Red Riders must keep winning

STAYING ALIVE — Weir’s Chad Custer (5) celebrates a touchdown with Tyler Mack (32) and Reed Reitter (11) against Petersburg on Sept. 23. (Photo by Joe Catullo)

WEIRTON — The Weir High football team heads into the ninth game of the season with coach Tony Filberto and his staff possibly having to make more decisions than they do in a normal preparation for an opponent.

The Red Riders head into the home stretch with a must win situation against visiting East Liverpool Friday night. The game starts at 7 p.m. inside Jimmy Carey Stadium.

Normally, coaches face decisions about which offense and defense works best against what a particular opponent presents to them. This week, Filberto and his staff have that to deal with along with which quarterback to use since it is a good possibility that junior Tyler Komorowski is going to return.

Komorowski injured his knee when Weir lost it’s first game of the season at Keyser in Week 4. Since that time, the Red Riders have lost two of the four games, which gives them a 5-3 record and puts their playoff hopes in jeopardy. They go into the game against the resurgent Potters ranked 17th in the state 2A race for the top 16 that will be in the playoffs.

Sophomore Sebastian Spencer jumped into the breach to quarterback the Red Riders in the absence of Komorowski and has shown steady improvement each week.

“We’ll determine how we use Komorowski through the week,” Filberto said. “We have to remember he hasn’t played in five weeks, so it could take a while for him to get back into game shape. He’s a fine young man with a promising future, so our plan now is to bring him along slowly.”

Filberto continues to caution his kids about looking ahead either with arch rival Brooke next week or to the playoffs.

“We can’t look ahead now,” Filberto said. “We have to take them one at a time, and East Liverpool is first. We have to have all our focus on them.”

Early in the week, Filberto said the coaching staff will evaluate Komorowski closely and the plan was to start him at defensive end, where he has started the last two seasons and perhaps get in as the quarterback in a couple of series during the game.

“That could change by Friday,” Filberto said. “We don’t know for sure at this point, but Sebastian has done an excellent job and we’re comfortable with either of them in there. If Komorowski goes in at quarterback, Spencer will move back outside where he started the first four games of the season, and that will give us a lot more speed on the perimeter.”

Filberto added that the Potters struggled in the early part of the season but seem to have found a comfort zone.

“They were trying a lot of different things early, but the last couple of games against Oak Glen (2-5) and Buckeye Local (0-8), they found out they could run the football and they have done that pretty well,” he said. “They will line up with three backs in the backfield along with the quarterback and run the football.”

He said the Potters have shown the wishbone formation and power set but also try to spread the defense out.

“They have been most effective lining up with the three backs and just outnumbering the defense at the point of attack,” Filberto said. “They move the backs around a little bit, so our defense needs to be aware of where they are. They will try to outnumber us, so we’ll have to try to swarm to the football and get them before they get to open space.

Filberto said his Red Riders did a good job of that last week in the 44-6 win at Warren Local.

“East Liverpool was ahead of Oak Glen by only 24-17 at the half two weeks ago and went to the running game with a lot of success in the second half. They won 52-17,” Filberto said. “Then last week, they ran for 270 yards against Buckeye Local.”

Four different Potters scored in the win over the Panthers. They were juniors Jalen Moman (6-2, 248 pounds), Lane Kopras (5-8, 205) and sophomore Derek Carter on short runs, and junior quarterback Peyton Reed (5-10, 160) had two 3-yard touchdown runs.

He said the Potters have not changed their defense from the 4-3 alignment.

“They put a lot of players in the box and use an umbrella type of defense in the secondary,” he said. “It’s a similar principle as their offense. They want to outnumber our blockers at the line of scrimmage. We only have five blockers there and they have seven, but it isn’t anything that we haven’t seen and practiced against. On our first day of practice in August, we always go against the 4-3. That is the most popular defense used in the Ohio Valley area, but when we travel to other parts of West Virginia we are seeing a lot of 3-4 defenses.”

Filberto said center Will Rupert and tackle Zach Martin are expected to return to the Red Rider lineup. Martin has been out the last four games.

“If we go out and play with the same consistency and get the ball into the hands of a lot of different people like we did last week, we should be okay,” Filberto said of his keys to victory. “We have to play an attack type of defense and put people around the football. We can’t let them outnumber us.”

Filberto said that even though his team has two games left in the season, there are three weeks of football left in West Virginia and a lot can happen.

“I’m confident that if we win out we will be in the playoffs,” he said. “We have to win this week and then worry about the following week. Only 16 teams will make it to the playoffs; that’s for sure.”