Red Riders must win, Wildcats still seeking first victory
RICHMOND — On the surface, it appears that Weir High at Edison Friday night would not be what one would call an important game. After all, Edison is winless and the Red Rider loss last week dropped them to 3-4, which temporarily moved them out of playoff contention at 24th place in West Virginia Class AA.
However, both coaches see this game, which has a 7 p.m. kickoff, as an important springboard, albeit for different reasons.
Weir High coach Tony Filberto, who says his teams have struggled at times to get a win on the grass turf of McCartney Field, is looking to finish the season strong with three-straight wins to climb back into the top 16 that make the West Virginia playoffs.
Coach Shane O’Brien at Edison wants a strong finish as a springboard for success in 2020.
“We have not played well there over the years,” Filberto said. “We’ve gone there with much better teams and struggled. A few years ago, we went over there with a really good team and ended up having to return a punt and intercept a pass for touchdowns to win the football game. We have to play every game as two teams that just match up that week and see how it plays out. I don’t think that you ever look at records and so on.”
The Wildcats finished the 2018 season at 4-6, with a three-point loss to rival Indian Creek in the finale, so they were looking to take a bigger step forward in 2019, O’Brien’s second at the helm after four seasons as an assistant.
“The season hasn’t turned out the way we wanted, but we’re playing a really young group of guys,” O’Brien said. “We’re a really young team, and we’ve had some injuries along the way, which forced us to play some guys that are freshmen and underclassmen. It is going to pay off for them because they are getting a lot of game experience. There’s potential for those guys, and they’re still working hard and learning.”
When asked what sticks out in the scouting report on Weir High, O’Brien first mentioned the speed of Sebastian Spencer. The senior quarterback is the West Virginia sprint champion, winning the 100 and 200 last spring. He now is the leading ground gainer and passer for the Red Riders.
“He’s the state dash champion in track, so I think containing him and Weir High’s speed is our biggest challenge,” O’Brien said. “I think that we have to work on our guys, especially being so young, to be fundamentally sound and doing all the little things right.
“I think both teams will be out to try to get a little momentum going, especially for this last part of the season. I know the scores of our games have not shown that we have been competitive, but we see improvements every week. I think if you have a good week of practice and a solid game plan it can be a very competitive game. I’m looking for a pretty exciting game.”
Filberto said the Wildcats, offensively and defensively, are similar to John Marshall and Plum.
“Like them, Edison is a two-back power football team,” he said. “Like all teams nowadays, they go to the shotgun and spread. They are not as big and physical as those two teams, but those teams each had a good back, and Edison also has a good back.”
That would be Tyler Griffith. The sophomore has 95 carries for 408 yards and three touchdowns. Griffith ran the ball 22 times in last week’s 54-7 loss at East Liverpool for 95 yards. Junior fullback Vinnie Marcino has gained 186 yards with 54 totes and crossed the goal line twice.
Freshman Gage Cline has completed 32 of 95 passes for 429 yards and two touchdowns, while being intercepted eight times. Senior Logan Hanchin leads O’Brien’s receiving corps with 13 catches for 170 yards and one score.
In comparison, the Red Riders are led by Spencer, who has rushed the football 72 times for 455 yards and nine touchdowns. He has 410 yards through the air, completing 32 of 62 with five touchdowns and one interception. Senior Elijah Gillette has emerged as the leading target for Spencer and fellow quarterback Anthony DiMatteis. Gillette caught six passes last week against Fairmont Senior and now ranks fourth among area receivers with 26 catches for 387 yards and four touchdowns.
“Weir High throws the ball pretty well,” O’Brien said. “They have some deep ball guys, and that’s where we’ve been a bit weak this year. I think that’s another of the big challenges we have — limiting big plays. They have the big play potential.
“We’re improving and recently have played pretty well on first and second down and seem to give more big plays on third and fourth downs. I think our offense has been doing some good things and has the potential to make some plays and keep us competitive. We need to get better on defense. We’ve pretty well been competitive in the first half of a lot of our games, but there have been times when the train kind of goes off the tracks in the second half.”
Filberto feels that Edison wants to run the football.
“Our approach is that Edison will be a two-back down hill power football team, and we have to take that away,” Filberto said. “Our approach will be very similar to some of the teams we already have played so our kids have attacked that offense successfully in the past.
“We have a pretty good football team. We have played seven football games, and we have played the No. 1, No. 2, No 5 and No. 7 teams in West Virginia. And, we choose to play that type of schedule because I think that it only makes you better to play teams like that. Unless you really challenge your team, they are not going to get better in the tougher situations.”
Filberto said Cline, Edison’s freshman quarterback, is capable of throwing the football, and they use some play action to make one think they are going to run the ball, and he’ll throw it.