Spring Valley seeking first ever playoff win
SPRING VALLEY -- Spring Valley's football team looks much different from the one that took the field in Week 1 against Cabell Midland and Week 2 against Huntington High.
"We were young, but we never lost focus," Timberwolves coach Brad Dingess said Monday after practice. "We kept our goals in place. We knew we had a good football team. We just grew up."
Spring Valley rebounded from losses to unbeaten and No. 1 Cabell Midland and No. 4 Huntington High to finish 7-3 and secure home field for the first round of the West Virginia high school playoffs. The Timberwolves are the No. 8 seed in the 16-team Class AAA field and meet No. 9 Wheeling Park (7-3) at 7:30 p.m., Friday, at Spring Valley.
"To get a home game is huge," Dingess said. "To lose to two rivals first hurt. We worked our butts off."
Spring Valley started its charge in Week 3 with a 37-36 win over South Charleston followed by wins over Woodrow Wilson (41-12) and Greenbrier East (48-21). There was a bump in the road in Week 6 with a 42-7 loss at No. 3 George Washington, but the Timberwolves rallied to close with a four-game winning streak.
The biggest, perhaps, was the 55-27 win at Hurricane on Oct. 19 when the Timberwolves rushed for more than 600 yards.
"The first quarter (at GW) was OK," Dingess said. "We didn't get any points, though, and then things began to snowball. Hurricane was big. We knew the winner probably would get a home game. That was our most complete game on offense and defense."
Spring Valley's young, but maturing offensive line has cleared the way for 1,000-yard backs Elijah Wellman and Ryan George. Wellman's over 1,400 yards and career rushing leader George has surpassed 1,100. On defense, Wellman, who's committed to West Virginia University, has 117 tackles from his linebacker position.
Despite the late-season run, the Timberwolves still have a hurdle to clear: They've never won a playoff game. They're 0-9 overall and 0-4 under Dingess.
"Makes me mad," Dingess said. "For us it's business as usual."
Dingess and his staff have been evaluating Wheeling Park tapes and devising a game plan. The Patriots closed out the regular season Friday with a 40-13 victory over Hedgeville at Wheeling Island Stadium -- home of the three championship games on Super Six Weekend (Nov. 30-Dec. 1). Their losses were to St. Clairsville (11-0), Morgantown (8-2) and University (8-2).
"They're a quick, athletic team," Dingess said. "We've got to be aggressive."
Running back Bryce Graham and quarterback Zach Phillips are two key figures in the Wheeling Park offense.
Ingram rushed for 124 yards against Hedgesville. Phillips scored on a 15-yard run and hooked up with with Eric Banks for TD passes of 41 and 4 yards, respectively.
Cabell Midland and Huntington High also have home playoff games Friday at 7:30 p.m. The Knights take on No. 16 Oak Hill and the Highlanders face No. 13 Elkins.
In Class AA, No. 1 Wayne (10-0) faces No. 16 Clay County (5-5) at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Wayne.