CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Former Sissonville football standout Trent Stowers was a pretty big deal for the Indians football program, but his graduation last spring revealed what Coach Eddie Smolder has been cooking up since taking over in 2011.
"We're more of a team this year. We look at things like one big family," Smolder said Wednesday during preparations for what shapes up to be the Indians' biggest game since 2007: a trip to two-time defending Class AA state champion Wayne (3-0) scheduled for tonight.
The Indians (4-0) are ranked second in the latest SSAC playoff ratings, while the Pioneers - the unanimous No. 1 team in the Daily Mail Class AA poll since the preseason - are tied at No. 4 with Frankfort.
"It hurts when you lose players like Stowers and Austin Crawford, but we told our guys it's their turn to step up. They've got experience because we've been playing them for the last two years," Smolder said. "They're ready to step into the spotlight themselves."
Fullback Dominic Walker leads the Indians with 476 rushing yards and eight touchdowns on 66 carries. His yardage total ranks him fifth in the state among Class AA backs. Meanwhile, running back Jared Wilkinson (303 yards, three TDs) and quarterback Nathan Miller (237 yards) are also among state rushing leaders.
Miller has completed 24-of-45 passes for 405 yards and six touchdowns, and has not thrown an interception.
All-State linebacker Mason Hodge leads the Wayne wing-T attack with 217 rushing yards on 31 carries.
While the Indians are coming off just the second road win at Scott (1-3) in program history and also own an impressive road win at Chapmanville (3-1) that opened the season, Smolder said he's aware this week presents a stiffer challenge.
Wayne has not lost a home game in the regular season since a 47-7 loss to Bluefield that closed the 2010 regular season.
"First of all they've got a great program. I've got a lot of respect for Coach (Tom) Harmon and his staff," Smolder said. "They've got great players who have size and speed and they play very hard.
"They'll be the man until somebody beats them."