High school football: GW not expecting Lewis County to have hangover
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- There is a sign at the Weston city limits that welcomes visitors to "Touchdown City" that has stood for more than a decade.
Until the arrival of Coach Eddie Vincent, however, that sign was more ironic in nature than it was inspirational. Lewis County won two games in their final three seasons under former coach Eddie Williams, and in Vincent's first season went 2-8.
Since 2007, however, the Minutemen are 33-20. Vincent's team is currently in the midst of its third playoff run in four years.
The Minutemen (9-2) make the school's first playoff quarterfinal appearance at 7:30 tonight when they visit George Washington (9-2) at Steve Edwards Sr. Field.
The third-seeded Patriots have been to the quarterfinals in each of the past six seasons. They finished as Class AAA runner-up in 2011.
Many, however, expected a meeting between George Washington and University in the second round; a game that would be a rematch of the 2008 Class AAA semifinals. After all, the Hawks had hammered Lewis in a mutual season opener.
Lewis had other ideas. Junior defensive end Mark Metzgar - who had 95 yards to lead the Minutemen offense - returned an interception 23 yards for a touchdown that broke a 10-10 tie in the third quarter.
On University's ensuing drive, senior defensive tackle Tim Rinehart recovered a fumble inside the Minutemen 10-yard line and returned it 91 yards for another score that proved to be the clincher.
University outgained the Minutemen 387 yards to 231.
GW Coach Steve Edwards Jr. said he doesn't expect the joy resulting from an unexpected victory to cause a hangover for the Minutemen.
In fact, the match-up is somewhat similar to a 2007 quarterfinal against East Fairmont, in which a top-seeded Patriots team fell to a team that had struggled to get past Hurricane in the first round.
"They beat a team that beat them 35-7 in the first game of the season when they played again in the first round of the playoffs," Edwards said of Lewis. "That shows where they've come from, what they believe in and how well they've been coached.
"I know we're excited about playing a team we haven't played, and a team from a different part of the state. That's part of the fun of making the playoffs."
George Washington enters the game on a three-game win streak, and with senior quarterback Trevor Bell having thrown for more yards (191) in a first-round win over Hurricane than he had in a single game all season.
Bell completed 13 of 17 passes and hooked up with senior Ryan Switzer for a pair of touchdowns. Switzer, the 2011 Kennedy Award-winning running back who has committed to play at North Carolina next year, caught six passes for 92 yards and ran for 105 yards and two more touchdowns.
Vincent said that thanks to having what he called "the smartest team I've ever coached" preparation for the game would require a minimum of instruction in adjusting the Minutemen's defense.
He acknowledged, however, there will be some things that are difficult to anticipate.
"The Switzer kid is a whole different level of athlete," Vincent said. "I emphasize this: A ... whole...other...level. This is a legitimate Division I athlete.
"We don't see that kind of speed and elusiveness in the regular season."
Switzer has 166 carries for 2,076 yards and 27 touchdowns. He has four scores via pass receptions, has returned two interceptions for scores and took a punt return 61 yards for another.
Bell, who has gone to the air more frequently since the Patriots lost senior fullback Dustin Crouser for the season with a knee injury in mid-October, has completed 67 of 119 passes for 1,065 yards, 11 touchdowns and four interceptions.
Caleb Butcher leads the Minutemen with 1,180 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns. Metzgar went over the 1,000-yard mark last week, and has 1,014 yards and 15 scores.
Braden Montgomery has completed 29 of 64 passes for 603 yards, eight touchdowns and two interceptions.
Edwards said the key to victory could be found in which team was able to best use its motivation for its advantage. The Patriots have been on a yearlong quest to return to the Super Six with a senior-laden group looking for the school's first state title since 1982.
Lewis is trying to make a name for itself as a program to be reckoned with and respected.
"I don't think we're going to be tight, but I want us to understand that there's a different sense of urgency between both teams other than that we both want to win," Edwards said.