WILLIAMSTOWN -The football programs from Magnolia and Williamstown meet on annual basis during the regular season.
Yet, it was sort of a culture shock for Yellowjacket coach Terry Smith to see coach Mark Batton's Blue Eagles occupying a slot in the Class A state football playoff bracket when they were released this past weekend.
For high school athletics, Magnolia made the move from Class AA in time for the 2012-13 school year.
MICHAEL UHL Special to The Times
Williamstown’s Trace Hart (22) runs for yardage against Roane County last Friday night.
The Blue Eagles are only two years removed from a 14-0 finish, which resulted in a state football title.
"In past years, you would always think 'Golly, thank you Magnolia for not being in the same class as us,'" Smith said. "We do play them every year, so we are used to seeing them. It will be a little different seeing them in our division."
After losing to Magnolia 24-7 in Week 2 of the regular season, Williamstown (6-4) returns to Alumni Field in New Martinsville for the first round of the state playoffs. Kickoff is slated for 7:30 p.m. on Friday between the 15th-ranked Yellowjackets and the second-ranked Blue Eagles (9-1).
Both sides have gone through changes since that warm August night. Williamstown eventually slipped below .500 at 3-4 but recovered just in time to secure its ninth straight playoff appearance under coach Smith by knocking off in succession - Parkersburg Catholic, Ritchie County and Roane County. Roane County and Ritchie County are both Class AA participants.
"We just figured a few weeks ago that we had to win on Friday night to get into the playoffs, and it was like that three or four weeks in a row," Smith said. "We did win, so we're excited and just glad to be here right now.
"With the last two weeks in particular, I don't think there is any formula. I've been asked that question a bunch of times as to what's the difference. I just think the kids were playing hard all along."
In the first meeting with Magnolia, Williamstown fell behind 17-0 by intermission then saw a glimmer of hope when fullback David Hastings took the second play from scrimmage 63 yards for a touchdown.
However, that was about the only mistake committed by Magnolia.
"(Magnolia wide receiver Stephen Rogalski) ran around us and their quarterback (Tanner Hanna) was just super," Smith said. "Do we need a better pass rush; do we need to cover better? Of course we do."
A major reason for Williamstown's recent surge is Hastings, who rushed for 101 yards on just six carries and scored two touchdowns in last week's 41-7 win at Roane County. The junior also made a huge impact on defense after finishing with 18 tackles, including four quarterback sacks.
Also figured to contribute on Friday are running backs Trace Hart (99-795, 6 TDs), Dakota Watson (105-713, 5 TDs) and Brad Meeks (45-338, 1 TD). Combined with last year's state championship appearance, junior quarterback Jake Tracewell (63-of-123 for 759 yards with 9 TDs) has 24 varsity games under his belt.
"After the win at Roane, just look at our guys' faces - they feel good about themselves," Smith said.
"They knew they were in the playoffs, when a week ago they weren't sure. That's what makes it great and that's just looking at those kids."