CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- South Charleston Coach Donnie Mays isn't as concerned about Tyrhee Pratt or the Capital High School defense as might be expected entering tonight's showdown between Kanawha County powers at South Charleston High School.
Instead, it's the third phase of the game that has the Black Eagles' first-year coach concerned.
"Frankly, it's the special teams that I think poses a threat," he said this week. "Everywhere else I think we're pretty even. We're eerily similar, in fact. But they've got a guy who can kick and we still need to improve that part of our game."
So in a game featuring two of the state's big-school passing leaders and a host of athletic wide receivers and running backs, the biggest threat to SC winning its second consecutive game in the rivalry could come down to kicker Jacob Gordon's ability to at least keep pace with Capital counterpart Logan Garrison.
It's not exactly bulletin board material, but it might be true just the same. Garrison has yet to hit a field goal attempt in 2013, but drilled one last year in the Black Eagles' come-from-behind 20-17 win over Capital at Laidley Field.
Meanwhile, SC has struggled to turn six points into seven this season. Gordon is 14-for-19 on extra-point attempts and also hasn't hit a field goal, part of an ongoing and over-arching theme among area kickers.
Most troubling to Mays might be his team's most recent outing against Nitro, when his team converted on just 3-of-7 PATs in a 51-14 rout.
While Mays is fine-tuning special teams, Capital Coach Jon Carpenter spent the week correcting problems where he feels the Cougars are potentially vulnerable: the defensive front.
"Against some teams that might not be having good years this year, you can get away with being in the wrong gap," Carpenter said. "We're not going to be able to do that here. If our kids listen to how they're being coached and do what they're told to do they'll be all right.
"We'll go as far as those guys on our defensive line will take us."
With both coaches poring over the minutia of the match-up, most eyes will be sophomore quarterbacks Tyhree Pratt and SC's Kentre Grier, especially after Grier engineered an unlikely comeback from a 17-point halftime deficit to lead the Black Eagles to a win last year.
Grier ranks fourth among Class AAA passing leaders in the state with 750 yards, nine touchdowns and three interceptions on 57-of-94 passing.