CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Capital Coach Jon Carpenter might subscribe to a bevy of truth-laden witticisms and folksy tall tales that belie his age.
There's one idea that applies to tonight's game between his sixth-ranked Cougars (6-3) and No. 3 Huntington (8-1) he refuses to believe.
Having missed two practices this week thanks to school cancellations spurred by local effects from Hurricane Sandy, Carpenter was asked Thursday if teams with superior athletic ability might be able to better withstand such a scenario than others who rely more upon schematics for success.
"I don't know. If you ask a guy who doesn't have a bunch of athletes, he's going to say yes," Carpenter said. "If you ask a guy who does, he's going to say no. We've got to go out there today and get ready.
"I mean, yeah, we've got athletes. But if you go too fast in the wrong direction, it's going to hurt you even more," he said.
Tonight's game is the pinnacle of a second-half run through the regular season that has placed the Cougars in position to host a first-round Class AAA playoff game should it win.
The Cougars have won consecutive games against playoff-bound George Washington (7-2) and Beckley (6-4) in convincing fashion, and led top-ranked Cabell Midland (9-0) in the fourth quarter before falling 21-13 on Oct. 12.
"Our kids are excited. Three weeks ago everyone thought we'd be getting ready to start basketball next week," Carpenter said. "It's fun. They playoffs are fun. If you're in this for the right reasons, you want your kids and yourself to be challenged every week, and that's what this has been like."
The running back duo of junior James Richmond and sophomore Kashuan Haley has emerged for the Cougars to take a significant amount of pressure away from freshman quarterback Tyrhee Pratt as the season has progressed. Between them the trio has accounted for 2,626 yards this season.
Haley injured his thumb on a punt return for a touchdown against Beckley last week, and finished the game on the Capital sideline. Carpenter said the sophomore will play tonight.
Richmond leads the team with 774 yards rushing, with Haley right behind him with 745 yards. Each player has scored eight rushing touchdowns, although Haley has found the end zone seven other times via pass receptions, punt returns and interception returns.
Huntington has surprised many in its climb near the top of the Class AAA rankings. The Highlanders, who are ranked third in the Daily Mail Poll and the Secondary School Activities Commission playoff ratings, have impressive athleticism as expected, but have made their living on the defensive side of the ball.
Through nine games, Huntington has given up a Class AAA-low 79 points.
Fullback and linebacker Paden Christian leads the Highlanders offense with 703 rushing yards and six touchdowns. Quarterback Mark Shaver has added 522 yards on the ground and has scored seven times.
Capital enters the game ranked 10th in the Class AAA playoff ratings. Barring a Hurricane upset of Cabell Midland tonight, a victory should ensure the Cougars of a first-round playoff game in Charleston.