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Pride, playoff positions at stake as regular season concludes this week

By | Gazette-Mail High School Huddle
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Kenny Kemp
Capital's Isiah Carvens (56) chases down Hurricane quarterback Austin Hensley during a game earlier this season.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The formalities are over. It's time for Week 11.

For plenty of teams, it's rivalry week, and for many more teams, time to make that final playoff push.

The high school football regular season wraps up this weekend, and there is no shortage of rivalries dotting the schedule (see adjoining chart) - but none of them is bigger than Capital at George Washington, a crosstown showdown that could decide homefield advantage for the playoff quarterfinals.

Both teams bumped their records to 8-1 on Friday, Capital shutting down Hurricane 39-8 and GW besting Ripley 34-14.

They entered the weekend tied for No. 4 in the Class AAA playoff ratings, but the Cougars will nudge ahead by three bonus points for that honor this week. Teams that finish in the top four of the rankings are eligible for home games in each of the first two rounds of the postseason, providing they win their opener.

"It's going to be a good matchup,'' said Capital running back Kashuan Haley, who ran for 111 yards and three touchdowns against Hurricane.

"As long as my line do what they got to do, I can do what I want to do. And as long as my defensive line sacks that quarterback, we're all good. If they can't score, we can't lose.''

Capital pulled a bit of a surprise against GW last year, earning a 35-13 victory despite coming into the game with a 4-3 record as opposed to the Patriots' 6-1 mark and No. 4 state ranking.

Both Haley and James Richmond ran for 129 yards in last year's Cougars win against GW, which revived Capital's (at the time) sagging playoff prospects.

However, despite the loss of two-time Kennedy Award winner Ryan Switzer at tailback, George Washington continues to crank out the rushing yards.

Draven Riffe started the first six games at lead running back and averaged 230 yards rushing with 18 TDs. A nagging ankle injury has forced him to the sidelines the last three games, but backup Jacob Jackson has proven more than capable - in fact, even more prolific than Riffe.

Jackson has blazed for 959 yards and 11 TDs in his three starts - an astounding 320 yards per game. He's also been durable, toting the ball exactly 100 times in those three contests.

Capital coach Jon Carpenter knows that Job 1 against GW is to slow down the flood of rushing yards, no matter who lines up in the backfield for the Patriots.

"Shoot, they're big,'' Carpenter said. "We've got to stop them from running it down our throats and killing us. We're going to have to fight next week, that's for sure.''

Still, Carpenter looks forward to the challenge because he's seen signs that his team is starting to come together.

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