If going up against defending Class A state champion Wheeling Central in the opening round wasn't enough, East Hardy has to try and slay another giant this week when it goes head-to-head with Magnolia.
The Cougars, who exploded for a 60-34 win over the Maroon Knights last weekend, will face the Blue Eagles tonight at 7:30 p.m. in New Martinsville.
"It definitely doesn't get any easier for us this week," East Hardy coach Chad Williams said. "We go out and beat Wheeling Central and then run into a team like Magnolia, who seems to be the trendy pick to win it all in Class A."
The Inter-Mountain photo by Andrew Davis
East Hardy players gather on the sideline during the Cougars’ contest at Tucker County earlier this season. East Hardy will face No. 2 Magnolia in second round action of the Class A playoffs today.
Magnolia, which is the No. 2 seed in Class A, will bring a 10-1 record into the matchup.
The Blue Eagles advanced after pounding Williamstown 34-7 last Saturday.
Magnolia, which is competing in Class A for the first time this year, has been a dominant Class AA program over the years. The Blue Eagles are 22-3 in AA playoff games the last 20 years.
"We're going up against a team that is just two years removed of winning a Class AA?state title," Williams said. "They have a great football team with a long tradition of winning."
Williams said he likes the fact that his team is playing the role of underdog again this week.
"We like being in that role," Williams said. "You get a lot more focus in practice throughout the week when your kids know they're going up against a team that can beat them. And we play our best when we feel like we're not getting any respect, and when people don't give us a chance to win."
Williams' top concerns going into the contest are depth, turnovers and having to play on the road.
The Cougars will dress 24 gridders for the contest, while the Blue Eagles will have close to 45 on their sideline.
"They're a lot bigger than us in numbers and size," Williams said. "That's why I think that winning the turnover battle will be very important. We can't allow Magnolia to control the ball and keep pounding on us the entire game."
East Hardy's chances would have been much better if the contest were being played in Baker, where the Cougars are 18-0 the last three seasons.
No. 7 East Hardy is 11-6 on the road during that same span.
"We definitely have a tough challenge in front of us," Williams said. "Magnolia is one the fastest teams we've played on both sides of the ball. We're just going to take the matchups they give us and see what happens."
The winner of today's contest will battle either Wahama or Greenbrier West in semifinal action.