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Eagles, Applemen have more on line than usual in rivalry

November 04, 1998|By BOB PARASILITI

BUNKER HILL, W.Va. - In any rivalry, emotions run high.

But Friday, there will be feelings to rival the rivalry.

Musselman hosts Hedgesville in the last of Berkeley County's three traditional matchups. And when the Applemen and Eagles strap it on, there will be more than just civic pride on the line - even though that would be enough to get the juices flowing.

"When we look at this game, No. 1 is the rivalry," said Hedgesville's interim coach Don Dellinger. "This game means a lot to the school and the community. There are a lot of people from both schools who work in the factories around here who look forward to this game.

"The second reason is the county championship. We need a win to tie it up. And No. 3, we need this one to make our goal - to make the playoffs."

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Rivals, county pride and a berth in the 16-team, West Virginia Class AAA playoffs. It's not exactly an all-or-nothing proposition, especially for Musselman, but it's enough to keep people's attention.

"This is a big one with playoff implications for both of us," Musselman coach Denny Price said. "For them, it could get them into the playoffs. For us, it's for positioning. It's also a (Cumberland Valley Athletic League) game, even though we've already won the title. And it's an intracounty game, which goes without saying. If you're an athlete, you know what that means."

The pride aspect lasts longer than any motivating factor in the series - bragging rights are better than any trophy - but for the Applemen and Eagles, playoff football has become as traditional as this rivalry.

Musselman (9-0) is the top-ranked Class AAA team in the state, while Hedgesville (5-4) has climbed back to No. 13 after last week's 17-9 win over Jefferson.

"We will probably stay No. 1 and be no lower than No. 2 with a win," Price said. "That means you are able to stay home for the playoffs for the first three rounds as long as you keep winning."

For Hedgesville, a win and the Eagles are in. A loss, and there is still a chance to make it. But that possibility isn't being discussed.

"We told our kids that we've been here before," Dellinger said. "The year we made it to the state finals (1995), we had to win our last three games to get in. The kids did a good job of getting focused."

The Applemen present a scary challenge for the Eagles. Not only have Mussleman's skilled players - led by Todd Mosby, Kevin Dingus and Trevor Shade - steadily improved, but the linemen are big and mobile, which helps the offense sustain plays.

Hedgesville battled through early injuries, including quarterback Shane Moats season-opening shoulder problem, to get back into contention for the playoffs. The Eagles offense became more diverse when Moats returned in the fifth week.

And if Hedgesville needed any more motivation for the game, the Eagles will welcome coach Ron Renner back to the sideline. Renner suffered a mild stroke on Sept. 26 during the Martinsburg game and has been away from the team since.

"The idea of the playoffs is No. 1," Dellinger said. "Our slogan has been, 'Whatever it takes.' What it takes is for us to win our last three games. We've got two, now we have to get the last one."

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