Playoff Fever: St. Marys to host Greenbrier West
ST. MARYS, W.Va. -Veteran St. Marys head football coach Jodi Mote is hoping that the old adage-‘offense sells tickets, but defense wins championships’-holds true as his No. 2 (Class A) ranked Blue Devils prepare to tangle with a No. 7 Greenbrier West squad led by one of the division’s top returning rusher from a year ago-Malik Boatwright.
The two small school powers will meet at 1:30 p.m. Saturday in the second round of the WVSSAC’s Class A High School Football Playoffs at Imlay Field.
“Our defense came through for us like it has all year,” Mote said during Sunday’s meeting at the WVSSAC office. “Too many mistakes on the offensive side, so there are things we are going to have to work on this week if we are going to have a chance against Greenbrier West.”
The Cavaliers of head coach Lews McClung (10-1) are coming off of an impressive 54-7 thumping over No. 10 Notre Dame and the primary weapon used was Boatwright.
“Malik (Boatwright) played well,” McClung said. “Maybe as well as he has played all season. He’s kind of our leader on offense. We kind of go as he goes. If he plays well then we play well. If he doesn’t, we might struggle a bit.”
One of four quarterfinal contests this weekend that will determine the Final Four in Class A, the game features two teams that run the ball primarily on offense and relies on a rock-solid defense to stop the opposition’s running game.
“Sounds like we are pretty much mirror images of one another,” McClung continued. “We both like to run the football. I think they (St. Marys) are capable of throwing the football if they have to and I know we are capable of throwing it if we have to.”
The Blue Devils (11-0) will throw a quartet of running backs at the Cavaliers’ defense.
Senior David Gray provides the power with a team-leading 849 yards and 13 touchdowns on 131 carries while Noah Spitzer, Corey Stewart and Jeremy Pratt depend more on their speed and abilities to break tackles to move the chains.
Spitzer has accounted for 642 yards and six touchdowns on 135 attempts while Pratt has chipped in with 583 yards five six-pointers on 87 touches. Stewart rounds out the group with 307 yards and three touchdowns on 52 carries. His two one-yard scores in the first half helped the Blue Devils jump out to a 21-6 halftime advantage over No. 15 East Hardy.
“We’ve got four good running backs there,” Mote said. “That’s something that we are going to have to do, establish a running game. Obviously, if we can keep the ball out of Malik’s hands then that is one less time he will be able to make something happen.”
Should St. Marys elect to go to the air look for junior quarterback Michael Stout to get the ball either to senior Colby Brode or Gray. Stout has completed 35-of-87 attempts this year for 864 yards and nine touchdowns with Brode hauling in 15 of those for 417 yards (27.8 ypc) and three touchdowns and Gray pulling down 11 others for 263 yards (23.9) and a trio of scores.
Like most high school games, however, both head coaches believe this one will be won in the trenches.
“St. Marys plays really good defense and we kind of pride ourselves on playing good defense,” McClung said. “That means that the offense that can establish the line of scrimmage in its favor is going to have a huge advantage on Saturday.”
The veteran head coach of the Cavaliers also understands that his young team will have to overcome the Blue Devils’ crowd if it wants to advance to the next round.
“Our crowd doesn’t really travel very well so our players are going to have to focus on what is going on on the field and not in the stands,” McClung explained. “They (St. Marys) have a great crowd and it creates a great atmosphere for a high school football game.
“We’ve played in that kind of atmosphere before, so we’re just going to have to show up and play.”
The winner will advance to next weekend’s semifinal round where it will face the winner of No. 6 Moorefield and No. 14 Magnolia.