CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Thanks to a dominant effort on the line of scrimmage, the outlook has changed dramatically for George Washington at the outset of the 2013 season.
The Patriots, who lost a two-time Kennedy Award winner in tailback Ryan Switzer and a two-year starting quarterback in Trevor Bell, might have wondered how they would make up for those losses with two tough games to start their season.
After knocking heads with much-improved rival South Charleston in the opener, GW was set to travel to Ashland, Ky., to face Paul Blazer, a team that handed the Patriots a regular-season loss last year.
Well, some of those answers were unearthed Thursday when GW began the year with a 34-27 victory over SC, gaining 525 yards on the ground behind superb blocking from not just its offensive line, but also its wideouts.
"It's everybody,'' said GW coach Steve Edwards Jr. "The line's making nice blocks and our kids downfield . . . our receivers were blocking tremendously downfield. Our backs have the ability to make cuts and make holes and find holes for the blocking, so it's a combination of all of that. I really thought they did a nice job.''
Leading the way for George Washington was senior running Draven Riffe, a transfer who carried 28 times for 262 yards and three touchdowns.
Such a performance should boost the Patriots' confidence heading into Friday's game in Ashland. The Tomcats (1-1) figured to have a bit of an advantage since they have already played twice during the regular season.
"It will be [to their advantage],'' Edwards said, "but hopefully the old adage [works] - I'm hoping I'm better in the second game than I was the first game.''
Paul Blazer flashed a flair for the dramatic on Friday in winning its first game under new coach Tony Love, a 35-34 overtime victory against Raceland.
Ashland trailed 14-0 and 21-7 before making a comeback and forcing OT. After falling behind 34-27 in the overtime, the Tomcats got a 10-yard TD run by quarterback Hunter Prince to make it 34-33, then Prince threw to Jordan Kennedy for the winning 2-point conversion.
It marked Ashland's only lead of the game. Prince threw for two TDs and ran for three scores.
"They're a fine ballclub,'' Edwards said. "It's a hostile environment, but it's a great environment. It's a super place to play and we're looking forward to the opportunity of another game.''
South Charleston's Donnie Mays, a first-year head coach and former Black Eagles offensive coordinator, found out there can be a downside to calling plays at the line of scrimmage in his team's no-huddle, hurry-up offense.
That's when the other team has a month of preseason drills to prepare for its opening opponent and knows that opponent so well it can detect play calls at the line of scrimmage.
"We're out there calling plays in our no-huddle,'' Mays said, "and they knew what was coming. They were calling out the plays.
"But that's no excuse. That's why we had to change our game plan. It's not that we didn't prepare not to go to the no-huddle. We huddled and we no-huddled just in case that happened - and it did. And it changed our outlook on how we need to play. We're a tempo football team.''
SC debuts on its new campus field Friday when it hosts St. Albans at 7:30.
Herbert Hoover coach Tim Meyer said that the switch from senior quarterback Brenden Holbrook to junior Tyler Americo in the second half of his team's 40-35 comeback win against Scott had nothing to do with Holbrook's level of play.