CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Nitro High football program took a few steps forward last season under first-year Head Coach Derek Midkiff.
Midkiff, a former Nitro quarterback, guided his alma mater to a 2-8 season in 2012, which followed a winless campaign in 2011. But even with that improvement, the Wildcats have yet to earn an eye-opening win in more than two seasons. Nitro will have that opportunity at 7:30 tonight when it travels to face perennial Class AAA football power South Charleston.
Nitro enters with a 1-1 record and a week off to prepare, while South Charleston is 2-1, having won its last two contests.
"We've had really good practices," Midkiff said. "The guys are really good mentally and they're excited about the opportunity to play a really good football team. The kids know that whenever you play a good football team like South Charleston, there's a good opportunity for a big win.
"We've been telling the kids that a win over at team like South Charleston could be a program-changing win if things go right and we end up pulling it out. I believe the kids have bought in and are excited to play the game."
Topping the Black Eagles will be a challenge for Nitro's defense.
South Charleston junior A.D. Cunningham enters the contest with 248 rushing yards and five touchdowns on 45 tries, while sophomore quarterback Kentre Grier is the second leading passer in the Kanawha Valley, having completed 41 of 73 attempts for 545 yards and six scores. Grier can also hurt you with his feet, having rushed for 103 yards and a touchdown in last week's win at Spring Valley.
The Black Eagles also sport the Valley's leading receiver in senior Kevin Forrest, who has 16 receptions for 237 yards and a TD.
South Charleston will also be a challenge for the Wildcats on the defensive side of the ball.
"Speed," said Midkiff of the Black Eagles' biggest asset. "What makes them good on defense is the same thing that makes them good offensively.
"They're very active, they run to the ball really well and they gang tackle. They're able to gang tackle so well because everybody on their team can run. Even their defensive linemen run really well. I'd say their defensive linemen run as well as a lot of other schools' running backs."