To say there is plenty on the line for Friday night's Class A showdown at Cline Stansberry Stadium between unbeaten St. Marys and host Doddridge County is far from an understatement.
The second-ranked Blue Devils of head coach Jodi Mote are trying to become just the fourth team in the 101-year history of the program to finish an unbeaten regular season. A St. Marys win also would secure the Blue Devils homefield advantage throughout the postseason if they could keep winning at Imlay Field and advance to the state title game at Wheeling Island Stadium.
DCHS head coach Bobby Burnside's Bulldogs are currently ranked 14th with a 7-2 record, but a loss at home on senior night could make for another brutal end of year finish. Last season, the Bulldogs had a solid 6-4 campaign, but just missed out on the playoffs by finishing 17th in the single-A rankings.
"If Tyler (Consolidated) loses on Thursday night (to Bishop Donahue) we're in a must win situation," said Burnside, who noted if his 'Dogs can't upset St. Marys there's a chance his squad could make in at 7-3.
"If they (Tyler) win, we still need help. We could get in (if we lose), but basically we are treating it just like a must-win situation. St. Marys is a solid team. It's a very challenging task."
The tasking facing the Bulldogs is a daunting one. St. Marys is led by senior David Gray's 692 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns. However, SMHS also has received more than 1,000 combined yards rushing from the duo of Jeremy Pratt and Noah Spitzer. The tandem has 11 rushing scores. Throw in signal-caller Michael Stout (29 of 69, 819 yards) and his top target Colby Brode (14-402) and it's bothersome for any head coach.
"It's unbelievable how competitive single-A is this year," Burnside added. "We watched St. Marys on Friday against Ravenswood during our bye week. They are good."
St. Marys is coming off consecutive shutouts and its defense has been stellar this season.
The Bulldogs will try and find running room for Mid-Ohio Valley leading rusher Wyatt Ford, who has amassed 1,581 yards and 15 six-pointers. Quarterback David Lipscomb, who is second in the area in sacks with 8.5 and is closely followed by fellow teammate Josh Bee with five, has thrown for 519 yards and six TDs.
Jarrod Sandy has 19 catches for 288 yards and has added 456 rushing yards on only 48 carries.
"It's just another game where we are facing a very good back and then you throw Sandy in there," said Mote, whose team with a win will match the previous undefeated teams of 1948, 1963 and 1984. "Just their
size is what I was surprised by when I saw them in person.
"They are big and we'll have to go over there and bring our 'A' game because they will bring their 'A' game. I really believe that and we'll go from there."
Mote knows with the 'Dogs having had two weeks to prepare it's a big advantage and he has told his kids "they are going to be ready.
"We've talked to the kids about the opportunity (go 10-0) to do something that is pretty amazing and special and they are wanting to take that away from us. There are a lot of things at stake."