Prep football: Greenbrier West goes quietly about its business
PARKERSBURG -- There has been a curious silence surrounding the Greenbrier West football team in 2012.
Having dropped to the state's division of smallest schools in the new cycle of classifications by the Secondary School Activities Commission, the Cavaliers' lone loss this season was to Buffalo on Sept. 14.
Yet, while 2010 Class AA state champion Magnolia (10-1) has remained one of the state's most visible programs, Greenbrier West's continued success has largely gone unnoticed.
The Blue Eagles spent the entire regular season in the top five of the Daily Mail Class A poll, and entered the playoffs as the polls' top-ranked team. Meanwhile, the Cavaliers (10-1) never rose above fifth place in the same rankings.
West Coach Lewis McClung refuses to play the "no respect" card so common in high school athletics. Instead, McClung noted that continuity in scheduling has allowed his team to go about its business and remain a success.
"One thing is that we're almost always going to be right there on the bubble of either being the smallest double-A team or one of the biggest single-A teams," McClung said. "So what we decided to do was to not change the schedule a whole lot.
"In four years when they redo the classes again, we might be back in double-A. If we added a bunch of single-A teams, we'd just have to go back in four years and try to get new teams to play us."
Greenbrier West is the sixth seed in the Class A playoffs, and will travel to Point Pleasant on Saturday to take on No. 3 seed Wahama (11-0) in the playoff quarterfinals.
The Cavaliers played three teams in 2012 that they did not play during their final season in Class AA - Nicholas County, Buffalo and Van. Those teams replaced Shady Spring, Oak Hill and Midland Trail, who were on the 2011 schedule.
Shady and Oak Hill moved to Class AAA this season. West played - and defeated Class AA teams from Webster County, Independence, PikeView and Class AA quarterfinalist Nicholas County.
Junior quarterback Malik Boatwright (5-foot-8, 160 pounds) has been a do-it-all force for Greenbrier West. Boatwright leads the run-heavy team with 1,490 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns while throwing for 285 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.
Boatwright has averaged 29.8 yards on nine kickoff returns and 23.3 yards on six punt returns.
"We're still pretty young, although at this point in the season nobody's really young," McClung said. "We start three sophomores and a junior on the offensive line.
"We weren't real sure where we were going to be this year, to be honest. I thought we were going to be OK. I liked our skill people, but I'm really happy with the away the line has come together."
* * *
EAST HARDY scored arguably one of the biggest playoff wins of the 21st century in the first round when it eliminated No. 10 seed Wheeling Central, 60-34, in Baker.
The seventh-seeded Cougars (10-1) reached the playoff semifinals in 2011, only to be beaten by Central (7-4) in Wheeling by a 37-14 score. The Maroon Knights went on to win their second consecutive state championship and their eighth Class A crown since 2000.
"We have a really good group of kids right now, with several kids that have started since they were freshmen and (have) been around for this entire run we've had over the last few years," East Hardy Coach Chad Williams wrote in an email.
Cougars quarterback Shawn Skovron (6-0, 175) completed 18 of 26 passes for 360 yards and five touchdowns in the win, bringing his season totals to 2,526 yards and 31 touchdowns.
East Hardy has 23 players on its roster and is the eighth-smallest public school that fields a football team in West Virginia.
Wheeling Central entered the game with a 35-3 playoff record against public schools in since 2000. The Knights' only losses prior to 2012 were to Moorefield in 2001 and 2003, and to Williamstown in 2008.
All three of those clubs went on to win state championships.
* * *
CENTRAL'S LOSS, combined with first-round losses by Williamstown and Moorefield, create a rare field for the quarterfinals.
It will be the first time since 1994 that none of those teams advanced into the quarterfinal round.