Unbeaten Greenbrier West will face perhaps its toughest test of the 2020 season in this weekend’s Class A state quarterfinals when the second-seeded Cavaliers host No. 7 Ritchie County on Saturday.
Greenbrier West rolled past Madonna with a 58-0 win against the Blue Dons in last week’s opening round of the state playoffs, but the Rebels are a considerable step up in competition.
Ritchie County is led by junior running back Gus Morrison — one of the state’s most underrated players this season after accounting for 164 points scored. The Rebels lost twice during the regular season — a 9-8 setback against Doddridge County and a 34-26 loss to St. Marys (both playoff qualifiers) and beat Wirt County 16-7 in last week’s Class A first round.
For the Cavaliers, a big concern for this weekend’s game is the status of standout Noah Brown. The senior, who ran for more than 2,000 yards as a junior and this season served as a catalyst for West’s unbeaten run through the regular season, injured his leg in last week’s win against Madonna and according to a report by the (Beckley) Register-Herald he is unlikely to play against Ritchie County. Fortunately for the Cavaliers, however, they have a senior-laden team not short on talent or experience. Quarterback Kaiden Peck and fullback Cole McClung have both been very good for West as seniors and will be leaned on this weekend to lead the Cavs back to the small-school state semifinals for the first time since 2013 when they finished as state runners-up.
This game was originally scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on Saturday in Charmco, but was pushed back to a 4 p.m. start. On the surface, the winner of this quarterfinal game gets to advance to the semifinal round, but if you take the state COVID metrics map and what it could mean in the other Class A quarterfinal games into account, the winner of Ritchie County-Greenbrier West could move on directly to a Class A state championship game appearance at the Super Six.
Let’s take a look at those other three Class A quarterfinals — all tentatively scheduled for Sunday pending the results of Saturday’s department of education COVID metrics map update:
- No. 16 Tygarts Valley* (7-2) at No. 8 Pendleton County (6-2) – Sunday, Nov. 22, 1:30 p.m. (Randolph County orange): Two teams that have flown a bit under the radar meet for a spot in the Class A final four. Pendleton County got off to a bit of a slow start with consecutive losses in September, but have rebounded nicely with five consecutive wins since a 40-20 loss to Greenbrier West. Last week, the Wildcats held off Moorefield 14-7 in a defensive struggle while Tygarts Valley got a COVID map forfeit win against top-seed Tug Valley. During the regular season, the Bulldogs were one of Class A’s top offensive teams averaging 41.7 points per game.
- No. 14 East Hardy* (6-2) at No. 11 Tolsia* (4-2) – Sunday, Nov. 22, 1:30 p.m. (Both counties orange): Both teams need to see their home counties improve on Saturday’s map update or the winner of the Ritchie County-Greenbrier West game automatic berth in the Super Six. East Hardy went on the road to upset rival Doddridge County in last week’s opening round, while Tolsia advanced on a COVID map forfeit by perennial playoff contender Williamstown.
- No. 5 Midland Trail* (4-1) at No. 4 St. Marys (8-1) – Sunday, Nov. 22, 3 p.m. (Fayette County orange): Both Trail (against Buffalo) and St. Marys (against Wheeling Central) received COVID map forfeit wins last week to advance to the quarterfinal round, and now they’ll wait on Saturday’s map to see if the Patriots are allowed to play or if the Blue Devils move on to the semifinals without having played a playoff game.