Wellman, Wolves face challenge
SPRING VALLEY -- Spring Valley's Elijah Wellman, one of the top linebackers in West Virginia, draws one of the toughest assignments of the season Friday night when the Timberwolves travel to George Washington.
The Patriots feature running back Ryan Switzer, who's committed to the North Carolina Tar Heels. The senior is coming off a 318-yard, five-touchdown effort in a 61-11 win over Princeton two weeks ago. Where Switzer goes, Wellman needs to be.
"I love it. I don't dread it," Wellman, who's headed to West Virginia University, said of knowing how important it is to track Switzer at all times. "I've been waiting for this one all season. He's so elusive. He hits the hole quick, has great footwork and is tough to get a hold of."
Wellman leads the Timberwolves in tackles with 63.
Spring Valley (3-2) is No. 13 in this week's West Virginia Class AAA ratings. George Washington (4-1) checks in at No. 5.
Timberwolves coach Brad Dingess knows Switzer is GW's chief threat, but has told his team the Patriots have other ways to hurt opponents. Dustin Crouser is in the backfield with Switzer. Quarterback Trevor Bell is a pass/run threat. Wide receiver Cole Salmons is back in action.
"We've got to carry out assignments," Dingess said. "They're more than Switzer. We have to limit the big plays."
Wellman agreed with his coach.
"They have a lot of weapons," Wellman said. "They're a deeper team than that."
Switzer's numbers through four games are 881 yards on 59 carries and 11 touchdowns. The Patriots average 317 yards a game rushing.
Spring Valley has won three straight since opening with losses to No. 1 Cabell Midland and No. 4 Huntington High. The Timberwolves visited Greenbrier East last week and rolled up 622 total yards in a 48-21 victory.
George Washington's only loss was 21-14 at home against Ashland. In that game, Switzer didn't play. He suffered a head injury in the opener against South Charleston and sat out against the Tomcats. The Patriots had an open date last week.
On offense, Dingess said his club has made great strides up front.
"Our offensive line is getting better," he said. "We were young starting out. They're blocking better now. The backs are running better and blocking better, too."
"We've come a long way since the first game," Wellman said. "I remember my first game in high school. It's a big deal. It's like wow! A couple of games in, you're good to go."
It so happens Wellman leads the Timberwolves in rushing with 734 yards and Ryan George follows with 528. Both have scored six times.
"Be physical, keep the ball and no big plays," Wellman said of the keys to success for the Timberwolves.
The points Dingess has stressed in practice this week are avoiding mistakes and cutting down on penalties. The Timberwolves were flagged 16 times for 151 yards against Greenbrier East.
"Teams don't need the extra chances," Dingess said.