POINT PLEASANT, W.Va. — Another first in a decade full of them.
Point Pleasant will face Philip Barbour for the first time in program history when the seventh-seeded Big Blacks host the 10th-seeded Colts on Saturday night in the opening round of the 2017 Class AA football playoffs at Ohio Valley Bank Track and Field.
Both teams have similarities, starting with identical 8-2 records that have led to this inaugural matchup. Both programs have also enjoyed successes through stingy defensive efforts this fall, as well as having the ability to consistently put points up on the board.
There are, however, some notable differences too. Point Pleasant will have a considerable advantage in postseason experience — not to mention the vaunted 12th man standing behind it on the sidelines.
It will be the latest in a long line of playoff firsts accumulated by Point Pleasant over the years, as the Red and Black will be making their 15th overall appearance in the postseason. The Big Blacks are also making their 10th consecutive postseason appearance, including the fifth straight home game to start the playoffs.
As 11th-year PPHS football coach Dave Darst looks forward to the program’s 13th postseason game at OVB Field, he is quick to point out his excitement in playing the Colts for the very first time in program history.
The venerable mentor also notes that PBHS will be coming in full of confidence after earning its first playoff berth since the 2013 campaign. The Colts were winless (0-20) the previous two seasons before making this current remarkable run to the playoffs.
Philip Barbour will likely be bringing a decent crowd as well, particularly with the school’s volleyball team playing earlier in the day at the state tournament.
“I’m really proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish … not only this year, but over the last decade. It really speaks to how much work the coaches and these kids have put in over the last 11 years for us to sustain a run like this,” Darst said. “Making the playoffs never gets old, and it’s exciting that we are playing somebody new for the first time. They’re excited to be in the playoffs for the first time in years too, I’m sure.
“They chose Saturday night so that they could go and cheer on their volleyball team at the state tournament that day and then come over here later that night. Their fans will be able to make a full day of it, so our kids will have to be prepared for a spirited Philip Barbour group.”
The Big Blacks enter Saturday’s contest as only one of two Class AA home teams in the top five in both scoring offense and scoring defense, with second-seeded Bluefield being the other.
PPHS is fourth in offensive points with an average of 41.6 per game, while the defense is fifth overall in Class AA in allowing just 15.2 points per contest.
Point Pleasant — winners of three straight decisions — is 1-2 overall against playoff teams this year, with the lone win coming at sixth-seeded James Monroe (20-14) during Week 2. Both of Point’s losses are against the top two ranked Class AA programs Mingo Central (36-34) and Bluefield (42-13).
PPHS scored 34-or-more points on eight different occasions this fall and also held opponents to singles digits in four games, which included one shutout victory over Man (45-0).
The Big Blacks had a Week 11 bye, so they are rested and ready to return to the field … or at least Darst believes that to be true.
“Our kids do seem to be excited for the challenge,” Darst said. “Having the week off before the playoffs seems to have helped us a little bit and the kids are focused on what we have to do. We’re ready to go.”
The Colts enter Saturday with a six-game winning streak and a .500 record against playoff qualifiers. PBHS defeated 16th-seeded Robert C. Byrd by a 21-20 count last week to qualify for the postseason, but dropped a 35-7 decision at eighth-seeded Liberty Harrison back in Week 4.
The Colts have been shut out once this year, a 17-0 loss to Elkins, but the Blue and White scored 21-or-more points eight times this season — and reached 30-or-more points in four of those contests.
Philip Barbour also held the opposition to single digits three times and limited half of its regular season schedule to 20-or-fewer points. The guests have averaged 27.3 points offensively and allowed 18.8 points as a defensive unit this year.
The Colts — who will be making their third playoff appearance since the 2004 campaign —have not won a playoff game during that 14-year span.
Experience might be on his side, but Darst believes that this energized PBHS squad is quite capable of giving his troops fits.
“They’ve made their mark on the defensive side of the football this year. They make you earn everything you get, rather it be touchdowns, first downs or positive yardage,” Darst said. “They have a strong running game that comes at you in lot of different ways, and their special teams are pretty good at making plays as well. It will be a good test for us.”
Besides experience, however, Point Pleasant holds the biggest advantage simply in being home.
The Big Blacks are 50-7 at OVB Field since the stadium opened in 2009, including an 8-4 mark in playoff games. Darst is also 8-9 in playoff games and 94-25 overall during his 11 seasons at the helm.
Point Pleasant — which has a playoff win in each of the past four seasons — has won 22 of its last 25 decisions in the friendly confines of OVB Field. PPHS is 10-14 all-time in postseason contests.
“It’s always nice to start the postseason at home, plus I think there is some excitement in playing somebody new for the first time,” Darst said. “We are a tough out here at home and the community always shows us support when the playoffs start up, so it will be nice to be home one more time.”
Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Saturday evening.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.