CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- For all the attention that is sure to be paid to the quarterback duel when Capital visits South Charleston on Friday night, Black Eagles Coach Donnie Mays said it's the receiving corps for each team that could prove to be the difference.
The only problem in that from Mays' standpoint is the similarity between the units.
"You could seriously switch jerseys and put them in South Charleston jerseys and our guys in Capital jerseys and you'd have a real hard time telling them apart," Mays said Tuesday after a film session with his team. "The talent is that similar."
The success each team has through the air has been fairly similar through the first four weeks of the season. Capital sophomore quarterback Tyrhee Pratt averages 169.7 passing yards per game while his counterpart, SC sophomore Kentre Grier, averages 187.5 yards per contest.
One noticeable difference is revealed from a quick glance at a stat sheet. Class AAA No. 2 Capital (3-0) has just one player - senior Cliffaun Pratt - who is among Kanawha Valley receiving leaders, having caught eight passes for 162 yards and two touchdowns. No. 8 South Charleston (3-1), on the other hand has three - seniors Kevin Forrest and Marquel Hampton and junior Fred Crozier.
Receivers averaging 40 yards or more per team game are included in area leaders, and Capital's use of running backs Kashuan Haley, Tyrell Davis and Silas Nazario as receivers out of the backfield plus the Cougars' reliance on tight end Bryce Goldsmith helps lead to what could be construed as a misleading statistic. The fact remains that three of the top seven receivers in the area will be wearing orange and black when the game kicks off.
"We try to spread the ball around. It's not like I say, 'OK, I want you to throw the ball to Kevin here.'" Mays said. "We might do that once in a while because we see something - a mismatch or something - but Kentre goes through a progression with his receivers, and I'll put Kentre with anybody in this state as far as knowing how to read his progressions."
Forrest led all Class AAA underclassmen with 1,054 receiving yards in 2012, but while his average number of catches per game has increased from 4.3 to 5.3, his average yards per catch has been sliced from 24.5 as a junior to 14.2 this season. The Black Eagles have used him more as a possession receiver through four games.
Forrest, currently the Kanawha Valley's leading receiver with 298 yards, said that is a side effect of a change in opponents' defensive schemes.
"When they double-team me we try to look for the underneath routes more than the long routes," he said. "We try to hit them where it hurts, in the open areas of the defense. We've just adjusted to stuff like that."
Hampton has swapped roles with Forrest early in the season, becoming SC's home-run hitter with 10 catches for 185 yards and two touchdowns.