Prep football: Cougars to face 'diversified' Applemen
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Musselman football Coach Denny Price has seen plenty in his four-decade-long coaching career.
There's one thing, however, Price wasn't amused at not being able to spot when he looked over information concerning the Applemen's first-round Class AAA playoff opponent.
"I heard they've got a good freshman quarterback, but the only quarterback I can find on the roster is a sophomore," said Price, whose 275 victories since 1973 rank him as the state's all-time leader.
There was good reason for Price's confusion. The 10th-seeded Applemen (7-3) visit University of Charleston Stadium at 7:30 tonight for a date with No. 7 seed Capital (7-3). Cougars quarterback Tyrhee Pratt is not - and has not been - on the team roster all year listed at Secondary School Activities Commission web site.
For that matter, neither is sophomore running back Kashuan Haley. Price wasn't even aware of Haley's existence, much less his absence.
"That might be handy to know," Price said with a laugh when told about Haley.
To straighten the record, Pratt is a 6-foot-2, 175-pound freshman who has thrown for 1,307 yards, 17 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Haley is a 6-foot, 180-pound sophomore running back who is second on the team with 777 rushing yards and nine touchdowns, but leads the team in scoring thanks to his versatility as a punt returner, kick returner, receiver and defensive back.
"I think they're too young to know what they're not supposed to be able to do," Capital Coach Jon Carpenter said. "We've been playing playoff games for the last three weeks, really, and they've come through for us. I think they're growing up quick but (if) they keep playing the way they have, maybe we'll want to keep them from knowing."
Capital returns to the playoffs after a one-year absence and in Carpenter's third year at the helm of the program. The Cougars entered the home stretch of the season at 4-3 and with a tenuous grip on a playoff spot. Instead of fading like many young clubs, they beat No. 3 seed George Washington 35-13, 16th-seeded Beckley 35-14 and No. 4 seed Huntington 48-18 to close out the regular season and earn a home playoff game.
"They've started to bond, I think, is the biggest thing," Carpenter said of the team's late-season success.
"Instead of pointing fingers at each other every time something goes bad, they've learned to accept personal responsibility. When that happened, we got a lot better."
Price called his current club "probably the most diversified team I've had in 40 years."
Led by senior 1,000-yard running back Josh Ferguson (5-10, 185) and senior 2,000-yard passer Caleb Dembeck (6-1, 180) the Applemen have enjoyed mixed success against higher-quality teams in 2012.
"We've played some sub-par teams and looked real good, and we've played some good teams and looked sub-par," Price said. "The biggest thing that concerns me about Capital is that they seem to be pretty similar to Martinsburg, but younger.
"We didn't do too well against Martinsburg this year."
The Bulldogs (9-1), who have won the last two Class AAA state championships, beat Musselman 73-0 in Martinsburg on Oct. 26.
Price said if his team has an advantage it is the fresh memory of Musselman's most recent playoff experience. The Applemen were the No. 12 seed in 2011, and were routed by No. 5 seed Morgantown 48-14.
"Most of these kids started on that team, and they remember going on a road trip and getting their butts kicked," Price said. "I think it'll help us prepare for a good team and a road trip."
The winner of the first-round game will play the winner of Saturday's matchup between Martinsburg and Beckley (6-4) in the quarterfinals next week.