CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A lot has happened since halftime of last year's memorable game between South Charleston and Capital.
In case you've forgotten, that's the game in which the Black Eagles trailed 17-0 at halftime to the previously unbeaten Cougars at Laidley Field, but rallied to win 20-17 in thrilling fashion and keep their playoff hopes afloat.
Just over a year later, many of the same particulars gather again Friday for a rematch at the field on SC's campus - a showdown of top Mountain State Athletic Conference contenders. Capital (3-0) comes in tied for third in the Class AAA playoff ratings, and the Black Eagles (3-1) are tied for 11th.
To refresh your memory, here's the way a few dominoes fell after the Cougars gained a 17-0 halftime lead, outgaining SC 232-70 in net yards and forcing three-and-outs on four of SC's six possessions:Then-freshman quarterback Kentre Grier entered the game in the third quarter for an ineffective Jon Alexander and threw for 148 yards and two SC touchdowns, including the game-winning 36-yarder to Marquel Hampton with 1:07 left.The Black Eagles' top running back, A.D. Cunningham, suffered a knee injury in the first half that night and didn't return to play in that game or any other during the rest of the 2012 season.Grier finished out the season as SC's starting quarterback, throwing for 1,549 yards and 17 TDs with just one interception. Shortly thereafter, Alexander left for Hargrave Military Academy in Virginia, then returned to the Kanawha Valley in the offseason and now starts under center for unbeaten George Washington.SC suffered an inexplicable 7-6 loss to Ripley four games later and missed the playoffs with a 6-4 record, becoming the first MSAC team since Nitro in 1999 to win six games but sit out the postseason.Capital recovered to post a 7-3 record and made the Class AAA playoffs as the No. 7 seed, but lost to a veteran Musselman team in the first round at Laidley Field.
Certainly, the one lasting impression to take away from that game was the emergence of Grier, a sophomore who now stands as one of the top AAA QBs in the state throwing for 750 yards and nine TDs. He now teams with Cunningham to form a formidable backfield.
"Going into that week,'' said SC coach Donnie Mays, "we knew if we weren't productive offensively, we were going to take a look at Kentre, and that's what happened. We thought we were going through the motions, then the tide turned at halftime and we started going on a run, and the rest is history on that one.''
Though SC's rally deflated his team at the time, Capital coach Jon Carpenter said the loss did provide one residual effect.
"It's never good to get beat,'' Carpenter said, "but I thought that was good for me. I read all the Lou Holtz books on coaching in those kinds of games not to lose, and I think I did that in the second half. I got too conservative. I shouldn't coach that way.
"We probably thought we were going to be really good, but after that we realized we had some work to do.''
Looking at it from another perspective, here are some things that might have happened if fate had not intervened and Capital managed to hold onto that big halftime lead:Alexander most likely would have stuck around. After Capital, SC started a stretch last year that included games against St. Albans, Lincoln County and Nitro - games it won handily by a combined score of 167-56. Alexander might have racked up some big numbers in those games and lasted the season.If Alexander had remained at SC, he obviously wouldn't be starting now at GW. Would the Patriots have been able to bolt out to their own 4-0 record with a largely inexperienced hand at quarterback? Grier might have remained at wideout, where he was getting most of his practice reps the first half of the 2012 season.If Capital had won that game and the rest of the season played out the same, the 8-2 Cougars would have finished third in the final playoff ratings, and would have drawn Hurricane in the first round instead of Musselman (GW played Hurricane). True, the Redskins did beat Capital during the regular season, but if the Cougars avenged that loss in the playoffs, they would have faced upstart Lewis County in the quarterfinals, since the Minutemen knocked off University. And Capital would have had the services of leading rusher Kashuan Haley, who sat out the Musselman loss with an injury but would have been able to go the next week.Following the season, SC coach John Messinger stepped down to spend more time following his daughter Ella's athletic career at Glenville State and to get back into the sport of powerlifting. Mays, then the team's offensive coordinator, took over for Messinger. That probably would have happened anyway, but who knows for sure?
Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or email@example.com.