Prep football: Big offensive line bringing success to Timberwolves
HURRICANE, W.Va. -- As the weather steadily gets cooler, Spring Valley fullback Elijah Wellman increasingly likes the look of his Timberwolves wing-T offense.
"Our linemen are big. They stay warm when it gets colder because they've got a little extra around them," Wellman said with a laugh Friday after Spring Valley (5-3) ran for 643 yards in a 55-27 rout of host Hurricane (5-3).
"I like the run. (If) our linemen get a burst there and we can pick up five or six yards a pop we're doing just fine," he said.
The Timberwolves moved up at spot to No. 9 in this week's Daily Mail Class AAA poll. The win over the Redskins was the fourth time this season they have accumulated more than 500 yards rushing in a single game.
Spring Valley also eclipsed the 500-yard mark against South Charleston (5-4), Greenbrier East (2-6) and Beckley (6-3).
With big lines coming at a premium in the modern era of high school football, Spring Valley has a distinct advantage in running its offense against most opponents.
The line, which includes sophomore left tackle Alex Locklear (6-foot-4, 295 pounds), senior left guard Matt Jones (6-0, 202), junior center Josh Hammer (6-0, 310), senior right guard Matt Fuller (6-3, 257), sophomore right tackle Trevor Stacy (6-5, 315) and senior tight end Caleb Pennington (6-1, 225) helped paved the way for a record-setting performance against the Redskins.
Wellman finished the win with 224 yards and four touchdowns on 21 carries, while senior tailback Ryan George had 214 and three scores on 19 carries. It was the first time in school history the team had produced two 200-yard rushers in the same game.
"We just opened up big holes, and the backs went right through," Fuller said. "The last few games we've had, we've been rushing for more than 400-500 yards, which feels good.
"I think we're playing on all cylinders right now. We've been able to just come out and whip people up front. That feels good as we get closer to the playoffs."
Wellman said it's been a work in progress.
"In the beginning of the season we had a lot of sophomores on the line that had never played in a varsity game before," said the 6-2, 232-pound West Virginia University recruit.
"The first three or four games were a wake-up call for them. Coming up to the varsity level was a big step for them, and they've developed through it and matured a lot."
Spring Valley absorbed losses in its first two games. The team lost to top-ranked Cabell Midland, 21-13, in its opener then dropped a 17-0 decision at home to No. 3 Huntington in Week 2.
The only setback since was a 42-7 drubbing at No. 6 George Washington on Oct. 5.
"Our line's really grown up," Spring Valley Coach Brad Dingess said. "I know there a lot of the time in the second half tonight we had three sophomores out there."
Dingess, who is still trying to lead the school to its first playoff win in school history, said he is optimistic about breaking that 15-year drought.
"You're going to have to be able to run the ball to go far in the playoffs," he said. "We're trying to improve that mindset as we get ready. We're still trying to improve our passing game."
Spring Valley threw the ball just five times in the win, completing one pass for 11 yards.
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CAPITAL'S WIN over George Washington on Friday night clinched the Mountain State Athletic Conference championship for top-ranked Cabell Midland (9-0). It is the first MSAC title for the Knights, and the first won by a team from outside Kanawha County in six seasons.
GW (2007, 2010-11) and South Charleston (2008-09) had claimed each one since Parkersburg won the 2006 conference title.
The MSAC champion is determined by the Secondary School Activities Commission playoff rating. Huntington (7-1) is the only team that can equal the Knights' current point total. However, Midland will gain at least three guaranteed bonus points by virtue of games between previously defeated opponents, putting their minimum possible end-of-season total out of the Highlanders' reach.
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WITH ITS 33-7 win over Ravenswood on Friday, Clay County (4-4) finds itself in Class AA playoff contention late in the season for the first time since it reached the 2004 postseason and finished with a 7-4 record.
The Panthers got three touchdowns from senior running back Jordan Lucas in the win over the struggling Red Devils (2-6), who have lost six consecutive games after a 2-0 start to the 2012 season. Lucas scored on runs of 53, 48 and 23 yards.
Clay plays host to Calhoun County (2-7) on Friday before finishing the regular season at Tug Valley (6-2) on Nov. 2.
The Panthers, who opened the season with three losses in their first four games, have not finished a season with fewer than seven losses since 2004, and were 5-35 from 2008-11.
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GEORGE WASHINGTON has reached the Class AAA playoffs each year since 2007, and has a 61-11 record during that string of successful seasons. Only twice during the span have the Patriots lost a game by a wider margin than Friday's 22-point setback against Capital, which was GW's most lopsided regular-season loss since a 53-7 loss to Parkersburg in the 2006 season opener.
South Charleston beat GW 39-8 in the 2008 Class AAA state championship game, and Bridgeport downed the Patriots 31-0 in the 2009 Class AAA playoff quarterfinals.