The Redskins reward for qualifying for the WV AAA Playoffs? A 5 hour trek to Hedgesville High School, to face an opponent they have never faced, in what promises to be perhaps the coldest weather conditions ever faced. Which raises the question, Where else would they rather be than where they have to be?
What do we know about the #8 (7-3) Hedgesville Eagles?
well in reference to Ron Jaworski, I have watched 77 hours of film on the Hedgesville Eagles over the last 48 hours and this is what I have learned.
First a bit of history. 2017 marks the 2nd consecutive trip to the playoffs for Hedgesville. Last year they squeezed into the playoff field for the first time since 1997 with a 5-5 record. This was quite the accomplishment as in their previous 4 seasons saw them compile a 1-39 record. That's 1 win over a span of 40 games folks!
"We’ve been trying to change the culture here,” 2nd year Head Coach Joey Yurish said. “We’re trying to build a program with the guys that we have. We have a really good group of young men that have begun to establish our program. We built off of last year.”
One thing is certain, they like to throw the football!! Led by 6' 5''QB Jason Plotner they do so often, normally out of a wide-open 5 receiver set. Plotner has thrown over 300 times this season and has totaled 2773 yards and 29 touchdowns.
“He’s 6-5 and he can sit in the pocket,” Yurish said. “He’s a really good pocket passer. He’s got a really good arm and some really good athletes around him.”
Plotner's core of receivers are led by #2 Malakai Brown (67-1253-12TDs) and #4 N'yjere Smith who averages over 20 yards per catch on his 35 receptions. All told Hedgesville amazed over 2900 yards passing. They passed on 307 of their offensive snaps versus 184 rushing attempts.
Hurricane will be the first playoff opponent that the Eagles have hosted in over 2 decades. Hurricane's only previous 2 trips to the Eastern Panhandle have gone well, as the Redskins defeated Martinsburg 12-7 in 1993, and 26-21 in 2005.
Brown for one will not be rolling out any red carpet for his guests, "I want to show everyone whose house they are coming to!"
It is difficult, if not impossible, to get a feel for how good Hedgesville is by their schedule.
Yes they played Martinsburg, and got absolutely embarrassed 83-7! They also lost to Musselman 49-21. In fact, the only WV AAA playoff team that the Eagles defeated was a 38-15 beating of Spring Mills last Friday night.
Hurricane alum and current assistant UConn coach, Kyle Cooper, has some familiarity with one of the Eagles opponents. "They lost 12-2 to South Hagerstown MD., who I have seen on film, South would amount to a mid level MSAC team talent wise" Cooper said.
So what is the game plan Coach Taylor? "We're going to do like what we always do," Taylor said. "We'll practice and be ready. We know they're going to spread us out and try to wear us down.
We're always going to be a run first team, and we are finally 100 percent healthy with everyone coming back from injury. Christian Hill's shoulder is better so we'll be all set to go."
Hill has carried the rock an amazing 230 times for 1326 yards behind an offensive line that has been steady if not spectacular.
With the likes of Spring Valley and Huntington's impressive and hyped O lines in the same conference, it is easy to overlook how good the "Hogs" have been for Hurricane all season long.
So although the Redskins have perhaps as good a duo of receivers as Hedgesville, in Dakota Williams (35-713-7) and Curon Cordon (38-359-4), look for Taylor and the Redskins to settle into a ground and pound clock controlling style of play in the cold conditions.
Defensively Hurricane will be challenged to slow down the wide open pass first attack of the Eagles. In order to be successful they must get pressure on Plotner. J.T. Cooper (6 sacks and 16 TFL) and Steven Shine (6 sacks and 11 TFL) must get in the QB's grill early and often.
Hurricane's Defensive Coordinator Jason Pratt agrees, "We have to stay in (Plotner's) face all night. We have to be able to get pressure with our front four. They like to throw short, so we have to be great tacklers. "
Keeping Plotner under pressure will be a key. When he has faced pressure this season he show a propensity to panic a bit, resulting in forced passes and interceptions. He has thrown 18 picks this season including 5 in Hedgesville's loss to Musselman.
NOTES: Temperatures at Kickoff are expected to dip into the 20's! Getting me to wonder what the coldest temperature the Redskins have ever played in.
Coach Taylor finished the regular season with a career record of 37-28.
Unlike Hedgesville's recent terrible stretch, Hurricane has not had a losing season in 14 Years! Last sub 500 record occurred in 2003.
QB Nathan Roy (103-188-1462) finished the regular season with 14 Touchdowns and only 3 interceptions, but did not throw a TD pass in the Redskins final 3 games.
Payton Lunsford finished the regular season with a team high 116 tackles.
Thoughts and prayers go out to George Washington and their head Coach Steve Edwards Jr. who lost his father Steve Edwards Sr. this week.
If Huntington defeats South Charleston, they will host the winner of Hurricane/Hedgesville.
Prediction: Look for an ultra-conservative offensive approach from the Redskins, similar to what we saw in their 2 playoff games a year ago. The onus will be on the Redskin defense to not allow the big play, and to do to Plotner what they did to Grant Wells, and that is make his life miserable!!!! Remember Wells was only 11-34 passing, as Hurricane allowed a season low 10 points in their victory over GW. And will Redskins fans finally see a 100% clean effort form Hurricane's special teams? If not now, when???? This is the playoffs and this team must stop giving away points!I
it is hard to truly understand the level of competition that Hedgesville represents. But Hurricane is battle test having faced a torrid MSAC schedule which saw 8 of Hurricanes 10 opponents qualify for the playoffs. There is much to be said to facing quality opponents week in and week out!
Hurricane 35 Hedgesville 20