|11 MSAC teams still alive |
The Mountain State Athletic Conference has long been a major player in the Class AAA football playoffs, but this is almost ridiculous.
With two weeks left in the regular season, as many as 11 of the league’s 15 teams still appear to be alive for postseason play. Ten, in fact, can wind up with six or more victories, which in the past has been almost considered a lock for making the 16-team AAA field.
Even a 5-5 record doesn’t necessarily knock a team out of the picture — four such squads have advanced the past three years, three of them from the MSAC. But with the possibility of so many six-win teams, that may not be the case this time around.
Top-ranked Woodrow Wilson (8-0) and No. 4 Nitro (7-1), who hook up Friday at Underwood Field in a game that could decide the MSAC championship, are ahead of the pack. Next come No. 10 South Charleston (6-2) and co-No. 13 Parkersburg (6-3), who picked up their sixth wins last Friday.
After that comes a slew of schools scrambling to secure their own spots:
Looking for a dark horse in the MSAC? Try Hurricane.
The Redskins, who blanked SA 17-0 Saturday, have won three straight and four of their five wins have been shutouts. They close with two winnable games against East (1-7) and AA Poca (3-6).
“I don’t think Greenbrier East and Poca will think that,’’ said Hurricane coach Willis May. “We’re not looking anywhere but next week and that’s it. We’re not looking at anyone but Greenbrier East.’’
Still, the Redskins coaches and players acknowledge that a postseason berth would mean a great deal for a program that missed by a whisker last year. Hurricane went 5-5, tying with Midland and Spring Valley for the No. 16 spot, but losing on a disputed tiebreaker.
“It’s going to mean a whole lot,’’ said senior tailback Joe Lamanca, the team’s top rusher. “It’s going to be very disappointing if we end up like last year and don’t end up in the playoffs.
“That’s why we’re staying focused and staying hungry until the very end. Until we get in the playoffs, that’s when we’ll start talking about the playoffs. Right now, we’ve got two games left.’’
May agreed that a playoff spot would suit his squad.
“I think they deserve it,’’ he said. “By no means do I think 5-5 teams should go to the playoffs, but we were 5-5 last year and 16th and told we were in the playoffs [in some published reports]. Then all of the sudden the next day, we were told we were not in the playoffs.
“It would be fitting for these guys to have that opportunity if we do go. We’ll see two weeks from now. Hopefully, we’ll take care of business and have that opportunity.’’
St. Albans, which missed its own opportunity Saturday to check off that sixth win and make the playoffs, must now hit the road the final two weeks in an attempt to win one and end a playoff drought that started after the 1997 season.
“It’s far away, but it’s not so far away,’’ said SA assistant J.D. Adkins, who took over when coach Derek Christian’s mother suffered an apparent heart attack at Saturday’s game. “We’ve got to get ready for Parkersburg, which year in and year out is almost like a small college team. We’ve got to get back to St. Albans-style football — control the ball on offense and play sound defense.’’
Christian left the game in the fourth quarter after his mother collapsed in the stands. Linda Christian’s condition has stabilized and she is scheduled for open-heart surgery this week at Charleston Area Medical Center’s Memorial Division, a family member said Sunday.
The schedule says Woodrow Wilson will show up in Nitro to tackle the Wildcats in Friday’s headline game, but in truth a part of Capital and Parkersburg will also show up at Underwood Field.
The double-wingback formation that Flying Eagles coach John H. Lilly borrowed from former coaches Roger Jefferson at Capital and Marshall Burdette at PHS will be on display.
“I’d seen the old Capital and Parkersburg teams with their double-wing stuff, and they’ve been an influence on us,’’ Lilly said recently. “We have the kind of kids who are physically able to run the double wing.
“I spent a lot of time talking with both Roger and Marshall, and they’ve been a heavy influence on us. This is the 10th year we’ve run the double wing and it’s brought quite a bit of success for us. I’m fortunate those kind of coaches would talk to a young coach like me.’’
Hurricane quarterback Jered Chapman should qualify for some sort of Red Cross award.
For the second time this season, Chapman didn’t start on Saturday, sitting out the first two series at SA because he missed practice time during the week. The reason? He passed a kidney stone.
Two weeks prior, he sat out much of the first quarter in the Redskins’ 23-21 upset of Nitro because a leg injury had cut into his practice time. But he was there at the end, throwing the winning 15-yard touchdown pass with four seconds left.
Chapman went 3-0 as a starter last season, but missed the final seven games with a broken neck vertebra.