In some strange way, Draven Riffe's nagging ankle injury could prove to be a pain in Huntington's preparation for Friday's Class AAA quarterfinal at Bob Sang Stadium.
Riffe, a senior and the leading rusher for George Washington, has missed about 31/2 games because of his ankle, which prompts the Patriots to insert fellow senior Jacob Jackson into the lineup as the lead ball-carrier.
Because the two are different sorts of runners - but both productive -the No. 1 Highlanders (11-0) might not know just what they'll be seeing when they line up against No. 8 GW (9-2) Friday night at 7:30.
Riffe, more of a slashing, between-the-tackles back, has run for 1,672 yards and 21 touchdowns this season, while the shifty Jackson, who makes use of cutback lanes and his ability to make tacklers miss, has gained 1,270 yards with 15 TDs.
"I don't know how many problems people worry about or we cause people,'' said GW coach Steve Edwards Jr. "We're just fortunate we have the opportunity to have both of them back there. Both have produced real well and the offensive line has done a real good job.
"It's all keyed on what's happening up front. If we do our jobs, those guys are capable of doing their jobs with the football. That's the nuts and bolts of it. I don't know if people worry about what we do one way or the other. We feel good about having both proven, quality backs either way we go.''
Highlanders coach Billy Seals notes that GW's plan of attack doesn't change according to who lines up in the backfield - the Patriots still want to hammer the ball downfield. But the angle it comes from varies.
"Schematically, they still want to do similar things,'' Seals said, "whether it's Riffe or Jackson on the field.
"Riffe is more of a north-south runner, a kid who we feel once he gets his shoulders square is a tough, tough running back to get down. Whereas Jackson is more of a scatback - the kid's pretty elusive and has a little more quickness than the Riffe kid. Both have been very, very good for them, and everything starts up front with those monsters on the offensive line.''
Perhaps as a ruse, perhaps not, but GW started last week's first-round playoff game against Oak Hill with both Riffe and Jackson flanking quarterback Jon Alexander in the shotgun formation. That formation lasted the first series, then Riffe took over as the lead runner until aggravating his ankle injury midway into the third quarter.