CHARMCO (WVDN) – Greenbrier West is ready to start the second half of their season Friday night with a home encounter against the Sherman Tide.
The Cavaliers hope this is the first of a second, seven-game stretch in their 2022 season. If West stretches the season out for another seven games, they’ll end their season at Wheeling Island Stadium with a chance to win a state championship. First things first, though.
The Cavaliers started off like gangbusters, shutting out their first five opponents on the way to a 6-0 start. West dispatched Buffalo, Summers County, Pocahontas County, and Webster County by a combined 228-0. The Cavaliers fell behind for the first time at Shady Spring, but the deficit was overcome quickly en route to a 41-12 win. It all came to a screeching halt in Lindside, however, as the Cavaliers turned the ball over four times and failed to reach the endzone in a shutout loss to James Monroe.
Greenbrier West entered their open week with a 6-1 record with all but one of their goals still within reach. The only thing the Cavaliers can’t accomplish is an undefeated season. With a strong finish, West can finish 9-1 and put themselves within reach of a home playoff game in the first round. With a strong Class A field this season, though, even a nine-win season might not ensure the Cavaliers of a hosting opportunity.
This will be the seventh all-time meeting between Greenbrier West and Sherman. The schools are tied at three games apiece, with the Tide winning the first three and the Cavaliers rebounding to win the last three. Sherman won a nail-biter in Charmco in 2016 followed by two blowout wins. Greenbrier West returned the favor with a tightrope act of their own in 2019 at Seth followed by two blowout victories.
The rubber match would seem to be a mismatch on paper, but don’t let that fool you. West was a decided favorite in 2019, sporting a 6-1 record and a no. 5 rating. West’s lone loss had come at the hands of James Monroe. Sherman was struggling through their season with a 1-6 record. The Tide had home-field advantage in the contest, and weather was a factor, but West eked out a tough win. Isaac Brown blocked a punt for a safety, Cole McClung added a five-yard touchdown, and Zack McClung made a touchdown saving tackle. That effort earned West the 8-6 win.
This season’s matchup has some eerie similarities to 2019. The Cavaliers are 6-1 again with their only loss coming at James Monroe. The Tide are again 1-6, but this time the two teams will square off at Cavalier Field. West is 17-5 at home since Toby Harris returned to coach the Cavaliers in 2019.
If the defense can return to early-season form and pitch another shutout, the Cavaliers can tie two program records. The 1982, ‘83, and ‘91 teams each had six shutout wins. The current squad has five. The most home shutouts in a season is four, and all three of those teams (two home shutouts by the 1991 team came at Spartan Stadium in the Class AA playoffs) also accomplished that feat.
The Cavaliers are predominantly a run-oriented team, rushing for close to 2,000 yards and 29 touchdowns. Ty Nickell has accounted for 1,357 of those yards and 21 touchdowns, and he’s one yard shy of the area leader in that department. Cole Vandall and Ethan Holliday have each rushed for four touchdowns, and five other Cavaliers have a rushing touchdown to their credit.
The West passing game is capable even if the numbers aren’t overwhelming. Vandall and Tucker Lilly have combined for over 500 yards through the air with Lilly accounting for all three of the Cavaliers’ touchdown passes. Look for Greenbrier West to focus more attention on their passing game this week as the playoffs draw nearer. Dalton Heath has been West’s primary receiver, hauling in 13 catches, one for a score. Holliday, Nickell, and Lilly have 5 catches each.
Defensively, the Cavaliers have only allowed 837 yards of total offense. The points per game allowed has climbed to a 5.6 average, but that will win a lot of football games. West’s stingy defense has created 22 turnovers. Holliday is West’s leading tackler with 72 and leads the team in interceptions with 3. Nickell, Heath, and Vandall aren’t far behind in the tackle department, with Nickell leading in tackles for loss with 9. Holliday and Vandall have 7 TFLs.
Sherman has struggled to find its footing under second-year head coach Kevin Buzzard in 2022. A six-win season in 2021 earned the Tide a playoff appearance, but the program has slipped this year with only one win in seven tries.
Sherman is allowing an alarming 38.7 points per game in their six losses. They are also surrendering huge chucks of yardage on the ground. James Monroe racked up 433 yards of total offense in the season opener against Sherman, including a 100-yard rusher. Tug Valley racked up 429 yards of total offense with 236 yards coming on the ground. Summers County’s Duke Dodson had a career night in Hinton two weeks ago, rushing for six touchdowns and catching a touchdown pass in the Bobcats 54-8 win. Dodson alone had over 200 yards of total offense. In the loss, the Tide allowed two 100-yard rushers and a 100-yard passer. In the Tide’s loss to Liberty on Sept. 16, Sherman allowed two 100-yard rushers.
In last year’s 38-8 win over Sherman, Greenbrier West’s 463 rushing yards were the most they’ve had in a game since Coach Harris returned in 2019. Nickell’s contribution was a career-best 269 yards while Vandall added 104 yards through the air. The task seems tall for Sherman.
Senior Timothy Hager has been the main cog in the Tide offense. In last year’s matchup, Hager rushed for 53 yards and scored Sherman’s lone touchdown, a 17-yard carry in the fourth quarter. Hager accounted for all of Sherman’s points in the loss to Tug Valley and had two rushing touchdowns in a loss to Liberty. Andrew Simpson has hauled in a couple of touchdown passes from Trey Lester in Sherman’s last two games. Lester and Hager have both taken snaps at quarterback, and Coach Buzzard’s young Tide team has struggled through a schematic change between week one and two.
Friday night’s game will be Greenbrier West’s annual cancer awareness game. Fans are encouraged to wear pink in lieu of blue and gold. The Cavaliers will also be crowning their 2022 Little Miss and Mr. Cavalier winners. The Greenbrier West Alumni Legends, consisting of former band members, auxiliary, and majorettes, will be performing with the Cavalier Marching Band. Radio coverage begins at 7 p.m. on Rock 95.