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Applemen return to playoffs

November 14, 2008|By John O'Brien

INWOOD, W.Va. -- The Musselman football team gave coach Denny Price a pair of accomplishments this season.

The first was a milestone victory that made him the winningest coach at one school in the history of West Virginia.

The second was a return to the Class AAA playoffs, where the Applemen haven't been since 2001. Musselman, the 16th seed, travels to face top-ranked and undefeated South Charleston tonight.

Price has led the Applemen to three state championships -- all in Class A or AA -- but suffered a long postseason drought until this season, when a 6-4 record earned them the final spot.

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Musselman had to sweat out the final week of the season and clinched a spot when Spring Valley defeated Woodrow Wilson. The Applemen lost their final game and had a bye week in Week 11, so they practiced for a week without knowing if their season was over.

South Charleston, on the other hand, seemed to barely break a sweat this year. The Black Eagles returned several starters from last year's 5-5 team and won all 10 of their games by an average of 15.7 points.

The season included several close games, including a 13-12 win over George Washington, a 21-14 win at Hurricane and a 25-22 win against Spring Valley. All three of those teams made the Class AAA playoffs, and George Washington (9-1) is the No. 2 seed.

South Charleston also defeated playoff participant Cabell Midland, Martinsburg's first-round opponent, 29-9, as well as Class AA playoff team Bluefield.

The Black Eagles' offense features receiver Aaron Dobson.

For the season, the 6-foot-3 senior has caught 32 balls for nearly 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns. Last week, he added three interceptions to a two-touchdown effort against Bluefield.

Senior running back Aaron Slusher has also scored 11 touchdowns, while rushing for more than 700 yards.

Musselman is led by senior running back Casey Cochran, who has accounted for 18 total touchdowns and more than 800 yards rushing. Six of his TDs have come on returns.

Against Hampshire, Cochran rushed for two scores and returned both an interception and a punt for TDs. Quarterback Korey Jackson missed last week's 36-7 loss at Martinsburg.

During a six-game winning streak in the middle of the season, the Applemen defense gave up only 10 points per game. In two season-opening losses and two season-closing losses, the defense allowed an average of 37 points.

Those losses were to Virginia playoff participants Sherando and Loudoun County, Martinsburg and Keyser (9-0), the top-ranked team in Class AA.

The last time Musselman entered the playoffs as the No. 16 seed in 1995, the Applemen rode future Marshall University star Denero Marriott to a Class AA state championship.

When Musselman defeated Central Woodstock earlier this year, it gave Price his 245th victory.

Tonight's game will be played at Laidley Field.

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