Washington, Jefferson rivalry growing
SHENANDOAH JUNCTION – Although Washington is widely known as the new school, Jefferson coaches will point out that the Cougars are not much different than their brethren in the county.
“A lot of people don’t understand that they’re a third-year school in new building; we’re a third-year school in an old building,” Jefferson coach Richard Mills said. “We’re going through some rough times. People don’t seem to realize that. We only have half the players we used to have. I’m not trying to make excuses.”
Sure enough, though, the advent of Washington several years ago split a county-wide high school at Jefferson that existed for some 40 years.
The Cougars have won both previous meetings between the two schools going into tonight’s season-finale for both teams.
Jefferson has gone through some rough times this season, defeating only Hedgesville, while Washington’s on a bit of a roll after winning two of its last three and allowing the middle game to get away. The Patriots are looking to finish the season at 4-6.
“We’re seven points from being 5-4, a chance of being 6-4 and a whale of chance of getting into the playoffs,” Patriots coach Mark Hash said, musing to the “what-if’ category.
He’s still delighted how the Patriots have grown.
“The kids have really come a long ways,” Hash said. “Heck, three years ago we started something on June 6, didn’t know who we would have, had no place to practice. … These seniors, three-year guys, 10 of them were really dedicated and loyal. We’ll never forget that.
“I told them Friday, ‘No matter what things happen in life, one person will still be with your -me.’ That’s because of their dedication and loyalty.
“It’s been kind of neat to see them really grow up.”
So, too, is the rivalry between the two schools.
“It’s starting to build,” Mills said. “They’re probably our equal, maybe exceeding us.”
Hash sees the rivalry building as well as the thought process at Jefferson.
“It’s been tough for both schools to get something established because Jefferson County is a small county,” Hash said.
Hash served as Jefferson’s defensive coordinator before being named head coach at Washington when the school was set to open.
“There are a lot of bragging rights,” Hash said. “This is something that’s going to get bigger and bigger.
“They got athletes, but they play a heckuva schedule.”
Jefferson’s schedule has ranked among the toughest in West Virginia for several seasons.
“It’s one of those things,” Mills said. “We just got to work harder.
“I think we’re not a bad team, but just keeping running into some real buzzsaws. We’re making progress, but, of course, it’s the end of the year.”
The Cougars go into the game off a bye, which enabled them to return quarterback Justin Carter to the lineup.
He suffered a concussion on the final play of the game against Martinsburg but will be available this week. He’s thrown for 1,134 yards and has a talented duo of pass receivers in Allen Milbourne and Dan Myers, both of whom enter the game with 29 catches.
Running back Garrett Grantham had 645 yards rushing for the Cougars.
Washington’s running back combination of Tyrek Collier and Malcolm Newman had totaled 1,370 yards on the ground. Collier had 719 and Newman 651. Quarterback Tyler Wilt has thrown for 718 yards.
“We started off with three sophomores and two juniors on the offensive line, but with some injuries, we have a senior and a freshman, and we’ve been rushing for 250-300 yards,” Hash said.
Mills knows Washington will be confident.
“They’re feeding off their wins, so it’ll be good for them,” Mills said.
Emotions will be running high, and not necessarily because of the growing rivalry.
Jefferson will honor former player and student Eli Tice, who was severely injured while serving in the military in Iraq.
“Eli played middle linebacker for me,” Hash said. “Eli was a kid whose game soared because he worked so hard. He turned into a good football player his senior year. He had that attitude and overcame to overcome and succeed.
“He’s going to work, work and not settle for anything less than success, because that’s the type of young man he is.”
Tice graduated from Jefferson in 2008.
-Rick Kozlowski can be reached at 304-263-3381, ext. 116, or firstname.lastname@example.org