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A Lot on Line for Tyler Consolidated, Williamstown

Photo by Scott McCloskey Mark Rucker (14) and Tyler Consolidated will take on Williamstown at home Friday.

SISTERSVILLE — Playoff positioning, streaks, pride and momentum moving forward will all be on the line Friday night when powerful Williamstown makes the trip north to battle a rejuvenated, and playoff-worthy, Tyler Consolidated squad.

Coach Ryan Walton’s Silver Knights sit at 4-2 on the season and are currently No. 13 in the latest West Virginia Class A playoff rankings. Tyler Consolidated is riding a four-game winning streak after season-opening losses to Ritchie County and Doddridge.

The Knights, who are coming off a hard-fought 28-14 win over Buffalo last Friday, have scored 70 or more points in two of their four victories.

“That was a very good win last week and I am honestly tickled to death that we were able to get it,” Walton said. “Buffalo was a big, physical team and that was a big challenge for us. We also played a lot of young kids in that game that got the chance to grow up and I am proud of that.”

Coach Terry Smith’s Yellowjackets enter at 6-1 and are on a six-game winning streak of their own since a season-opening 35-13 loss at Wheeling Central. Williamstown’s defense has recorded three shutouts and last week’s 33-27 victory over Warren Local was the first time they have allowed more than seven points in a game since week one.

“We have been playing well, but we honestly have not played anyone as good as Wheeling Central during our winning streak,” Smith said.

“They biggest thing has been the play of our line, both on offense and defense, which pretty much consists of the same kids.”

A huge issue for Tyler Consolidated in this game is the fact that it has been a very long time since the Knights have been able to solve the Yellowjackets. While Walton didn’t actually give a year of the last the Tyler Consolidated defeated Williamstown, he did offer a clue.

“I have made the comment to the kids that we have an assistant coach that was a sophomore here the last time we beat Williamstown and he has gray hair now.”

One thing is for sure, the Yellowjackets have won at least 11 in a row in the series dating back to 2008, including a 51-18 win last year. During those 11 years Williamstown has outscored Tyler Consolidated by an average of 40-14 a game with a pair of shutouts while scoring 50 or more points on four occasions.

The Silver Knights’ best chance at victory is getting senior running back standout Mark Rucker into the secondary and up-and-down the field. Rucker, who carried 24 times for 228 yards and three scores last week, has 126 carries on the season for 1,095 yards and 19 touchdowns.

Rucker is also the team’s leading receiver with 17 grabs for 238 yards and two touchdowns and is not only the leading small-school rusher in the Ohio Valley but also the leader in points scored.

“Mark (Rucker) had very good seasons as a sophomore and junior and has been nothing short of sensational as a senior,” Walton said. “The kid just works so hard and does so many of the little things on his own.

“He is always working out, both with the team and on his own. He has done a great job so far and hopefully he can keep it going for the remainder of the season.”

Quarterback Gage Huffman is turning into a dual-threat and is the Knights’ second-leading rusher with 528 yards and 12 touchdowns. Huffman had a fine night throwing the ball last week, completing 7 of 14 passes for 182 yards and a touchdown.

That score was a 72-yard hook-up with freshman Jayden Helmick, who had two catches for 105 yards.

The Silver Knights’ defense did allow 220 yards on the ground to Buffalo but limited it to two pass completions for 18 yards.

“The Rucker kid is very good, and they move him all over the place, so you have to know where he is at all times,” Smith said. “They have other players that are good as well so you really can’t just focus too much on him, you have to be aware of all their athletes.”

Junior quarterback Braden Modesitt leads the Yellowjackets’ offense and has thrown for 926 yards, nine touchdowns and just one interception on the season. His leading receiver is Nick Bondi with 21 grabs for 309 yards and two scores. Modesitt is a first-year starter who Smith says is “getting better and better every week”.

Running back Ty Moore is coming off a huge game last week against Warren Local in which he ran for 267 yards and four touchdowns. For the season Moore is just under 1,000 yards at 924 with 10 trips to the end zone.

Defensively Williamstown is led its linebackers, senior Eric Brown and junior Brady Ankrom, who are the team’s leading tacklers.

“They are a typical Williamstown team, and everyone knows what that means,” Walton said. “They are well coached and athletic, and they are always a challenge to play against.

“This is a big game, but we have told the kids every week since Week 3 when we got our first win that they have to realize how big every game is. It is what it is, but you only have 10 opportunities and you have to take advantage of as many of them as you can. If you do stub your toe it could really hurt you down the road.

“And I can tell you there would nothing like a win for this program on Friday night.”

Smith, who’s ‘Jackets are currently fourth in the Class A playoff race, knows full well how big Friday night is.

“This is a chance to pick up some big points,” Smith said. “The goal, as always, is to host as many playoff games as possible and your best chance to do that is to finish in the top four. It looks like we have a chance to be in the top four if we keep winning so we can’t look ahead, we just have to go out and take care of the business at hand.”

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