By DAVE MORRISON
ESPN Radio 102.3 The Ticket
Their pathway to current success has taken two completely different paths, but still Summers County and Independence are attaining midseason success at nearly the same rate.
They meet Friday night in Coal City and, for starters, understand it is homecoming at Indy so plan accordingly.
Summers enters the contest with a 4-1 mark, ranked No. 7 in the latest West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission Class A ratings.
Independence is 5-1, winners of three straight, sitting at No. 11 in the Class AA ratings.
The two could not have reached that point in more a different way.
It’s a case study in polar opposite offensive strategies.
Summers will pass the ball, its 111 attempts the most in the area and representative of 45.3 percent of the team’s offensive play calls. The Bobcats have thrown for 1,115 yards and 12 touchdowns. The Bobcats average nearly 18 yards (17.98) yards per reception.
“They may throw more than we’ve seen in our other (six) games combined),” Independence coach Chris Vicars said.
While that may not be entirely accurate – Shady and Westside did combine to throw 35 passes in two of the previous six games – there is some substance to what Vicars is saying. The Bobcats will throw the ball, and they will throw it often.
“(Summers County QB Nate) Grimmett has thrown the ball for over 200 yards in every game he has played in,” Vicars said. “So it is definitely concern of ours. We are going to try to be aggressive and attack. We just have to make sure that we are in good position to make tackles when we have chance. We have to be disciplined and do what we do.”
Just last week Nate Grimmett threw the ball 31 times (completing 20, which nobody has done against Independence to this point) for 230 yards and two touchdowns. Mark this down, Grimmett’s 20 passes completed last week was more than Independence has attempted (19) this season. The one game he didn’t throw for over 200 was Greenbrier West when he didn’t start due to an injury. He did complete both his pass attempts in that game for 54 yards and a touchdown.
Of course Webster County, which Summers beat in that game 41-6, is not Independence.
Independence will run the ball with an area-best 1,760 yards and its 238 rushing attempts represents 92.6 percent of its offensive play calls. The team’s big three of Markus Guy, Connor Gibson and Noah Adams have accounted for 1,379 yards and 21 touchdowns so far this season, or, 78.4 percent of the rushing yardage.
Summers County coach Nate Tanner knows what is coming.
“They run the ball very efficiently,” Tanner said. “They have three running backs who are all different. Markus Guy, he’s very elusive. The Gibson guy, he’s kind of a scatback but he runs very hard. He kind of reminds me of Warrick Dunn (former Tampa Bay Bucs running back). And the Noah Adams kid is a really good athlete. He’s tall, he’s strong, he’s big, he runs really hard. In order for us to have success we’re going to have to keep the train from rolling.”
All three of the Independence backs have 100-plus rushing games. Adams has four, Gibson two and Guy one.
Independence will try to control the clock keeping the Summers offense off the field.
Now, don’t think the two teams are one-trick ponies. Summers County has rushed for 868 yards this season (173.6 ypg) and last week Independence threw for 123 yards, a career-best for first-year senior quarterback Tyler Haga.
MIDLAND TRAIL (3-3) at LIBERTY (3-2)
Jacob Bailey has been the talk of the area since moving to quarterback in Week 2. He leads the area in rushing (929), with 871 coming in the last four games.
His 929 is just over 75 percent of the Raiders 1,239 yards rushing.
“We like to get him rolling out because that is when he is the most dangerous,” Liberty coach Jeff Alexander said. “But we have designed run plays for him as well.”
Bailey has a shot at the rushing record at Liberty, 1,548 yards set by Tommy Newman in 2005.
Coming into the year he was the state’s leading returning receiver with 73 catches in 2015 for 1,164 yards and 13 TD. That was a school record.
Now he could set another.
Midland Trail is looking for a win. Any win.
“We feel like we have been close in the last two and just couldn’t finish it off,” coach Frank Isaacs said. “We fumbled away opportunities at against Van and we led Gilmer 7-6 in the third quarter.”
FAYETTEVILLE (6-0) at NICHOLAS COUNTY (5-0)
It’s the battle of the area’s last two undefeated teams. Fayetteville is No. 6 in the latest Class A ratings and Nicholas is tied Mingo Central for No. 4 in Class AA.
Nicholas is coming off a huge victory over James Monroe, beating the No. 3 Mavericks 25-9 (the first time Nicholas has beaten a Top 3 team).
Any questions about the validity of the Grizzlies team and defense ended in Lindside.
Nicholas QB Tate Mays played his best game to date. He completed 10 of 16 for 202 and a touchdown, that one 89 yards to Carter Sebert Sweeney, the ninth TD connection between the two this season. He also rushed for 81 yards and a TD. He has 961 combined yards 13 TD
Fayetteville comes in with a prolific passing game. Will Fenton has thrown for 1,062 and 18 TD with just two interceptions. The main targets have been Dalton Dempsey (22-469-7), Alex Hewitt (14-252-5), Jordan Dempsey (10-147-2) and Marcus Lively (8-199-3).
Last year’s game was a shootout won by Nicholas County 47-42.
The two feature good defenses as well. Nicholas gives up 1.8 ppg and Fayetteville 3.5. Those averages will go up this week.
WESTSIDE (2-3) at JAMES MONROE (4-1)
The Mavericks are smarting after last week’s loss to Nicholas and Westside is trying to end a three-game losing streak.
Job one for the Mavericks is to not let last week’s loss beat them twice.
“This is a team coming in here 2-3 but their losses were to three good teams,” coach John Mustain said. “If we don’t come in with the right frame of mind, we could be in trouble again. Hopefully we have gotten all that taken care of this week.”
Westside quarterback Josh Morgan has accounted for 875 yards and 12 touchdowns for Westside, coming off a bye and before that a 14-6 loss to Independence. James Monroe beat Independence 27-6 earlier in the season.
The Mavs average 209 yards on the ground behind Grant Mohler (349-5) and Devin Johnson (278-5).
A loss would be a blow to Westside’s playoff hopes.
James Monroe is No. 6 in this week’s Class AA ratings.
PRINCETON (4-1) at OAK HILL (0-5)
Princeton knows who its bread and butter running back is. Zack Standifur has rushed for 820 yards and 15 touchdowns this season. He has scored more points than Oak Hill has as a team.
However, the Red Devils may have found a back in offensive line convert Christian Lively, who rushed for 228 yards and a TD last week in a 20-6 loss to Shady Spring.
“He stepped into that running back positions and had a big game for us,” coach Jason Blankenship said. “he’ll be back there again this week and we’ll see if we can get him going again.
He was the fourth starter at running back in five games for Oak Hill, which has had three different players top 100 yards in a game this season. The Red Devils also started three freshmen on the offensive line.
Lively is also one of the Red Devils top defensive players.
“They have a lot of different kids that do things for them and we have to have our heads up and make sure we are aligned properly or they could cause us a lot of problems,” Princeton coach Wes Eddy said.
Je’Nye Hearn has had two straight 100-yard rushing games for Princeton, which averages 304.8 yards per game as a team.
PARKERSBURG (1-4) at WOODROW WILSON (1-4)
These two teams are ancient adversaries, the series dating back to the 1020s and as Street Sarrett noted, Woodrow has won just 30 percent of the games.
The good news is the Eagles are returning to health and sophomore standouts Logan Cook and Micah Hancock are returning to form.
The two mirror the youth on the team.
Hancock leads the Eagles in rushing at 264 yards with 3 TD. Cook haas 221 and a score. Cook is also a valuable receiver, catching seven passes for 175 and two scores.
“They are getting back and they are healthy and that’s a big help when you get those guys back,” Sarrett said.
Meeko Harris has 226 yards rushing for the Eagles.
He’d like to see more consistency in the offense.
“We have some games where we burst and then we come out and sputter around a little bit.” Sarrett said.
Jordy Hancock is averaging 10.6 tackles per game for Woodrow.
The game kicks off at 7 p.m.
BLUEFIELD (2-4) at POINT PLEASANT (6-0)
Bluefield is the proverbial enigma wrapped in a mystery.
Part of the 2-4 start has been a killer schedule featuring Graham, Princeton and Woodrow to start the season – all three rivals_ and also Richlands, Va., another tough Virginia foe.
The Beavers have moved the ball effectively, averaging 179.0 yards rushing per game and 160.5 passing. Bluefield averages 30.5 points per game.
Stopping teams has been a problem as well. The Beavers are giving up 35 points per game.
Mookie Collier has 288 of his 441 rushing yards in the last three weeks. Quarterback Cody Fuller has thrown for 963 yards and nine TD and is completing 59.3 percent of his passes (64-108).
SHADY SPRING (2-4) at LINCOLN COUNTY (0-5)
Shady Spring is coming into the game with a two-game win streak, having beaten PikeView and Oak Hill.
Lincoln is winless, scoring just 8.6 points per game and giving up 40 three times, 30 once and 25 last week in a 25-10 loss to Man.
But, as coach Vince Culicerto said, he expects a confident opponent.
“They are looking for a win and they beat us last season, so I’m sure they are thinking this is one they can get,” Culicerto said. “I’m proud of my team. We played a tough schedule to start the season and these kids kept battling. They are starting to see some of the reward for the work they put in.”
The Tigers have scored 52 points in the last two games after scoring just 47 in losses to the likes of Class AAA No. 8 Princeton, Class AA No. 4 Nicholas, Class A No. 7 Summers County and Class AA No. 11 Independence.
Shady is averaging 91.3 yards rushing and 92.5 passing per game but in the two wins the number has jumped to 121.5 and 124.5 per game.
Versatile Keith Sexton has thrown all three of his TD passes and scored two of his three rushing TD in the two wins.
WYOMING EAST (1-5) at PIKEVIEW (0-6)
Quarterback Hunter Hall returned to the Warriors last week and threw two TD passes in a 21-20 victory over River View. Hall had missed four games after being injured in the opener.
The return has allowed Jake Cannady to play a different role and he responded y catching a TD pass from Hall and rushing for another.
The schedule has softened somewhat after the Warriors opened with games against Class AA No. 4s Mingo and Nicholas, No. 6 James Monroe, Class A No. 7 Summers and county rival Westside.
Wyoming East averages 105.8 rushing and 59 passing per game.
PikeView has not gotten a break either. It lost its top two quarterbacks and has played four ranked opponents and has scored just 53 points, 29 of that in a 32-29 loss to Shady Spring.
Evan Rose has been a standout for the Panthers.
MEADOW BRIDGE (1-5) at WEBSTER COUNTY (2-3)
Meadow Bridge got its first win of the year and apparently found a second runner in the process.
Landon Crowe had 33 carries for 155 yards and a pair of TDs in the Wildcats victory over county rival Valley last week.
A lot of that was in the second half (over 100) when the field conditions deteriorated in the elements.
“He’s really very much a straight ahead of runner,” Coach Dwayne Reichard said. “Shoot, I kept calling the same play for quite a stretch just because we were getting four and five yards and we were able to get out of that muddy area right in the middle of the field. It just worked for us. Landon is going to get his fair share of carries (moving forward).
Crowe had five carries for nine yards the week before in his first stint in the backfield.
Quarterback Chris Sims also topped 100 yards (124) for the Wildcats, who, until a week 2 loss to Tug, had gone nearly eight seasons with a 100 yard rusher, a staple at Meadow Bridge.
TOLSIA (3-1) at MOUNT VIEW (3-2)
This may be the real litmus test for Mount View.
The talk of a turnaround at Welch was being predicated on how they fared against a Class AA (and just last year Class AAA) powerhouse in Point Pleasant.
That was an unfair comparison.
This might be more in the area of where some real growth can be measured.
Tolsia is 3-1 and coming off a strange second bye week (only nine games scheduled).
Mount View beat Notre Dame 29-24 last week, the final score not indicative of how one-sided it was. Notre Dame scored two late touchdowns.
Now, the Golden Knights can move up the Class A ratings (they are No. 16, tied with Bishop Donahue).
“If we can counter their physicality up front with our line we should be OK,” coach Larry Thompson said. “They are an outstanding team, they do a lot of good things. Offensively we are going to mix it up, show them some different things and see what we can do.“
Joseph Hayes has emerged as a go-to guy in the backfield (485 yards) and quarterback Elijah Collier has thrown for over 100 yards in four straight games.
GREENBRIER WEST (1-4) at POCAHONTAS COUNTY (2-3)
It was a short work week for Greenbrier West, coming off a 41-9 loss to Covington on Monday, after that came was postponed by flooding in the Covington area.
The game will kick off at 7 p.m.
It marks two trips in one week for a team that has done the tip thing before, once playing 10 straight road games, five to end 2014 and five to open 2015 because of a quirky schedule.
No stats were available from the Covington game.
TUG VALLEY (3-3) at VALLEY (0-5), Saturday
The Hounds will play an afternoon game with the lights at their new field beside the school not yet up.
Valley fell to Meadow Bridge 26-21 last week.
No statistics are available for Valley.