Hurricane Redskins coaches and fans are in trying to locate their 4-1 team that had walloped #5 Spring Valley 3 weeks ago. The search continues Friday Night in Charleston as Hurricane visits George Washington.
Trips to "The Hill" have not been kind to the Redskins. Hurricane has NEVER won at Steve Edwards Field, which GW has called home since 2011, and in fact has not beaten the Patriots on the road since a win in 2005 at Laidley field, the former site of GW home games.
The recent history of the series is just NOT pretty for Hurricane. Overall GW owns a 15-8 all-time series advantage and has won 7 of the last 8 contests, including last season's embarrassing 39-2 G-Dub victory at Redskins stadium. The lone Hurricane win was a 37-27 victory at home in 2014.
The teams are also trending in opposite directions. #12 Hurricane (4-4) started 4-1 and talk of staying home for multiple playoff games were sweeping Putnam County. At the same time Big Stevie Edwards Jr. was crying in his milk shakes with his Patriots sitting at 1-3 and wondering if any playoff games were in their future.
Since that time the Redskins have lost 3 straight games to Capital, Huntington and Parkersburg. Meanwhile #9 GW (5-3) righted the ship with victories over Ripley (47-12), Woodrow Wilson (49-14), St. Albans (35-13), and Riverside (21-14). After early struggles GW has found their groove and are rolling. With their final game against Capital looming next week, a victory over Hurricane is critical to their playoff aspirations.
Since late September, GW has moved up to #9 in the AAA ranking while the Redskins free fall has landed them at #12.
To add injury to insult, Hurricane lost 1000 yard Rusher, Christian Hill, last week leaving the Parkersburg game with an injury, and his status for tomorrow uncertain. His #1 backup Jordan Williams has not dressed in 5 of the Redskins 8 games including their last 2.
Hurricane Head Coach Jeremy Taylor is undaunted, "Not all is lost, our playoffs basically start tomorrow. we had an unfortunate let down last week, but I was pleased with how we practiced this week, our effort will be better than last week."
Plan and simple the Redskins must play better. The offense looked out of sync after Hill's departure, and has been the case all season, they had trouble finishing early drives with points.
The Defense has given up 28 or more points in 5 of their last 6 games, including 34, 34, and 35 in the last 3.
"Keys for us will be can we get pressure? Can we avoid giving up the big plays and cut down on mental errors?" Hurricane's Defensive Coordinator Jason Pratt pondered recently. "If we can do these things, and play to our identity, we will be right there at the end with a chance to win."
Perhaps the points allowed recently by Hurricane can not be laid at the feet of the defense alone. The 3rd key aspect of the team, special teams, (or special forces- as Pratt refers to them) have directly or indirectly added greatly to their opponents output. This was evident AGAIN last week as the opening 2nd half kickoff was returned to the Skins 3, a poor snap on a punt was returned for a touchdown, and a muffed punt killed the Skins, just when it appeared that momentum had shifted in what was a 14-7 deficit at the time. "Special forces have to be perfect. We say that every week but recently this has not been the case," Pratt said.
Among other Special team miscues, add kickoff returns for TDS versus Cabell Midland and Woodrow Wilson, and the blocked FG returned by Capital for a touchdown, and one can see that Hurricane's Special teams have been in the gift giving business well prior to the Holiday season. "We have had starters on special forces all year so we shouldn't have these mistakes"
On the bright side, Hurricane's playoff future is still there for the taking and a win aganst GW would do wonders for the team's confidence as well as their playoff prospects.
This week's practices have been intense and focused. One Redskin player said, "If we play on Friday the way we practiced the last few days we will win by 35 points!" A bold statement for sure, but one would have thought a GW player making such a statement coming into this game last year was just as bold if not bolder....the Patriots won by 37. Pratt added, "We issued a challenge, its basically win or go home, the kids responded with the best week of practice all year."
Prediction: If the Hurricane team that showed up in Parkersburg appears again in South Hills, the Redskins stand little chance. However if the Redskins that bullied Spring Valley comes to play, Hurricane may enjoy an easy victory.
Realistically I expect something in between. The Skins are Senior led , and these players know the season is on the line.
I look for a solid Redskin effort. They MUST MUST MUST get better special teams play, and not give away points to GW.
The offense has to find a rhythm with or without HIll in the backfield, and get more production from Curon Cordon.
Defensively Hurricane needs to expose a young GW offensive line and put pressure on Patriot QB Grant Wells, who torched them in last year's game. "Wells is so talented, we have our work cut out for us" added Pratt.
If they accomplish at least 2 of 3 of the above that will be enough for the win.
Hurricane 31 George Washington 17.