With the 2000 high school football season at its midpoint, many of the area teams have now put themselves in line for a playoff berth.
Class AA No. 1 Bridgeport (5-0), Class AAA No. 7 Robert C. Byrd (5-0) and No. 12 Philip Barbour (4-1) have made strong statements, and all three are involved in Big 10 Conference games tonight.
Robert C. Byrd visits cross-town rival Liberty (0-5), while Bridgeport travels to Lincoln (1-4) and Philip Barbour plays host to South Harrison (2-3).
At Liberty, the biggest news came off the field Wednesday when first-year coach Mark Clayton resigned just five games into the season. On the field, the Mountaineers must find a way to contain the Eagles' running game led by senior Scott Ross. The tailback has rushed for 728 yards and nine touchdowns on 94 carries.
Quarterback Jason Salentro leads the Liberty offense. Salentro has thrown for 404 yards and four TDs. However, Robert C. Byrd's defense has given up just 5.0 points per game and 156.2 yards of total offense.
In Shinnston, the top-ranked Indians will attempt to keep rolling behind one of the state's most deep and talented ground games.
Senior fullback Jeremy Hinzman has gained 469 yards and scored nine TDs, while tailback Brian Berry has carried 78 times for 460 yards and five TDs. Junior Mike Honce has rushed for 313 yards and five touchdowns, while junior C.R. Rohrbough has been an effective weapon in Bridgeport's passing and running game. Rohrbough is the Indians' leading receiver with seven receptions and has 192 yards of total offense and five TDs.
Lincoln is led by multi-talented quarterback Cody Wilt.
Wilt has 468 all-purpose yards. Bridgeport, like Robert C. Byrd, also brings a stingy defense. The Indians are giving up just 11.6 points and 173.6 yards per game.
One of the state's biggest surprises, Philip Barbour, will attempt to climb higher in the Class AAA rankings when it faces South Harrison.
Junior tailback Scott Mayle is the Big 10's leading rusher with 759 yards and eight TDs on 69 carries (11.0 yards per carry). Fullback Josh Skidmore will be another concern for the Hawks. Skidmore has carried 84 times for 392 yards and six TDs.
The Hawks will attempt to rebound from last week's 41-7 loss to Oak Hill. Senior tailback Drew Toth is the Big 10's second leading rusher with 735 yards and nine TDs on 148 carries.
In Weston, Lewis County (2-3) will be playing its last home game of the season when it plays host to Buckhannon-Upshur (1-4).
The Minutemen feature a balanced offense behind quarterback Patrick Morrison and tailback Curtis Holden.
Morrison has thrown for 558 yards and seven TDs, while Holden has rushed for 533 yards and seven TDs.
Lewis County's three losses have come from a combined five points.
In one of the biggest Class AA games, No. 4 Tyler Consolidated (5-0) plays host to No. 12 Doddridge County (4-1).
In NCAC action, No. 4 Morgantown (5-0) visits No. 5 Wheeling Park (5-0) in the state's feature Class AAA game. Class AAA No. 3 University (5-0) hosts Elkins (0-5) and North Marion (1-4) visits East Fairmont (1-4).
In other area games, Gilmer County travels to Tygarts Valley, Nicholas County is home against Braxton County, Tucker County visits Clay County and East Hardy is at Valley Wetzel.
All games kick off at 7:30 p.m.
Sports writer Mike Nutter can be reached at 626-1444 or by e-mail at email@example.com