WHEELING - West Virginia will look to make it three victories in a row against Ohio tonight at the 67th annual Rudy Mumley OVAC All-Star Charity Football Classic.
Kickoff is set for 7:15 p.m. at Wheeling Island Stadium.
The Mountaineers haven't won three in a row since a five-game winning streak from 1973-77. In fact, since that streak ended, Ohio has captured 25 of the last 33. The 1992 game was the only game in the series wiped out due to weather.
Photo provided by Briggs Photography
These young men and coaches will be representing West Virginia in tonight’s 67th annual Rudy Mumley OVAC All-Star Charity Football Classic. First row: head coach Doug Taylor, Boo Lathon (1), Lucas McDowell (2), Kyle Gillis (3), Ricky Jordan (5), Jayson Keller (6), Lee Peluchette (7), Gino Bianconi (8). Second row: Vondel Bell (9), Matt Carter (10), Jeff Hissam (12), Aaron Fonner (14), Ryan Mozingo (20), Kevin Minehart (21), Sammy Lusk (22), Gianni Fuscardo (28), Erik Gompers (32). Third row: Derek Hinkle (33), Ollie Parker (34), Evan Cline (40), Timmy Faulkner (44), Dylan Davis (46), Neil Drennan (54), Taylor Neely (55), Daniel Berry (56). Fourth Row: Ada, Jones (58), Zach Massie (60), Bentley Knight (63), Mike Wise (66), Max Hudson (68), Eli Stewart (70), David Stanley (72), Seth Yost (75), Andrew Beveridge (77). Fifth row: assistant coach Brad Kessel, assistant coach Ray Pernell, assistant coach Jon Kendrick, manager Marcello Viondillo, manager Nick Ossman, manager Garrett Hypes, assistant coach John McClelland, assistant coach Eric Nejus, trainer Zack Moody, trainer Randy Elliott.
''Our kids know all about that,'' Ohio and Conotton Valley coach Eric Schumacher said prior to practice at Bethany College on Friday.
''They're excited. That's what they've been using as motivation to dethrone them.''
West Virginia and Weirton Madonna coach Doug Taylor and his players are well-aware of what's at stake.
''I'm sure there will be a lot of fan hype over it,'' he said. ''We just want to take it one play at a time and, if we execute everything well, we should be on the right end of the score.''
The injury bug bit the Mountaineers hard earlier in the week. But as the week went along Taylor said his players healed dramatically.
''You never feel you're totally ready,'' he said. ''There's a few question marks. We had some guys during the first part of the week get bumped up and we were down to two healthy running backs.
''But right now we have them back on the field and our trainer (Randy Elliott) is doing a really good job with that.''
West Virginia has three quarterbacks in the fold - Oak Glen's Lucas McDowell, John Marshall's Aaron Fonner and Wheeling Park's Lee Peluchette.
Taylor said all three will get their share of playing time.
''We'd like to establish the run, but if they give us the pass then we'll pass the football,'' Taylor said.
West Virginia has a number of players that could play offense or defense. The job for Taylor and his staff is to slot the players into the best positions in which they can be most effective.
That can be a challenge. But Taylor said the players have been receptive to any suggestion.
''It's hard to say who the most impactful players will be on both sides of the ball,'' he said. ''Right now, they all look pretty good.
''The kids have really been receptive to us moving around and finding the best positions for them.''
That is a result, Taylor said, of a lack of big egos in his locker room.
''These kids are really humble,'' he said,'' and they've done everything we've asked them to do.
''They've never complained and they work hard.''
Like West Virginia, Ohio has seen it's squad really gel the last few days.
''Things are finally coming together,'' Schumacher said. ''We're looking good on both sides of the ball. We still have a few wrinkles to work out, but for the most part we're getting things in line.
''We're going to try and mix it up as much as possible and do what's best for the team to win the game.''
Bridgeport's Cole Smelley and Indian Creek's David Kemp will take snaps for the Buckeyes.
''There are certain packages we have for both,'' Schumacher said.
Ohio has a wealth of talent at the skill positions. Cambridge's Dashaun Lewis, Buckeye Local's Josten Dear, Union Local's Zane Ayouch, St. Clairsville's Cory Kotopka and Steubenville Catholic's Brannt Pieniazek are among the players who look to have their numbers called a lot.
While chemistry and rhythm offensively came slowly, Schumacher said the unit will be ready tonight.
''That's been our big hangup,'' he said. ''Not just with our receivers and quarterback, it's just all timing on offense. It's starting to come around.''
Schumacher has been ''pleasantly surprised'' by the play of his defense, which includes the likes of Steubenville standout Willie Houst.
''We're going to mix all the players in somehow,'' Schumacher said. ''If they don't play a lot on offense or defense we'll get them on to special teams.''