In the last three games, the 15th ranked Greenbrier East Spartans have faced some offensive powerhouse opponents that have caused the Spartan defense to surrender 49 points per game over that span during which East is just 1-2.
This Friday, October 30, East (5-3) will travel to play arguably the best offensive team on their schedule when they face the 11th ranked Princeton Tigers at Hunnicut Stadium in a game that could either propel the Spartans playoff hopes or have them left wondering “what if” in a couple weeks when the tournament begins.
The Tigers feature four players on offense that will most likely make an all-state team after the season in quarterback Grant Cochran, running back Amir Powell, and receivers Josiah Honaker and Ethan Parsons.
The Tigers are 4-2 on the season with both losses coming to Bluefield who is a power in Class AA. But the last four games for Princeton, they are averaging 55 points per game while running up and down the field at will.
And it all starts with Cochran.
The sophomore signal caller broke Princeton’s single game passing record — a record he already held — in a 68-33 win over John Marshall when he threw for 414 yards and four touchdowns. He also threw for 347 yards and five TDs against Bluefield, and 266 and five scores in last week’s win over Lincoln County. For the season, Cochran has thrown for 1,535 yards with 17 touchdowns and only three interceptions.
Honaker (20 receptions, 525 yards, seven TDs) and Parsons (31 receptions, 605 yards, seven TDs) are the top two pass catchers on the team. In the win over John Marshall, Honaker pulled in five receptions for 207 yards and three TDs. He also got 91 yards and a score against Bluefield and in the win over Lincoln he had four catches for 68 yards and two touchdowns in the first half. Parsons is the leading pass catcher. His best game this year came in one of the losses to the Beavers when he hauled in eight catches for 187 yards and three scores. A four-catch, 75-yard effort against John Marshall also stands out as a Parsons highlight. He scored on an interception in that one as well.
If the passing game is not clicking for some reason, then the Tigers just handoff to their running back, Powell. Powell is big, fast and powerful. He can run between the tackles or bounce it outside a la East’s Colby Piner. He has rushed for 745 yards and 15 touchdowns on the season and has two receiving scores. He had five touchdowns in the first half against JM, gained 138 yards with three total touchdowns against Pikeview, and ran for 148 with two TD’s against Lincoln County.
The East defense will definitely be on high alert.
However, as explosive as Princeton is, the Spartans are just as much.
They are a proven offensive juggernaut in their own right and lead the area in rushing with Monquelle Davis, Piner and Quentin Wilson. Yes, East has allowed the 49 points per game the last three, but they have scored 43.6 themselves so they can hang with anyone on the schedule.
Piner ran for 200 yards last week and had his fourth kick return touchdown. Piner has 984 yards on the year and will go over the coveted 1,000-yard mark in this one. He has 14 rushing touchdowns, four receiving and four returns. Wilson has rushed for 704 yards and five scores and Davis has added 671 yards on the ground with nine TDs. Davis has also thrown 741 yards and nine more scores.
Christian McNeely leads the Spartans in receptions with 11. He has 124 yards and a touchdown as well.
This game will test the Spartans again. Their defense will have to communicate and play their designated assignments. Defensive coordinator Aaron Baker will decide what to stop first, the Tigers running game with Powell, or their air attack led by all-state candidate Cochran.
Nevertheless, expect another 55-45 type of final score. The Spartans hope to be on the plus side of the scoreboard when the clock strikes zeroes.