By Ryan Decker
The state of West Virginia isn’t known at the national level at being a big state for sports.
People that know what the state has to offer, though, certainly have been eating up everything that teams competing have put on display.
This comes at multiple levels, as well, high school and collegiate.
THIS PAST WEEKEND
Semi-final games of the West Virginia high school football playoffs took place across the state on both Friday and Saturday.
The Bulldogs will play No. 2 Spring Valley (12-1) for the AAA title at noon on Dec. 3 at Wheeling Island Stadium, which is the site for all three of the WVSSAC Super Six championship games.
Class-AA and A title-game matchups were also decided this past weekend, and with drama.
Three-time defending AA champion Bridgeport (12-1) was upset at home in double overtime by No. 5 Fairmont Senior, 22-21. The Polar Bears take on No. 2 Mingo Central (13-0), which will have one less day to prepare for the teams’ showdown in Wheeling since it played its semi-final game Saturday evening.
The top two seeds in Class-A will also meet in Wheeling.
That was just in high school football, there was also collegiate football played by teams from the ‘Mountain State.’
Not only did the win make this the most successful season for WVU since joining the Big 12 since joining the conference, and it marked head coach Dana Holgorsen’s best season as head man for the Mountaineers.
Speaking of coaches having good years, Shepherd University (12-0) head coach Monte Cater is having yet another successful season with the Rams.
On Saturday, Cater and company traveled to New York to take on Long Island Post. Behind a big game through the air by quarterback Jeff Ziemba – 25/35, 375 yards and four touchdowns – and an impressive game on the ground by Brandon Hlavach – 21 carries, 177 yards and two touchdowns – Shepherd cruised to a 40-21 victory.
Also on Saturday, history was made in Morgantown by the No. 1 WVU women’s soccer team.
The Mountaineers scored in the 16th minute of the game, and defended the one-score lead the rest of the way, downing Duke 1-0 in regulation in the Elite Eight round of the NCAA Tournament to advance to the Final Four.
Capping off this past weekend, Mike Carey and the nineteenth-ranked WVU women’s basketball team (7-0) continued its undefeated start to the season with a 23-point victory over High Point on Sunday. Four WVU players finished the game in double figures including Tynice Martin, who led the way with 21 points.
That ended this past weekend’s slate of games, but even more action lies ahead.
Carey’s team is in the midst of a schedule that has the Mountaineers play six games in thirteen days. That stretch concludes Sunday Dec. 4 against Ole Miss in the Big 12/SEC challenge.
“It’s poor scheduling,” Carey said following the win over High Point. “It’s poor scheduling on my part. We’ve got another game Wednesday, another game Sunday. We don’t have a lot of players but we didn’t know that up front.”
THE WEEKEND AHEAD
“It’ll be a big week ahead of them,” Martinsburg head coach David Walker told reporters following the win Friday.
He’s right, but not just for his team, for all the aforementioned West Virginia-based sports teams that will be in action.
Sticking with Martinsburg, the Bulldogs defense is having a playoff performance thus far that none of the four-consecutive MHS teams that won the state title from 2010-2013 did.
Walker’s defense will be put up to the test, though, against a Spring Valley offense that has averaged nearly 40 points per game this year, and has scored 50 points twice in the playoffs.
The Class-AAA title game between the Bulldogs and the Timberwolves at noon on Saturday has the potential of being a sneak peak at the Class-A bout between the Cougars and Blue Devils later that day. In each of the two games, both teams come in with very high-powered offenses, with one team – Martinsburg and St. Marys – having a defense that is allowing less than eight points per contest.
Mingo Central and Fairmont Sr. high schools kick off Super Six action Friday night.
The Class-A game will crown a first-time champ no matter the outcome, as neither East Hardy or St. Marys has claimed a state title before, despite both appearing in a championship game in the last two years.
The same is partially true in Class-AA. Mingo Central has also never won a football title, and Fairmont Senior has not been crowned champion since 1946 – the last year before playoffs began deciding champions in West Virginia. The Polar Bears haven’t appeared in the state title game since 1981.
Spring Valley also could become state champ for the first time if it were to upset Martinsburg.
Speaking of championships, Shepherd is trying to claim its first football title, as well.
The Rams will travel to California, Pennsylvania on Saturday to take on the Vulcans, a team that Cater does have experience coaching against. Cal U defeated Shepherd in the regional title game in 2007.
With a lot of postseason experience since then, though, and with a next-level talent throughout the Rams offense, Cater should feel confident. A win for Shepherd gets the Rams into the national semi-final game the following weekend. A loss, on the other hand, ends an impressive season.
Shepherd has won 25 of its last 26 games, with the only loss in that stretch coming in last year’s national title game.
The WVU women’s soccer team continues its run to a title on Saturday, as well. West Virginia travels to San Jose, California for what the team hopes will be two more games.
WVU faces North Carolina in the semi-final matchup on Friday at 5 p.m.
If West Virginia can beat the Tar Heels, it will advance to the national championship game to take on either USC or Georgetown. The Hoyas handed WVU its only loss of the season.
As I mentioned the WVU women’s basketball team is in action on Sunday against Ole Miss, but the men’s team travels to Charlottesville to take on a Top-10 Virginia team that will be extremely tough to beat.
Finally, West Virginia’s football team plays against Baylor at home on Senior Day at 3:30 p.m. WVU has the opportunity to win its 10th game of the regular season, the most since 2010.