LINDSIDE (WVDN) – How do you define rivalry? Is it deep-rooted hatred for your opponent? Is it measured respect? Is it simply competition for the same objective? However you choose to define it, one thing is clear. Greenbrier West and James Monroe are rivals. If you look up the word rivalry in the dictionary, you might see a Cavalier logo and a Maverick logo beside the definition.
The rivalry will have a new chapter written this Friday night when the two schools face each other in the Class A quarterfinals of the WVSSAC playoffs. The postseason matchup is the first between the programs. Greenbrier West arrives in the game with a home shutout of South Harrison on an increasingly sloppy Cavalier Field last Friday night. James Monroe defeated Petersburg with a stifling defensive effort to advance to the quarterfinal round.
The two teams met on Oct. 7 in Lindside in a matchup of undefeated teams with the Mavericks winning that battle 27-0. Turnovers were key in the contest with the Cavaliers committing four. Through the six games leading up to the James Monroe game, West had only committed a total of five. Both teams ran the ball effectively. The Cavaliers pounded out 192 yards on the ground while the Mavericks countered with 185. One major difference was the effectiveness of James Monroe’s passing game. Layton Dowdy completed five passes for a whopping 179 yards, with Chaz Boggs accounting for 151 of those yards on just two receptions. West completed only three passes for 10 yards, but matched their completions with three interceptions.
The matchup features the top two scoring defenses in Class A. Greenbrier West has only allowed 46 points in 11 games, and 27 of that total came in the loss to James Monroe. The Mavericks are right on the heels of the Cavaliers, allowing only 48 points. Covington managed to score 22 points in a 19-point loss to James Monroe. The only other double-digit score the Mavericks allowed was 13 in their opening round win over Petersburg.
Ty Nickell leads Class A with 1,887 yards rushing and 31 touchdowns. He added a receiving touchdown in the playoff win over South Harrison and has a punt return touchdown on a blocked kick in the win over Sherman. Quite simply, Nickell is one of the best in the state. Nickell rushed for 143 yards in the Cavalier loss to James Monroe on Oct. 7 but didn’t find the end zone. Nickell only rushed for 51 yards in the opening round win over South Harrison — his first game under 100 yards all season — but added three catches for 81 yards to balance his numbers. Nickell is the Cavaliers’ second-leading tackler with 93 stops and leads the team with 12 tackles for loss. Add a blocked kick, two forced fumbles, two fumbles recovered and a sack to his numbers. Expect Nickell to have a huge impact.
Ethan Holliday leads the Cavaliers with 103 tackles and three interceptions. Holliday is tied for the team lead with three forced fumbles, and he has two fumble recoveries, 11 tackles for loss, two passes defensed and a blocked kick. One of Holliday’s interceptions was a 79-yard pick-six. Holliday saw limited playing time in the first meeting between the two schools, and only on the defensive side of the ball, but still led West with nine tackles. In addition to his stellar defensive numbers, Holliday has 15 catches for over 300 yards and three touchdowns. His yardage and scores lead all Cavalier receivers, and he also has four rushing touchdowns. A healthy Holliday will be a massive shot in the arm for the West offense.
Cole Vandall has complemented Nickell nicely in 2022, rushing for over 400 yards and six touchdowns. Vandall was the Cavaliers’ leading rusher in the win over South Harrison with a 74-yard, one touchdown night. Dalton Heath was a backfield surprise for West, carrying four times for 33 yards and converting crucial third downs for the Cavaliers. Both Vandall and Heath have been solid contributors defensively and will play a major role in Greenbrier West’s effort.
Efficient quarterback play will be crucial if Greenbrier West hopes to reverse the outcome of the first meeting. West was a dismal 3-15 for 10 yards and three interceptions on Oct. 7. Tucker Lilly has come on strong over the last three weeks of the season, throwing for 277 yards and four touchdowns. As equally as important as a touchdown pass, Lilly hasn’t thrown an interception in that stretch. Ball security will be at a premium Friday night. In addition to Holliday, Heath, Vandall and Nickell, Lilly has more weapons to throw to at his disposal. Kadin Parker has eight catches and a touchdown to his credit. Roy Loudermilk was unavailable in the first meeting, but his speed must be accounted for.
Line play is crucial on both sides of the ball. Two-way players, such as Jacob Whitt, Daron Vaughan, Jacob Nutter, Trent Parker and Cameron White, will see extensive action. Logan Berry, Ethan Hamons and Brandon Poticher will also be in the mix. Greenbrier West will need to get after Maverick quarterback Layton Dowdy. Dowdy was a crisp 7-11 for 176 yards and two touchdowns in the playoff win over Petersburg, and he hit West with 179 yards and a touchdown on Oct. 7. For the season, Dowdy has over 1,300 yards and 19 touchdowns to only four picks. Dowdy may be the best passing quarterback the Cavaliers have faced since Ritchie County’s Ethan Haught in the 2020 Class A quarterfinals.
Trey Franklin could see some line minutes as well but will be relied on more for his kicking leg than anything else. Franklin booted three touchbacks on six kickoffs, and two other kicks pinned South Harrison inside their own 25-yard line. Isaac Agee displayed his leg as well, pinning the Hawks inside their 10-yard line on his first punt. West’s trio of extraordinary kickers is completed by Hayden Ridgeway. Ridgeway has converted 75% of his PATs, accounting for 42 extra points this year.
The wild cards for West could be a pair of cornerbacks. Marcus Adkins drew the unenviable task of blanketing the Mavericks’ do-it-all man Eli Allen. Allen only had two catches in the first meeting, but one was a five-yard touchdown. Adkins’ most impressive play came on an 84-yard Boggs catch two plays before the Allen touchdown. Adkins chased Boggs down from across the field to keep him out of the end zone. Evan Vandall, the opposite corner, will have to lock down Maverick receivers Boggs and Nicklas Pitzer.
The Maverick man of the hour is Cooper Ridgeway. Ridgeway has rushed for over 1,200 yards and 12 touchdowns while hauling in 21 passes for almost 300 yards and five touchdowns. Ridgeway had a solid 117-yard, two-touchdown day in the win over Petersburg.
Braydie Carr is the backfield complement to Ridgeway, toting the ball for over 700 yards and 10 touchdowns this year. Carr’s numbers were efficient in the win over the Vikings, rushing for 59 yards while adding a 47-yard catch.
Two blown assignments against Chazz Boggs may have been the backbreaker for West in the first meeting. Boggs’ 151-yard night accounted for half of his season output of 303 yards. He’ll have the Cavaliers’ full attention Friday night.
Eli Allen is the Maverick’s wild card. Allen joined the team in week three, and all he’s done since is produce a first-team, All-State resume. Allen has hauled in 24 passes for 528 yards and nine touchdowns. His most eye-popping statistic comes on the defensive side of the football. Allen has grabbed seven interceptions while basically playing centerfield for the Mavericks, shutting down the passing game for James Monroe’s opponents.
These teams know each other well. There will be little surprises Friday night when the ball is in the air at kickoff. James Monroe made a handful of big plays in the passing game on Oct. 7, and those proved to be the difference. Turnovers were the other contributing factor. The team that makes the fewest mistakes will likely win this matchup.
This is the fourth time in Greenbrier West history that the Cavaliers will meet a regular-season opponent in the playoffs. In 1991, the Cavaliers drubbed Independence 37-7 in week three before shutting out the Patriots 27-0 in a Class AA first-round playoff in Fairlea. In 1995, Summers County popped Greenbrier West for a 21-6 loss in week six. West returned the favor at Beckley’s then-Flying Eagle Stadium with a 7-0 “upset” in another Class AA opening round game. The 1997 Cavaliers dropped an 18-7 decision to Richwood in week two then suffered through a cold, wet, miserable night at Dean Memorial Stadium when the power went out and delayed the game for over an hour. Richwood prevailed 26-2 in the rematch. The 2007 Fayetteville Pirates walloped West 42-7 in a week-10 matchup in Charmco. Two weeks later, the Cavaliers dropped a 21-0 decision on a muddy surface at Fletcher Arritt Stadium.
Kickoff is set for 7:30 at the H.E. Comer Sports Complex in Lindside on Friday night, Nov. 18. Once again, the WVSSAC is only offering digital tickets for the game. Fans can purchase tickets at www.gofan.com. Local radio coverage begins at 6:45 p.m. on Rock 95. The Greenbrier Valley channel will be streaming the game live on Optium (formerly Suddenlink) channel 5 and the Greenbrier Valley Channel Facebook page.