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Class AA First Round Playoff Preview: Two of State’s Top Backs Clash in Poca-RCB



Poca running back Ethan Payne (22) won the Kennedy Award as a junior in 2019. (Tom Bragg/WVSN)

UPDATE – 3 p.m.: The WVSSAC has announced that No. 3 Frankfort and No. 7 Keyser are out of the Class AA playoffs due to COVID concerns


This season’s Class AA state playoffs feature plenty of intrigue, but none of the first round games will have the star power of Poca’s trip to Robert C. Byrd.

The No. 9 Dots are scheduled to visit the No. 8 Eagles on Sunday (pending Putnam County’s status on Saturday’s state COVID metrics map update) with the reigning Kennedy Award winning on the roster in senior running back and Marshall commit Ethan Payne. Byrd, however, has its own powerhouse in the backfield in junior Jeremiah King — the Big 10’s leading rusher with 1,500 yards this season.

Poca is back in the playoffs this season hungry for more after falling in the Class AA quarterfinals at home to Oak Glen in controversial fashion last season, but will have to come from the bottom of the bracket in order to do so. The Dots lone loss of the season came to Class AAA top-seed Cabell Midland, but that was enough to send Poca tumbling to the No. 9 seed in the AA bracket. RCB’s only loss of 2020 came against Harrison County rival Bridgeport — last season’s Class AA state champion that has since been bumped up to Class AAA.

Both Poca and Byrd are much more than one-man teams. For Poca, Payne’s younger brother Toby has been a standout tight end and quarterback Jay Cook has been solid under center. On defense, Poca linebacker Dillon Taylor is among the best in the state. Byrd quarterback Xavier Lopez has, along with King, made the Eagles on of the hardest teams to defend in the state this season. RCB has scored more than 21 points in all but two of its games so far — the 58-21 loss to Bridgeport and a 21-14 win at Grafton — and averaged 37 points per game during the regular season. Both Ethan Payne and King are also standouts on special teams and defense for their respective teams.



  • No. 16 Elkins (5-3) at No. 1 Sissonville (5-0) – Friday, Nov. 13 at 7:30 p.m.
  • No. 15 Clay County (7-2) at No. 2 Bluefield (5-1) – Friday, Nov. 13 at 7:30 p.m.
  • No. 14 Independence (5-2) at No. 3 Frankfort (7-1) – Sunday, Nov. 15 at 5:00 p.m. *
  • No. 13 Herbert Hoover (5-2) at No. 4 Liberty Raleigh (6-0) – Friday, Nov. 13 at 7:30 p.m.
  • No. 12 Point Pleasant (4-2) at No. 5 Oak Glen (6-1) – Saturday, Nov. 14 at 4:00 p.m.
  • No. 11 Braxton County (6-2) at No. 6 Fairmont Senior (7-2) – Friday, Nov. 13 at 7:30 p.m.
  • No. 10 North Marion (6-3) at No. 7 Keyser (7-2) – Sunday, Nov. 15 at 3:00 p.m. *
  • No. 9 Poca (6-1) at No. 8 Robert C. Byrd (7-2) – Sunday, Nov. 15 at 5:00 p.m. *

(* = pending Saturday’s COVID metrics map update)

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