And Then There Were Four
WHEELING — Week 1 of the West Virginia prep football playoffs is in the books. On the Ohio side of the river, the postseason train rolls into its third stop beginning Friday.
Locally, there are four teams remaining in the hunt for a coveted state championship. John Marshall in Class AAA and Wheeling Central in Class A of the Mountain State, are joined by Steubenville in Division IV, Region 13 and River in Division VII, Region 27 in Ohio.
Probably the surprise of the group is the Monarchs, who at 8-3, are coming off their first playoff berth — and victory — in a decade. They plowed through Parkersburg, setting preliminary-round playoff records for first downs (33) and rushing attempts (85), which is five off the national record.
Things get interesting now, as JM travels to face No. 2 and defending champion Martinsburg on Friday night in the Eastern Panhandle. Can the Monarchs bully the Bulldogs like they have eight other opponents this season? We’re going to find out.
Nobody is shocked to see Big Red back in a regional final. After all, it seems as though Coach Reno Saccoccia’s team makes it at least this far every season. Steubenville has finished runnerup each of the last two years.
After holding off a game Cardinal Mooney team last week, Big Red gets a crack at No. 2 and also unbeaten Perry this week.
Nobody gets rich betting on Steubenville to lose.
The same holds true for Wheeling Central (7-4). Coach Mike Young knew that if he could help the Maroon Knights navigate through a brutal regular season, nobody would want to seem them come playoff time. Central dispatched fellow Ohio Valley Athletic Conference member Cameron last week, and will make the trip to Robert C. Byrd High School on Friday night to battle once-beaten South Harrison and speedy — as in the fastest kid in the state — running back Freddy Canary.
Coach Mike Flannery and River slid into the postseason as the No. 6 seed with a 6-4 record. But no ranking can account for having the best player on the field each week, as the Pilots do with quarterback Lukas Isaly. River blasted Sciotoville Community by a 59-8 count and gets top-seeded Danville (11-1), whose only loss — 28-6 to 8-3 Highland) happened all the way back in Week 4.
I know you want some predictions, right?
∫ I caught some good-natured grief for picking against JM last Friday night outside its victorious locker room. If the Monarchs can pull off another stunner this week, I will gladly take some more. Have to go with Martinsburg.
∫ There aren’t many around the state giving Wheeling Central a chance this week. That’s not true here in the Friendly City. Give me the Maroon Knights to be practicing on Thanksgiving.
∫ As I said, you don’t get rich picking against Big Red. Not going to do it. Steubenville claims yet another regional championship.
∫ There isn’t a more impressive run in the group than that of River. Danville is a quality opponent, but I am taking the Isaly Express to roll on.
In this space last week we laid out the entire W.Va. playoff field. In case anyone is wondering, I finished 20-4 in the first round.
John Marshall was my only incorrect pick in AAA, while Nicholas County and James Monroe, who I had winning another round, were eliminated. In Class A, in hindsight it was a bad idea to pick Fayetteville to win two games. As luck would have it, the Pirates were bounced in their opener.
Shawn Rine can be reached via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org