CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Football fans can only hope Friday night's game between Class AAA No. 5 Capital and rival South Charleston is a sign of what awaits in games between the rivals for the next four years.
South Charleston freshman quarterback Kentre Grier took over for starter Jon Alexander to start the second half at University of Charleston Stadium with his team facing a three-score deficit. By game's end, Grier had completed 7 of 10 passes for 148 yards and two touchdowns in a 20-17 Black Eagles win.
"Make no mistake about it, Jon Alexander is our quarterback come Monday," SC Coach John Messinger said shortly after Grier hit junior wide receiver Marquel Hampton against double coverage for the winning score with 1:07 left in regulation.
"But Jon was struggling, and I think he was rattled. Bringing Kentre in gave us the opportunity to run the ball, and it gave us a lift," Messinger said. "Now, instead of having a quarterback controversy, we've got two quarterbacks we can put out there, and I like when we can do that."
South Charleston (2-3) was held to 70 total yards in the first half as Capital, behind freshman quarterback Tyrhee Pratt, got out to a 17-0 lead by halftime. Pratt completed six of his first eight passes in the game, including a 47-yarder for a touchdown to his older brother, Cliff Pratt, as he threw for 123 of his 142 yards before halftime.
Capital pulled its foot off the gas after taking the second-half kickoff, however. The Cougars (3-1) picked up 230 yards in the first half, but threw the ball just once in the second half until late in the game. Capital finished the game with 321 total yards.
"I think we got a little too conservative," said Capital Coach Jon Carpenter, who also serves as the Cougars' offensive coordinator.
"That's my fault. We also had some guys cramping up, and it was to the point where I was having trouble putting 11 guys out there every down. I think that's a sign of youth, maybe, because it really seemed like we were all waiting for someone else to step up in the second half."
Both Capital running backs Kashaun Haley and James Richmond battled cramps for much of the game. Haley, who scored on an 8-yard run late in the first half to put Capital up 17-0, was the game's leading rusher. He finished with 82 yards on 16 carries.
Once Grier entered the game, however, the tone of the contest began to change. His first drive behind center ended at the Capital 1-yard line, when Trevond Reese was stopped on a fourth-and-goal attempt for a 4-yard loss.
Reese atoned for his shortcoming quickly. On a Haley run from his own 38 on Capital's ensuing series, Reese stripped him of the ball and returned the fumble 35 yards for South Charleston's first touchdown.
Capital undertook another sustained drive after the score, but again came away empty-handed when Pratt misfired on a fourth-and-13 pass attempt. Grier returned to the field and led a seven-play, 73-yard drive that pulled the Black Eagles to within 17-14 when he hit Kevin Forrest on a 20-yard touchdown pass.
With all the momentum in South Charleston's favor, the teams traded punts on three consecutive possessions before SC took its only lead of the game. This time, Grier led a six-play, 87-yard drive that was keyed by a third-down completion to Reese that gained 18 yards, plus 15 more when a Capital defender was flagged for a late hit on the play.
On first down from the Capital 36, Grier rolled left and fired a strike down the sideline that somehow managed to split Capital defenders James Richmond and Jordan Kinney before finding its way into Hampton's hands.
Grier said he feared being overwhelmed upon entering the game, but soon found his footing.
"First, I was thinking, 'How am I going to bring my team back.' Then, once I got in and completed my first pass, I was like 'I can do this.' So, I pretty much got confident after I first went in."
Grier added 18 rushing yards in the win. Ken Haynes led the Black Eagles with 32 yards on the ground.
SOUTH CHARLESTON 20, CAPITAL 17
First downs 18 14