Prep football: GW coach feels 'good' about his team
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Even with a completely new backfield, it didn't take long for George Washington coach Steve Edwards, Jr., to get a good read on his team.
Despite losing two-time Kennedy Award winning running back Ryan Switzer and quarterback Trevor Bell to graduation, the Patriots featured three 100-yard rushers in GW's 34-27 victory over South Charleston at home in the season opener last Thursday.
As impressive as the Patriots were against the Black Eagles in a battle of top ranked teams in week one, Edwards will see just how his newcomers respond to their first road game of the season.
GW (1-0) doesn't have an easy road ahead of them when they travel to Kentucky to play Ashland Paul Blazer (1-1) on Friday at Putnam Stadium at 7:30 p.m.
This will be the third straight season the two teams have played, with each team winning a game on the other's home field. The Patriots won at Paul Blazer in 2011 and the Tomcats returned the favor, winning last year at GW 21-14.
Paul Blazer finished the regular season 8-2 last year, and won their first game in the playoffs, defeating Covington Holmes, 41-14, at home. The Tomcats, though, lost in the second round, dropping a 52-13 decision to Highlands on the road.
"We know they are a fine program with a lot of tradition," Edwards said. "They have a new coach (Tony Love) and are traditionally a playoff team. It's a great place to play. It will be packed. The people love their Tomcats."
Edwards knows his Patriots will have their hands full, especially playing on the road in a tough environment with so many new players.
"It will be a big challenge for us," Edwards said. "We have got a lot of new kids, and not a lot of them played very much up there a couple years ago, if at all.
"It poses a different challenge for us and will be a lot different than playing at home."
Edwards feels much more confidence, though, making the trip down to Ashland after what he saw in the Patriots big win over SC last week.
"I feel good about where we are," Edwards said. "I like the ball club. We are young in the fact of being around each other, but they have jelled real well, and were able to respond. They showed a lot of character. I like what I see."
What Edwards saw was three GW runners in Draven Riffe, 28 carries for 262 yards, Jacob Jackson (nine carries, 113 yards), and Mason Blake (13 carries, 115 yards) all eclipse the century mark last week against the Black Eagles.
Paving the way for his stable of backs last week is an experienced line with all five upperclassmen in seniors Adam Huffman, Tyler Chevalier and Jack Skidmore, along with juniors David Smith and Trevor Wooten.
With all the success the Patriots had on the ground, GW didn't need much from new quarterback Jon Alexander. He didn't throw his first pass until less than four minutes left in the first half and finished 1-for-3, for seven yards, and one interception.
While Edwards knows he won't be able to count on that kind of productivity on the ground every week, he realizes it does give him even more options on offense going forward.
"You don't go and game plan to have three rushers go over 100 yards," Edwards said. "It might have surprised others, but it didn't surprise me at all. It's tough to do that all the time but we do have some talented young men with good ability."