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High school football: Timberwolves break new ground

PARKERSBURG,W .Va. -- The opening round of the West Virginia high school football playoffs saw new ground broken all over the state.

Class AAA contenders Spring Valley and Lewis County picked up the first playoff wins in their school histories, while Class AA Nicholas County did the same by beating host Ritchie County.

In Class A, No. 7 East Hardy scored more points on a Wheeling Central team than the Maroon Knights had every given up in a playoff team, dispatching the two-time defending champions 60-34.

First-round winners met Sunday at the Secondary School Activities Commission offices to set times and dates for quarterfinal games, which begin Friday.

"That's huge, not just to go on and keep playing this year but for the future of the program," Spring Valley Coach Brad Dingess said of the eighth-seeded Timberwolves' 31-7 rout of No. 9 seed Wheeling Park.

"It just kind of changes the whole mindset for offseason expectations and everything like that. You can't talk about state championships until you start winning playoff games," Dingess said.

Spring Valley (8-3) had been winless in nine playoff appearances since the school opened in 1998 as a consolidation of Ceredo-Kenova, Buffalo (Wayne) and Vinson high schools.

Much longer-running was the playoff drought broken by Class AAA No. 11 seed Lewis County (9-2). The Minutemen claimed a 24-23 upset win over  No. 6 seed University (8-3) in Morgantown on Friday night.

Lewis County opened its doors in 1966 but rarely had qualified for the postseason until Coach Eddie Vincent arrived in Weston in 2007. Since then, the Minutemen have reached the playoffs three times.

Vincent, who coached Buckhannon-Upshur to playoff berths in 2004 and 2005, said his team has experienced a string of new highs in 2012.

The Buccaneers are 15-55 since Vincent left that program.

"When we beat Oak Hill and they were ranked eighth in the state, I thought that was the biggest win we'd had since I got here," Vincent said. "Then, we basically had to beat Elkins in the last week of the season to get into the playoffs. We won that, and I thought it might have been the biggest win in school history.

"Then we beat University and it's another new biggest win. We're learning what it takes to be competitive and to win big games."

Next, the Minutemen visit No. 3 George Washington (9-2), which scored 35 second-half points on No. 14 seed Hurricane in the first round to break a scoreless halftime tie and win going away, 35-10.

"We played good defense. We played hard," GW Coach Steve Edwards Jr. said about the first-round win that saw 2011 Kennedy Award winner Ryan Switzer again serve as the Hurricane killer, scoring four touchdowns in the second half to up his season touchdown total to 34.

"Our kids didn't panic. Halftime wasn't a yelling or screaming match, it wasn't a pointing-the-finger match. There wasn't any special wizardry going on inside the locker room. It was just, 'Ok, here's what's going on; here's what's happening. What can we do?'

"It was maturity; maturity on our kids' behalf, maturity from our coaches. It was a good session. Really, we knew we were playing hard. We just asked the kids to just play a little bit harder. It made the difference."

Switzer finished the game with 109 rushing yards to put himself over the 2,000-yard mark for the second consecutive season. Hurricane fans won't miss the GW senior once he takes his talents to North Carolina in 2013, either. In four games against the Redskins in 2011-12, Switzer had 814 rushing yards and 15 total touchdowns, including two interception returns for scores.

Lewis County visits GW at 7:30 p.m. Friday, which is the time all four Class AAA quarterfinals will be played. Other games include No. 10 seed Musselman (8-3) at No. 2 Martinsburg (11-1) and No. 5 Morgantown (9-2) at No. 4 Huntington (9-2).

As a reward for its first-round win, Spring Valley gets a rematch with top-seeded Cabell Midland (11-0). The Knights beat Spring Valley 21-13 in Ona on Aug. 24.

Contact Preps Editor Derek Taylor at derek.taylor@dailymail.com or 304-348-5170.


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