CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The state track and field meet isn't scheduled to arrive at University of Charleston Stadium until May, but that won't keep the fleet-footed from making their presence felt there tonight, when South Charleston (1-3) visits Capital (3-0) for a pivotal game near the midpoint of the high school football season.
The game was originally scheduled at Oakes Field in South Charleston, but a generator problem has left the field without lighting. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m.
South Charleston Coach John Messinger said that he doesn't mind playing the game on the road, and he has good reason.
His Black Eagle program has won eight playoff games there since 2008, and the artificial surface will be a benefit to SC's speed the same way it benefits Capital's skill-position players.
"I think we match up pretty well with their receivers, and in a lot of ways we're mirror images of each other," Messinger said. "One difference is our quarterback is a little more experienced, but their quarterback is so young he doesn't know he's not supposed to be able to do the things he's been doing."
Messinger's reference to Capital freshman quarterback Tyrhree Pratt (6-foot-2, 195 pounds) is similar to much of the praise he has received in his rookie season. Maxpreps.com currently lists Pratt as its favorite to win the website's National Freshman of the Year Award.
Pratt has completed 28 of 44 passes for 573 yards and nine touchdowns without throwing an interception.
"He completed passes to seven different guys in our first game. I don't know that we had seven different guys catch passes in my first two years here," Capital Coach Jon Carpenter said.
"I think it shows that he doesn't play favorites, like a lot of quarterbacks tend to do. He's not just throwing it to his buddy. He's making good decisions and trusting his receivers to pick up the yards."
Messinger noted that Pratt's ability to freelance and extend plays has been a key to the freshman's fast start.
"We've told our (defensive backs) that they'd better stay in coverage and stay focused. He runs around and there's times when you look at him and you swear he's past the line of scrimmage when he throws, but you wind back the tape and you see he knows exactly where that line is," Messinger said. "He has amazing field presence."
The similarity between Pratt and SC junior quarterback Jon Alexander is one thing. The likeness between the teams' receivers is also impressive. Capital and South Charleston each have three players that rank among areas leaders in receiving yardage. SC's 6-foot, 185-pound junior Kevin Forrest leads the group with 18 catches for 371 yards and two touchdowns, while 5-9, 175-pound Black Eagles junior Marquel Hampton has 19 receptions for 257 yards and three touchdowns.
Trevond Reese, a 6-2, 210-pound senior, is SC's third-leading receiver. He has 19 catches for 184 yards and a touchdown.
Capital sophomore Kashaun Haley is the Cougars' leading receiver, with 120 yards and two touchdowns off just three catches. Cliff Pratt - a 6-foot, 170-pound junior and Tyrhee's older brother - has five catches for 116 yards and two scores while 5-7, 135-pound sophomore Tyrell Davis has caught seven passes for 111 yards and a touchdown.