Crusaders close out season vs. Doddridge County

Times file photo Parkersburg Catholic’s Jeb Boice (10) carries the ball during a high school football game against Wirt County earlier this season at Stadium Field in Parkersburg.

PARKERSBURG — Class A’s eighth-ranked team Doddridge County finds itself in a deja vu-like situation from 2014 heading in to a season-ending matchup with Parkersburg Catholic at 7 p.m. Friday on the turf at PHS Stadium Field.

Then fourth-year head coach Bobby Burnside brought his Bulldogs to Parkersburg, sporting an 8-1 record, in need of a win to boost playoff positioning.

“As we prepare for Parkersburg Catholic, we know they have faced a lot of adversity this year with numbers,” said Burnside. “But you don’t have to look back too far to see how they play us. They came in here and beat us in 2014, and we still ended up making the top eight as far as hosting a game, but they have always played us really tough.”

The 22-6 loss sent Burnside and company down to the seventh-seed, where they were shut out by No. 10 Buffalo 20-0 in the first round of postseason play.

“There is just something about Catholic,” said DCHS running back/line backer Curtis James. “They just always play us hard.”

Flash forward to this season and the Bulldogs are 7-2 needing a win and some luck to stay in the top 8 and host a first round postseason game.

Catholic, under first-year head coach Lance Binegar, hopes to play spoiler again by picking up win No. 1 in the final game of the year. Close calls two of the last three contests have left the Crusaders hungry to finally break through with a W.

“They (the kids) are especially excited to get back on the field,” said the coach, whose team hasn’t played a game in two weeks. “Especially with things not being in any of our control. We have no control over being on the field or not. So two weeks off is a long time to keep them at their peak, because they are ready to hit someone else besides teammates.”

Pulling off the upset will be easier said than done as Binegar is well aware of the Bulldogs’ defense after watching plenty of film of DC defensive coordinator Dave Burnside’s group.

The word dominant doesn’t do any justice.

During the green and gold’s string of victories, the unit has allowed 16 points in seven games with four shutouts.

James and William Howell lead the Bulldog point-stopping team.

James is the active leader in tackles with 71, including 10 for a loss. While Howell is tops on the team in sacks with 8, has 62 stops from the defensive end spot with 13 of those behind the line of scrimmage.

“The D-line has really stepped up a lot since last year,” said James when asked to put his finger on the defenses improvement.

Missing quarterback Jeb Boice, who suffered a lacerated spleen against Valley-Wetzel doesn’t help the Columbia blue and white’s cause either.

“We are going to get everything,” said Binegar. “That is good. That is all I want from anybody is their best game. They are coming in and just as hungry as we are after a bye week. They are definitely healthy. I have watched film on them and they like to run the ball like we do and that actually plays in our favor so that’s good.”

James, along with Hunter America and Logan Gogan form a Doddridge County triple-headed rushing attack pounding out 223 yards per game. Combining for 26 touchdowns and nearly 1,700 yards on the ground, it is safe to say one of those three players will have the ball in their hands the majority of the evening.

A dominant offensive line bigger than some Class AAA schools paves the way for the Bulldog rushers.

Meanwhile, Ty Sturm and Aidan Stotts will see the lionshare of the carries for Binegar as Boice was the only option at quarterback and an air attack isn’t in the cards. Both players along with Alex Schreiner are who Burnside is most impressed with for PCHS. “They play hard and when they are all healthy, they have been competitive,” said Burnside.

“Basically we have to stop No. 5 (James) to win the game,” said Binegar, when asked key to winning the game. “He does a lot of work for them and is a big solid kid. If we stop him and eliminate our turnovers and boneheaded mistakes we will be all right.”

“The kids have worked hard and everything has been stacked against us all year. Just to get them some success would be awesome. They deserve it. It has been a roller coaster year for us and if anything could go wrong it did but hopefully we will end on a positive note.”