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Derek Taylor: Chase for a spot in playoffs in full swing

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- There are two primary conspiracies in learning, as I see it.

The first is reading. After learning to read, a person is basically forced into an attempt to comprehend every word he sees the rest of his life.

Go ahead, look at this but try to not read it. I dare you. An out-of-focus ship isn't going to suddenly appear from the background. You're just reading words.

The second is the arbitrary force that is mathematics. Why do the sides of a triangle add up to 180 degrees at all times?

They just do. Next question.

With these ideas in mind - I can't not read and mathematics is irrefutable - it makes it difficult to not see the high school football playoff race in full swing, even though the month of September has yet to reach its midpoint.

Furthermore, understanding the Secondary School Activities Commission playoff formula and reading about the successes and failures of teams thus far in 2012 make a few things abundantly clear in terms of the playoff chase:

  • Hurricane (2-1) is in an almost must-win situation when it visits George Washington (2-1) on Friday night.
  • The showdown between Scott (3-0) and Sissonville (2-0) on Friday in Sissonville is more important to the Skyhawks' playoff chances than to the Indians'.
  • Coming off a disappointing loss in which South Charleston Coach John Messinger exhibited disdain toward the way his offensive and defensive lines were manhandled by Spring Valley (1-2), the Black Eagles (1-2) face an even more daunting task in playing at Cabell Midland (3-0) this week.

Yet, a 1-3 start would far from doom SC, as consecutive games against St. Albans (0-3), Lincoln County (0-3), Nitro (0-3) and Ripley (1-2) fill the Black Eagle schedule from Sept. 28-Oct. 19.

Understanding that South Charleston will be a heavy favorite to win each one of those games, combined with the knowledge that few six-win teams from the Mountain State Athletic Conference ever fail to reach the Class AAA playoffs, lead to a reasonable assumption that if SC can beat Capital (2-0) at home on Sept. 21, or Parkersburg (2-1) on the road in an Oct. 26 regular-season finale, Messinger and company should be back in the postseason.

This same kind of deduction is what makes Hurricane's current position so tenuous. The Redskins were downed by Beckley on the road last week, giving first-year Hurricane Coach Jeremy Taylor his first career loss as a varsity coach.

But the Flying Eagles did much more than that. Hurricane still has games remaining against Midland, Spring Valley, Capital and even unbeaten Logan (3-0) on its schedule after visiting Steve Edwards Sr. Field on Friday night. The ability of Beckley to use its size advantage against the Redskins does not bode well - at least at the moment - for Hurricane's prospects against Midland and Spring Valley, two of the biggest offensive lines in the state.

Capital's speed will remain a headache for anyone to contend with throughout the year, and the Cougars - thanks to their youth - will likely remain their own worst enemy through the course of the season.

Logan is an unproven quantity, but the Wildcats were last year, too, when Hurricane visited Logan on a muddy night late in the season and was handed a 27-23 loss.

If Hurricane can't get a 'W' this week, its playoff hopes could be in real trouble.

As for Scott, the Skyhawks have performed well since unexpectedly losing 1,000-yard rusher Draven Riffe to transfer. Robert Bias and Cameron Loftus have shouldered the burden for the Skyhawks rushing attack perfectly well, highlighting the strength of the Scott offensive line.

However, Scott's schedule on the other side of Friday's game is significantly more challenging than Sissonville's. A win would go a long way toward securing a playoff spot for either team, but Scott makes trips to Poca (2-1) and Westside (2-1) in the weeks that immediately follow, then the Skyhawks return home to host defending Class AA state champion - and top-ranked - Wayne (2-0) on Oct. 5.

Scott closes its season with home games against Class AA No. 2 Robert C. Byrd (3-0) and Class AAA Logan. Meanwhile, the Indians - who also must yet play Wayne and Poca as part of their Cardinal Conference schedule - have non-conference games scheduled against Clay County (1-2), Class A Sherman (0-3) and Braxton County (2-1) remaining.

The first SSAC playoff ratings of the season will be released at noon today. With games on this week's schedule including two-time defending Class AAA state champion Martinsburg (3-0) at No. 2 Morgantown (2-0), Byrd at Bridgeport (2-1) and Wayne at Ravenswood (2-0), the initial lists won't amount to much. It will look drastically different one week from today.

It won't keep any of us from reading them when we see them today. It's too late for us to resist the conspiracy.

Contact Preps Editor Derek Taylor at or 304-348-5170. Follow him at


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