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High school football: Test awaits Scott, Sissonville

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- When Scott Coach Shane Griffith looks across Sissonville's Joe Sawyer Field tonight he expects to see many of the same things he witnessed during his own program's climb through West Virginia's Class AA football ranks.

Scott (3-0) enters the contest as the top-ranked team in the Secondary School Activities Commission playoff ratings, and will square off against the No. 2 Indians (2-0) in an early season battle of programs trying to take the next step forward.

Sissonville is ranked seventh in the latest Daily Mail poll, with Scott at No. 9.

The Skyhawks are looking for their eighth playoff berth in the last 10 years, while the Indians hope to return to the postseason after a four-year absence under Coach Eddie Smolder.  

"Eddie has them believing," Griffith said of the Indians. "He's got a winning pedigree and he's got them believing in themselves right now. That's step one of the process. They remind me of some of the experiences we had in 2002-03 when we were just starting to believe and tap into the mindset of winning and being a competitor."

Griffith recalled the surge of energy in and around his program when, in 2003, the Skyhawks reached the No. 4 spot in the SSAC ratings. He said he expects the same energy to be present in Sissonville tonight.

"We're going into a great environment ... It may be just Week 4, but it's still one versus two on the field. They're going to bring their best effort and they'll have a lot of energy. We'll just have to see how we respond."

The Skyhawks responded well in its first three outings behind a senior dominated offensive front that's paved the way for skill athletes Robert Bias, Michael Belcher, Cameron Loftus, and Tristan Crome to carry the ball.

The trenches are anchored by four-year starters Dakota Ball and Caleb Linville as well as fellow seniors Charlie Sutphin, Jonathan Osborne, Nick Lambert and junior Danny Halley.

"We've got a lot of senior leadership in the program and our offensive and defensive lines are just senior dominated," Griffith said. "Now we've got to challenge ourselves to go further than we've ever been.

"The ultimate thing Friday night is execution versus energy. Does our senior maturity and experience overwhelm their high level of energy?  That will be the key to the game."

After the Indians compiled just a 2-18 record over the past two seasons, Smolder also expects the energy level on the field and in the community to be high.

"Anytime we play at Joe Sawyer Field we have a little extra edge, plus it's our homecoming game, so that will add to the excitement," Smolder said. "We're excited about the opportunity, especially with Scott being ranked No. 1. That's a spot what we hope to attain someday, to be at the top of AA.

"It will be a big test for us. Scott's a very good football team and they're a big double-A school based on size. I've got a lot of respect for what Scott's accomplished in recent years. They've had a successful program and we're excited about the opportunity to play them in such a big game."

Griffith expects to see a game that features a bruising rushing attack from both sides.

The key for the Skyhawks will be controlling bruising tailback Trent Stowers, who enters the contest with 261 rushing yards and three scores.

"Offensively they're going to feature the Stowers kid," said Griffith. "You have to acknowledge where he's at on every play because he's such a physical, athletic kid."

Senior fullback Jarrett Mowrer is also a capable ball carrier for the Indians.

Griffith expects his own offense to play a key role in controlling the Indians' ground game.

"We'll need to turn the game over to the line of scrimmage. Step 1 of stopping Sissonville's offense is simply not letting them on the field.  Time of possession and number the plays will be key this week," he said.

"You have to limit their touches. We need to execute and drive the football and maintain possession. Everybody knows what we do. We line those guys up and we're iso heavy because we're just confident in not only their ability, but their experience up front."

For the second-year coach and the Indians, the key to the game will be controlling the Skyhawks' ground attack while limiting its own mistakes.

"We have to play great defense and take care of the football," said Smolder. "Scott is huge up front and we respect that, but there's no way we're going to come out and let them intimidate us. We're going to come out and play hard, and play smart. We're excited about the opportunity."

Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m.


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