the entire contest. Expect Brian Thomas and the Applemen to have a revised game plan the second time around.
#3 Martinsburg v #14 Morgantown: Friday, November 11th, 7:30, Martinsburg
It’s rare to see the Bulldogs without that #1 next to their name, but rest assured, this is the same old Martinsburg team. The Bulldogs finish the season on a 3 game winning streak and are averaging a modest 52 points per game. Their opponents, Morgantown, are as battle tested as they come.
The Mohigan’s 4 losses have been to 3 teams in the top 9 in class AAA, and a very talented Linsly team that Morgantown had a first half lead against. Morgantown is also not your classic wing T team boasting Quarterback Maddox Bowers who is one of the better pocket passers in the state. While Martinsburg is still heavy favorite in this matchup I expect it to be tougher than your average 3-14 matchup. You can also listen to a broadcast of the game here, as Martinsburg begins the quest to make it 6 titles in the last 7 years.
#1 Parkersburg South v #16 Hedgesville: Saturday, November 12th, 1:30 pm, Parkersburg
No good deed goes unpunished for the Hedgesville Eagles who make the playoffs for the first time in the Matt Faircloth era. They are now brought face to face with one of the top offenses in the State. The Eagles have lost their last 3 road games but are coming off of an impressive 61-8 win over Hampshire to clinch a postseason spot.
“It’s big for our kids, big for our program, big for our community to get back in the playoffs.” coach Faircloth said. “Last time we got in was 2018 and who did we play first round? Parkersburg South(who Hedgesville beat 35-29). We’re going to try to find anything that they don’t do well and make them do that, but, on film right now that’s hard to find. They’ve got athletes on the outside and a quarterback that can move, and great size up front.”
The Patriots boast a 9-1 record and junior quarterback Robert Shockey is among the best in the state at his position. They also boast receivers Cyrus Traugh, Turner Garretson, and running back Gage Right to provide balance.
But for the Eagles, wideout Demonte Martin and signal caller Jaxson Ruest are starting to get back to 100% after suffering injuries earlier in the season. Hedgesville will have to shoot it out with an offense averaging 49 points per game. You can listen to the game here.
#7 Spring Valley v #10 Jefferson: Saturday, November 12th, 1:30 pm, Huntington
A brief scouring of the history books leads me to believe this is the first matchup between these two schools. And a brief detour to google maps tells me these schools are about 370 miles apart.
“2 years in a row in the playoffs gets the program going, gets people excited.” said Jefferson head coach Craig Hunter. “The kids are buying in, and they’re excited about football. Jefferson (7-3) draw Spring Valley (8-2) in round one, who aren’t the world beaters of old, but still a very accomplished program.
“We know Spring Valley is a perennial playoff, powerhouse team.” Hunter said. “A smash mouth football type of team with some decent speed there too so its not going to be an easy road. We need to try to get enough stops during the game, here you can get your offense going and score some points.”
Spring Valley is a run heavy team, and Jefferson boasts one of the top receiving corps in the state. This one may be “first team to 35 wins” while conventional wisdom may side with the Timberwolves, I have a great feeling about the Cougars in this one.