The Dominion Post  

UHS faces monumental test in No. 6 Capital

Created on:   Thu, Nov 16, 2017   11:40 PM

Last modified:   Thu, Nov 16, 2017   11:40 PM

The Dominion Post

MORGANTOWN — University High senior running back Trevor Barnhart doesn’t mince words when it comes to the Capital Cougars.

“Capital, through my three years, this is probably the best team I’ve ever played,” he said. “This game is just as much mental as it is physical.”

No. 3 UHS (11-0) advanced past Spring Mills, 37-7, in the first round of the Class AAA football playoffs, but the quarterfinals bring a stauncher challenge with the Nov. 17 7:30 p.m. game, against No. 6 Capital (8-3), at Mylan Pharmaceuticals Stadium.

“We have tremendous work cut out for us,” University head coach John Kelley said. “They have skill, speed and they’re well-coached with a great history.”

Hosting the match-up gives the Hawks an advantage, but Kelley warned that Capital is not a team to be overlooked.

“I still like being at home, but at the same time, they have the ability to blow you out. That’s how good they are,” Kelley said.

Capital brings an explosive offense to the table, led by standout quarterback Kerry Martin.

The Cougars average 39.9 points per game and have scored 50-plus points four times this fall, including in last week’s opening-round game against Wheeling Park, where they tallied 63 in a 63-21 rout.

“The quarterback is a tremendous athlete, and they have the (Anthony) Pittman kid at 6-4 out there at wide receiver,” Kelley said.

“They have a couple of running backs who can take it to the house every time they touch it. They get the ball in space and force you to try and tackle in open space with great athletes, and it’s very difficult.”

Kelley hopes his team can eliminate Capital’s opportunities for big plays with aggressive defense and play possession on offense to keep the ball away from Capital’s attack.

The Hawks allow an average of only 17.5 points per game this season.

“We can give them three, four, five yards, and we can control them,” Kelley said. “We just don’t want to give up the big plays, because those are back-breakers.”

Kelley said preparing for Capital in practice is tougher because there is no way to replicate the talent it brings to the table on scout team.

“I can’t simulate in practice what Martin does. He’s too good,” Kelley said.

University will look to continue its offensive exploits to move deeper in the playoffs. Behind the arm of senior quarterback Clay Bailey and sure hands of junior wide receiver Amir Richardson, the UHS offense averages 39.1 points per game.

“These Capital guys are very good, very athletic and very fast, but this is the most prepared team we’ve had here in many years, and I think if any team is going to (beat Capital), it’ll be us,” Richardson said.

For his part, Kelley agrees with his standout receiver. He feels confident in his team’s skill and believes the season’s resume represents that.

“Our guys have answered the bell 11 times, and we’re going to line up and see if we can do it again,” Kelley said.

A win moves University one step closer to Wheeling and the state championship. A loss, however, sends the Hawks home until next August. With all that in mind, Kelley and his squad are primed and ready to go.

“I look forward to it,” Kelley said. “I’m proud of these guys for putting themselves into this position, and we’ll go see what happens.”