By DAVE MORRISON
ESPN Radio 102.3 The Ticket
FAYETTEVILLE – In Fayetteville, they bill themselves as the Dirty 2 Dozen, more of a social media driven hashtag billing than anything else.
The moniker just does not fit, numerically speaking.
Two dozen is 24 and with the Fayetteville football team the numbers just don’t add up.
Take last Friday for instance, when Fayetteville dressed 19 for its game against Nicholas County.
Of course with Fayetteville, the numbers, on the surface, didn’t add up there at all.
Sure, the Pirates were 6-0 and ranked seventh in the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission Class A playoff ratings.
But Nicholas County was 5-0 and ranked fourth in Class AA.
And there was the number nine, as in points that Nicholas County had given up for the season, all that in a 25-9 victory over, at the time, Class AA No. 3 James Monroe.
Nicholas came in with a roster full of players who had shut out its first four opponents and totally outplayed James Monroe on the road.
It was homecoming at Nicholas.
And everybody was quick to point out that Fayetteville had played a schedule of teams that had won at total of two games in those first six.
Well, Fayetteville must be dealing in new math.
Fayetteville won that game, 44-42 when Nicholas couldn’t convert a two-point conversion on the game’s final play
The Dirty 2 Dozen had done it again.
All 19 of them.
With the area’s smallest roster also comes the area’s best record at 7-0, and a ranking up to No. 4 in the Class A ratings this week.
The question is, how are they doing it?
“Well, you can’t measure heart and our kids play with a lot of heart,” coach Dave Moneypenny said. “We knew coming in that we weren’t going to have a lot of numbers. But the kids never let that dictate our goals for the season.”
Look, it takes some moving around. Sometimes in a game, positions will change with the series. The two tackles and nose and the linebackers are often interchangeable. You may be a safety on one series and a corner the next.
In-game situations change by the minute.
“It’s a little different than anything we’ve had to do before,” Moneypenny said.
Indeed. The worst scenario is a blowout, and Fayetteville has had a handful of those this season.
“That seems to be more of a challenge at times, finishing a game rather than starting a game,” Moneypenny said. “You don’t want to put kids in positions where they may get hurt or put somebody else in a situation where they could get hurt.
“It’s a little tricky. We’re always going to have starters on the field. It’s unfortunate. If we do get ahead we can’t get a new group of eleven on the field. We’re always going to have starters on the field no matter what the score. When you’re ahead you want to get those kids off the field and try to protect them from unnecessary hits or injuries. But we don’t have that luxury. As a result we have to plan and be careful what we do.”
Then there is practice. Yes, we’re talkin’ bout practice. Again the simple math says that 19 does not add up to 22, which it takes to field two sides to go offense against defense or vice versa. Sometimes the Pirates practice in sections of game situations, maybe passing, or rush defense. Other times inanimate objects are brought into play. It’s improve at its finest.
“Sometimes you have to be creative,” Moneypenny said.
Creativity on a game day hasn’t been a problem.
The Pirates are doing it by spreading the wealth. No secret there.
Not only are Pirates playing a multitude of positions, they are sharing the wealth statistically.
Fayetteville is 7-0, fourth in Class A without having a player rush for over 100 yards in any of the games, yet the Pirates have amassed 1,094 yards on the ground. Jordan Dempsey had hit 90-plus twice. Davy Gilliam has 12 rushing touchdowns.
Quarterback Will Fenton has had a stellar season, throwing for 1,186 yards and 20 touchdowns.
But he has had just one receiver, Dalton Dempsey, have over 100 yards receiving in a game, something he did twice.
Four receivers have 184 yards or better, led by Dalton Dempsey’s 523 and Alex Hewitt’s 308.
So the 19 strong – we’re left to assume the Dirty 2 Dozen would include the coaching staff, which makes perfect sense – keep rolling on.
The season is far from over. Fayetteville hosts Midland Trail (4-3) this week, one of the old-fashioned Fayette County rivalries. It’s homecoming. It’s Bridge Day weekend.
“It’s going to be a tough game,” Moneypenny said. “It always is. They have an outstanding team. They are well-coached and they are playing for the playoffs, and it’s well within their reach.”
If the Patriots beat Fayetteville.
Thomas Ferris is one of the better running backs in the area. Curtis Gray is an improving quarterback every week. The Patriots, as Frank Isaacs put it last year, are on playoff life-support.
It is an intriguing matchup, one that was won by Midland Trail last season.
It all adds up to one heck of a battle in Fayette County.