POINT PLEASANT, W.Va. — Here we go again.
The Point Pleasant football program will be making its eighth consecutive postseason appearance Friday night as visiting Musselman comes to town for a Class AAA opening round playoff game at Ohio Valley Bank Track and Field in Mason County.
The second-seeded Big Blacks (10-0) are looking to continue their historic run through the 2015 campaign, which serves as the program’s 13th playoff appearance in school history. PPHS also owns an all-time mark of 6-12 in playoff games, with five of those wins coming in the previous four postseasons.
In fact, Point Pleasant has come away victorious at least once in three of the last four postseasons — which includes a win apiece at home over the last two years. The Big Blacks are 5-2 in playoff games at OVB Field and also own a 38-4 all-time mark at home.
Knowing that the Big Blacks will enjoy the friendly confines of home throughout the playoffs, as long as they keep winning, ninth-year PPHS coach Dave Darst admits that he is thrilled at the thought of being in his own back yard over the next few weeks.
“I honestly don’t think there is a better crowd than the one we have Point Pleasant. It’s a special environment on Friday nights and I know it’ll make a difference again this weekend,” Darst said. “Our 12th man definitely makes things a little more difficult for any team coming in here looking to beat us.”
The Big Blacks had only four games at home this season, all of which ended up being won by sizable margins. PPHS defeated Lincoln County (62-7), Ripley (64-6), Oak Hill (55-8) and Ravenswood (75-7) all at OVB Field by an average score of 64-7.
Overall, Point Pleasant has outscored opponents by a 613-104 margin and is plus-11 in turnover differential on the season. The Big Blacks are averaging nearly 526 all-purpose yards per game, which includes a potent rushing attack that has churned out 3,953 yards and 70 scores this fall.
PPHS managed to extend its state-best regular season winning streak to 33 games and also secured the program’s seventh unbeaten regular season in school history.
Needless to say, Coach Darst — who is 5-7 in playoff games and 73-21 all-time at Point Pleasant — has been pleased with his troops thus far this fall. Now he’s eager to see what they can do in the second season.
“It’s just been another great football season for us. For us to be ranked number two and know that we’ve got the home-field advantage, now we just have to go out and play to that number two ranking,” Darst said. “Our kids know that that’s what we’ve got to do and we’ve had a good week of practice in getting ready for someone we’ve never played before.
“This is what you prepare for, to get into the playoffs. Now your back is against the wall and you have to play your best ball.”
The 15th-seeded Applemen (6-4) and Point Pleasant will be facing one another for the first time in program history. Musselman is also making its first playoff appearance since the 2012 campaign.
The Green and Red are 5-1 in road games this season, but the guests are also 1-4 against playoff qualifiers. MHS defeated Greenbrier East on the road by a 31-27 count, but dropped decisions to Spring Mills (31-0), Jefferson (41-26) Morgantown (29-19) and Martinsburg (48-6).
Both Musselman and Point Pleasant have posted one shutout apiece this fall, and both also played Oak Hill throughout the course of the regular season. PPHS defeated the Red Devils by a 55-8 margin in Week 7, while the Applemen posted a 44-6 home decision over OHHS in Week 2.
Musselman is averaging 28.4 points per game offensively and surrenders 23.3 points as a defensive unit per outing. There are also only nine seniors on the 43-man MHS roster, making the team — overall — a little young.
That youth, however, should not be discounted as capable.
“We’re going to have to play very solid defensively and try to limit their touches offensively. They’re going to do some things to us that we are not typically use to,” Darst said. “They’ve definitely got our attention, because you can tell that they are well-coached and motivated. They are a little bit young, but they are a high-energy team that gets after it. I really think we’re going to be in for a dog-fight, but I also think that our kids are ready to take on that challenge.”
The Appleman, like PPHS, have a pair of 1,000-yard rushers in their backfield, and that duo will the primary focus of Musselman’s offensive attack.
Sophomore Jacob Northcraft leads the ground attack with 1,571 yards and 15 touchdowns on 230 attempts, followed by junior quarterback Latrell Warr with 1,085 yards and 13 scores on 170 totes. Warr is also 59-of-118 passing for 619 yards, throwing six TDs and four interceptions.
Senior Chance Petry and sophomore Michael Valentine both have 17 catches apiece for 179 and 172 yards, respectively, while junior Demoy Brown has snagged 14 passes for 164 yards. Petry leads the wideouts with three TD catches and Valentine also has one receiving score.
Both Ben McDonald and Charly Rojas have handled place-kicking duties this year, while McDonald and Warr have both handled the punting responsibilities.
Musselman’s last postseason victory came in the opening round of the 2012 playoffs when it defeated Capital by a 42-23 margin at Laidley Field in Charleston.
With the postseason experience factor clearly in Point Pleasant’s favor, Darst is hoping that his troops will be able to keep their playoff emotions in check. Darst also feels that if his kids can just show up and play football the way they have all year, then the rest can take care of itself.
“Our guys have been here before, so they know what’s expected. I also think that they are going to show up and play with a high energy level,” Darst said. “They’ve responded the way we’ve wanted them to all year long. If we can continue that, it should hopefully be a fun night.”
Friday night’s AAA opening round gridiron contest between Musselman and Point Pleasant at OVB Field kicks off at 7:30 p.m.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.