Derek Taylor: Down the stretch, postseason picture is becoming clear
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The 2012 general election isn't the only thing that's three weeks away. Three weeks from Friday marks the opening round of the state high school football playoffs.
With so little time remaining in the regular season, a quick glance at where teams stand might be in order about now.
In the playoff field - Cabell Midland (8-0), Martinsburg (7-1), University (7-1)
Can clinch with wins this week - Huntington (6-1), George Washington (6-1)
2011 entrants looking for help - Wheeling Park (5-3), Logan (5-2), Parkersburg (4-4)
What to keep an eye on - This week's top four of Midland, two-time defending state champion Martinsburg, Huntington and GW should stand pat barring significant upsets in the final weeks. The Knights face Princeton (1-7) and Hurricane (5-2) in their final games, and should be odds-on favorites to complete the first perfect regular season in school history. A 10-0 mark would lock in Midland at the No. 1 seed.
Martinsburg has games remaining against Jefferson (1-6) and Musselman (6-2) in which the Bulldogs will be heavily favored. Wins there would put them at No. 2, giving them and Midland home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
University still must take on rival Morgantown (5-2), and even if the Hawks win that game they will likely not surpass GW or Huntington, a pair of teams that - provided both win the remainder of their games - will be closely watching the scores of other games in the season's final weekend in pursuit of valuable bonus points that figure into the SSAC playoff rating formula.
Truth be told, the "winner" of that race might actually be the one that enters the playoffs with the lower seed. The No. 3 seed would be on track to potentially make a semifinal trek to Martinsburg, while the other would make a short drive to Ona to face Midland.
Also, Hurricane could take a monumental step toward securing a playoff spot by beating Spring Valley (4-3) at home Friday night. The Redskins (5-2) have won three straight and, after facing Spring Valley, finish the regular season against Logan at home and then travel to Midland.
Capital (4-3) looked like a world beater early in the season but has seen inexperience take its toll in close games against South Charleston (5-3) and Midland.
In those games - both losses - the Cougars had halftime leads but failed to score a point in the second half.
To get into the playoffs, Capital must find a way to get two wins in a three-game series against GW, Beckley (5-3) and Huntington.
In - Wayne (7-0), Frankfort (7-0), Bridgeport (6-1), Keyser (6-1), Bluefield (6-1), Scott (7-1), Robert C. Byrd (7-1)
Need help - Chapmanville (4-3), Westside (4-4), River View (4-3), Oak Glen (4-4), Ravenswood (2-5), Grafton (2-5)
Keep an eye on - The top-heavy Class AA field is filling up fast, but will likely not be completed until the final hours of Nov. 2 - the final Friday of the regular season. Ravenswood, three games under .500 with three games to play, is not mathematically eliminated because the current No. 16 team in the Class AA rankings - Philip Barbour - has only 23 total points more than the Red Devils. Ravenswood has games remaining against Clay County (3-4), Class A St. Marys (6-1) and Class AAA Ripley (3-5).
As an indicator to how wide open the Class AA field is after the those who have already clinched spots, Ravenswood will be 31st (tied with Grafton) in this week's SSAC ratings when they are released today. There are 40 teams in Class AA.
In - Tucker County (7-0), Greenbrier West (7-1), Wahama (8-0), Clay-Battelle (8-0)
Can clinch this week - Magnolia (6-1), Buffalo (6-1), Madonna (6-1), St. Marys (6-1), Valley-Fayette (6-1)
Need help - Williamstown (3-4), Moorefield (3-4)
Keep an eye on - Wheeling Central (5-3) will come into this week's games at No. 15 in the SSAC ratings. The Maroon Knights have been rendered offensively one-dimensional in many respects after losing quarterback Parker Henry to injury in the preseason, but have adjusted well. They downed Class AA Mingo Central (4-3) 35-16 last Saturday in Red Jacket.
Wheeling Central, which has won the last two state championships and six of the last eight, plays Caldwell, Ohio (1-7) this week before finishing the regular season against Bishop Donahue (6-2) next week. A 7-3 finish, which should be expected, would put them on the road for the duration of their playoff run.
The Knights have been posed with such a scenario before. In 2005, they entered the playoffs as the No. 15 seed then beat Greenbrier West, Parkersburg Catholic and Tygarts Valley on the road in successive weeks before returning to the confines of Wheeling Island Stadium to beat Williamstown for the state title.