The No. 1 seed in the West Virginia Class AAA playoffs will be without its head coach for the first round of the playoffs.
The Brooke Bruins, who finished the regular season undefeated for the first time in 15 seasons, saw first-year head coach Tom Bruney get ejected because of two personal foul penalties in a 14-13 road victory over Musselman last week.
That means he'll be sitting when the Bruins (10-0) face 16th-seeded Princeton (6-4) on Friday night at Brooke Memorial Stadium. Assistant coach Rich Thomaselli handled the play-calling in the absence of Bruney and is expected to handle the duties this week.
Brooke is heavily favored in the game, but history does suggest a major upset is not impossible. In 1995, Class AA 16-seed Musselman upset its way to the state title, defeating Bluefield 17-13 in the state title game.
For Princeton's part, Coach Ted Spadaro's team narrowly missed upsetting No. 3 seed Nitro in the 2006 Class AAA playoffs, dropping a 30-26 decision. It also lost by only three points to No. 4 Morgantown in the 1999 first round. In 2000, 12th-seeded Princeton topped No. 5 Wheeling Park 32-28. The Tigers have won six consecutive games entering Friday's playoff battle.
- Perhaps the most intriguing first-round battle will take place at University of Charleston Stadium at Laidley Field on Friday night when No. 11 Capital faces No. 6 George Washington. The Patriots (8-2), whose two losses came on late turnovers, have won six consecutive games, including a 14-0 victory over the Cougars (6-4).
Capital is expected to have star running back Keion Wright in the lineup. George Washington, the Class AAA runner-up last year, is led by running back Felix Mollett. The junior has run for 1,121 yards on 177 carries.
- Second-seeded South Charleston is considered, by many, as the favorite to repeat as Class AAA champion. Not so fast, says SC coach John Messinger.
"There's going to be a lot of things in the next couple of weeks that's going to surprise a lot of people," Messinger told The Associated Press. "I hate to see these articles in papers where they're already crowning a champion. I just don't think you can do that. Not this year."
The Black Eagles (9-1), whose only loss – to Capital – helped propel the Cougars into the playoffs, finished 14-0 last season and will play all of their home games at UC Stadium. Their first is with overmatched Lewis County, which last made the playoffs in 2001 as a No. 16 seed. That year, the Minutemen dropped a 28-0 decision to Morgantown.
The Minutemen (7-3) have won five of their last seven games, but dropped their regular-season finale to Robert C. Byrd. C.J. Rahming ran for 125 yards on 20 carries in a losing cause.
- Nicholas County's visit to the 2008 Class AAA playoffs ended abruptly when the Grizzlies dropped a 47-13 decision to No. 4 Morgantown. This year, the No. 8 Grizzlies (9-1) not only have their first home playoff game, they have a more reasonable matchup against No. 9 Ripley (8-2).
Nicholas County, however, is facing a Vikings team that, as a member of the Mountain State Athletic Conference, is battle-tested. The Grizzlies, on the other hand, have played four Class AA schools and lost to the only Class AAA playoff team on its schedule, Lewis County, 28-21.
"We're excited to have a playoff game here," coach Gene Morris told the Beckley Register-Herald. "It's nice that we have a nice place to play. We feel we have a top-notch facility here in Summersville."
Here is the 2009 West Virginia Class AAA high school football playoff schedule:
Friday, 7:30 p.m.
No. 16 Princeton (6-4) at No. 1 Brooke (10-0)
No. 14 Parkersburg (6-4) at No. 3 Bridgeport (10-0)
No. 13 University (7-3) at No. 4 Spring Valley (9-1)
No. 12 Parkersburg South (7-3) at No. 5 Fairmont Sr. (9-1)
No. 11 Capital (6-4) vs. No. 6 George Washington (8-2), at University of Charleston Stadium
No. 10 Morgantown (7-3) at No. 7 Martinsburg (8-2)
No. 15 Lewis County (7-3) vs. No. 2 South Charleston (9-1), at UC Stadium, 1:30 p.m.
No. 9 Ripley at No. 8 Nicholas County, 7:30 p.m.
Ripley-Nicholas County winner vs. Princeton-Brooke winner
Morgantown-Martinsburg winner vs. Lewis County-South Charleston winner
Capital-George Washington winner vs. Parkersburg-Bridgeport winner
Parkersburg South-Fairmont Senior winner vs. University-Spring Valley winner
Quarterfinal winners, TBA
Championship, at Wheeling Island Stadium, noon
Rich Stevens, a sportswriter for the Charleston Daily Mail, covers West Virginia for MaxPreps.