RED JACKET – It all comes down to this. This Saturday, at 7:30 p.m., on Miner Mountain; Mingo Central will either earn a trip to wheeling or they will put a cap on this historic season.
The Miners have met and bested every challenge this season. They finished the regular season undefeated, they won a conference championship, and now they enter the quarter-finals with all the momentum.
The Miners will square off against James Monroe, a real deal team that proved themselves last Friday in a 21-0 shutout over unbeaten Point Pleasant.
With the win, the Mavericks of James Monroe proved to be a solid team, and a hard hitting team. The Mavericks played smash mouth football and capitalized on Point Pleasant’s miscues.
The Mavericks entered the playoffs with a record of 9-1, their only loss came from Nicholas County , 25-9. Nicholas County lost in the opening round of the playoffs to Keyser, the team Mingo Central just beat last week 32-8.
Mingo Central assistant coach Joey fields said, “James Monroe is a good team, they are 11-1 and you have to be a great team to go into Point Pleasant and pull off a shutout.”
This could possibly be written off as a fluke for the Mavericks given the shutout last week against Point Pleasant. But the Mavericks will be facing a much different team in Mingo Central.
Coach Fields said, “Practice this week has been excellent, everyone has great focus going into this game. The team has worked hard for this all season but the school has worked hard for this all year. Our team will be ready to go and we expect a great effort out of them.”
Mingo is one of the most balanced teams in the state with their hard hitting rushing attack and lethal aerial attack with QB Jeremy Dillon. Fields said, “Jeremy is, in my opinion, the best player int he state. He should win the Kennedy Award hands down. He has been such a huge help to us this year and he’s so versatile. He knows our offense and works it so well, but he has also been one of the biggest pieces to our defense to. He’s just a great kid and we are all so proud of him.”
James Monroe played Winfield in the opening round and only won by ten points. The 38-28 score that advanced the Mavericks into the semi-finals was a lot closer than Mingo’s 48-9 defeat over Winfield for the Cardin Conference Championship, during the last game of the regular season.
The Mavericks defense is the most concerning aspect for Mingo Central. James Monroe only allowed 89 points scored against them during the regular season with two playoffs teams on the schedule and two Class-AAA teams.
Coach Fields said, “They have probably the best defense we have faced. They have two linebackers who are just amazing at the game. They get after you and don’t hide anything. They say come beat me if you can and you got to love players like that.”
Mingo Central comes into the game averaging 47 points per game, Point Pleasant entered last game averaging the same but was shutout by the Mavericks defense.
The Mavericks were not able to get much of a passing game going against Point Pleasant and relied on running back Grant Mohler and QB Evan Beasley to get the scoring job done. Mohler is a hard running back and Beasley is a mobile QB.
The game should be a tight one with plenty of action. James Monroe has showed a few trick plays on special teams during the post-season and anyone who has followed Coach Kinder throughout the years knows the Miners will have a few trick plays to use on special teams as well.
The weather is supposed to be cold on Saturday with a low of high of 49 and a low of 30. The weather played a big role in James Monroe’s win over Point Pleasant with both teams dropping multiple passes due to the cold weather. The Miners have played in cold games before and the weather didn’t seem to affect any of their play.
It’s not clear which route Mingo will take on offense or if they will give a mixture of rushing and passing. Both way, the Miners will be a hard team to stop and the Miners defensive backfield has become extremely stingy during the off season. Mingo’s defensive ends, Daniel Buchanan and Trey Lester, will need to keep pressure on Beasley should the Mavericks decide to air the ball out. Safeties Thomas Harmon and Jeremy Dillon have been tough to pass on this post season and Mingo corners Tyler Grimmett and Lee Chafin have been great at stepping up against the run. The Miners have been rotating in Corey Robertson on pass coverage and on offense in the absence of freshman phenom Drew Hatfield.
“The key to this game really will be the battle up front between the linemen on offense and defense. If e can match their effort and physicality and play the game how we know we can I know we will be alright. But our defense has to step up[ and have a big game, they have a great line and tons of skill guys,” said coach Fields.
If the Mavericks decide to pass the Miners will not make it easy. Running the ball may be difficult as well with Mingo’s tough defensive line and linebackers. James Monroe seems to be a straight forward football team that doesn’t mask their offense. They look to be a team to show you where it’s going and dare you to stop them.
Mingo Central, on the other hand, has too many offensive weapons to focus on just one aspect. The running combo of Joe Hunt and Dillon keeps teams focused on the middle but Dillon’s passing ability, 166 completions for 2,505-yards and 34 touchdowns, keeps a defense guessing. The Mavericks may have a stout defense but they have yet to face the power of Mingo’s offense.
Hatfield is listed as questionable for the game, but in the event of his absence the Miners have plenty of offensive weapons at Dillon’s disposal, including senior WR Grimmett who has been playing extremely well. Senior WR Dalton Sheppard is also in the mix along with Harmon who has become a shining star for the Miners on both sides of the ball.
James Monroe gained tons of credit for their defense during the win over Point Pleasant, they shut down a high scoring offense that had not been defeated all year. The running game was the first thing James Monroe took away and the passing game folded shortly afterwards. Mingo will not be as easy to stop but it’s a safe bet to say that James Monroe will be able to hinder the Miners scoring a little.
The Miners will be playing at home and that was one thing that they wanted and worked for all season. Coach Fields said, “One of our goals at the beginning of the season was to get to a point where we had the advantage. There is no greater football atmosphere than to watch a game up on Miner Mountain. having home field advantage going into a semi-final game like this we know we are going to have big support from our fans and the boys will feed off of that.”
The game is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at James “Buck” Harless Stadium and if the Miners win they will get a trip to Wheeling, so win or lose this will be the last game on Miner Mountain this season.
(William Plaster is the sports reporter for the Williamson Daily News, he can be reached at 304-235-4242 ext. 2274 or at [email protected] on on twitter @sidplaster.)