Pineville renews their rivalry with Williamsburg this evening as the Yellow Jackets visit the Mountain Lions for senior night. This year’s game has an added twist in that the teams are likely to be playing again in two weeks in a regional semifinal.
“You don’t ever want to overlook anyone. We’ve got to beat Berea first. If we can do that then it’s about a stone-cold lock that we’ll be going to Williamsburg for the second round,” Pineville coach Bart Elam said. “I’ll be honest with you, it’s different. I’m sure (Williamsburg coach) Jerry (Herron) has had some of the same thoughts about maybe holding something back. I think that in the end we’ll both go out there and try to win the game and worry about the rest later.”
Williamsburg comes in at 6-2 and is the number one seed in Class 1A, District 5. Pineville (6-3) is the number two seed from District 6. The Jackets will host the first three rounds of the playoffs as long as they win.
“It’s a big rivalry game, it’s senior night, there’s a lot of things to play for. We’re excited to play them and gauge how good our team is at this point in the season,” Elam added.
It was a long time ago, but Williamsburg outscored the Lions 31-7 in a scrimmage just before the start of the season. Elam said that result has nothing to do with how the teams will match-up tonight.
“I take zero from that scrimmage. We threw the ball 80-percent of the time to try and get our young kids ready for the season when we knew that running the ball would be our strength. That’s not to say that Jerry showed everything either,” he said. “Every single team in the state is running mostly different stuff from what they ran in the scrimmages and their first games of the season. I know I’ve got a team that played last year’s regional champions’ tail off last week.”
The Lions are coming off good showing in a loss at Hazard. The final score was 50-28, but the Lions were within one touchdown late in the fourth quarter before the Bulldogs put the game away with a long touchdown pass and an interception returned for a touchdown.
Williamsburg met Hazard in last year’s regional championship game and Elam said those two teams have a lot in common.
“They’re very similar in the type of athletes they have, but they play the game different. Hazard is a little bit bigger and runs a more balanced offense. Williamsburg’s skill kids are very comparable to Hazard’s, they run more of a straight spread where they’re passing the ball most of the time,.” he said
One thing that sets Williamsburg apart from most high school teams is the ability their receivers have to find the deep ball in the air and go get it.
“They’re as good as anyone in the state at catching the ball. Normally a fade, that outside go route, is a low-percentage pass. Williamsburg goes against that because their ball skills are really good. That speaks to how athletic they are and to how well-coached they are,” Elam said. “Coach Herron has been there quite a while, the kids know what to expect from him and he does a really good job teaching them.
“It’s a tall task for our secondary, but it’s one we’re excited to tackle Friday night.”
One key for the Lions will be to control the ball on offense to limit the Jackets’ opportunities.
“We want to win time of possession. That goes against what we preach defensively, we usually tell our guys to make the other team make one more play. It can be hard at the high school level for a team to put together a 8 or 10 play drive without making mistake,” said Elam. “In this case we want to keep the ball away from their offense as much as we can. At the same time we’re confident in our defense. They’re playing well right now.”
The match-ups to watch are how Pineville’s big offensive line can handle Williamsburg’s smaller, but more athletic defensive front and whether the Lion defensive backs can contain the Yellow Jacket receivers.
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.