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Originally published: 2012-10-24 18:58:55
Last modified: 2012-10-24 19:12:11

Banged-up Vikings and Mountaineers square off in The AJT Border Battle Classic Friday

Jamie Shell / (sports@averyjournal.com)

In some ways, the regular season cannot end soon enough for both the Avery Vikings and Mitchell Mountaineers. Injuries have decimated the rosters of both teams as the season winds down, with significant players missing games.

Avery lost in heartbreaking fashion in overtime to Mountain Heritage 36-28 last week, while Mitchell fell 42-0 at Madison. Avery defeated Mitchell in the opening week of the 2012 season, defeating the Mountaineers 20-13 in Ledger for the NCHSAA Endowment contest on Friday, Aug. 17.

Scouting the Mountaineers

Head coach Russell Barnett and his staff has struggled to find continuity and consistency on the offensive side of the football. Both quarterbacks Gage Parkins (392 passing yards, 219 rushing yards, 3 TD) and Turner Pitman have played significant time under center, but injuries have limited the players from finding throwing options and hindered success running the football. Pitman has emerged as a weapon in recent weeks, rushing for a team-high four touchdowns, to go with a pair of interceptions on defense.

One player that has emerged for the Mountaineers since its first meeting with Avery has been Dalton Beaver. Beaver leads the team in rushing yards with 344, and leads the team in tackles on defense with 59.5.

Another emerging player for MHS has been Britt Burleson, who has amassed 304 rushing yards this season and scored a pair of touchdowns in the Mountaineers' spread offense.

Mitchell has struggled this season at the beginning and ending of games with putting points on the scoreboard. The Mountaineers has been outscored 83-6 in the first quarter of its games in 2012, with a 49-14 difference in the fourth period. The club has scored just 88 points through 10 games and averages 210 yards in total offense per contest.

While the team has experienced its share of setbacks, Mitchell has battled each week to the closing whistle. MHS has scored 12-of-18 times when entering the opponent's red zone (inside the 20-yard line). Mitchell has struggled with turning the football over this season, as it has thrown 13 interceptions and lost 11-of-14 fumbles.

The low down

This year's version of the Border Battle Classic does not feature the polished quarterbacks and veteran-laden rosters of a season ago, but the game should be every bit as close and exciting as the first meeting this season between the teams.

Partially due to its loss of key personnel, Avery implemented the offset-I and power-I formations from Vikings clubs of yesteryear. The change has rejuvenated the AHS running attack and made senior Luke Childress the most valuable player on either team on the field Friday night. Childress' ability to fight for yardage and his deceptive speed in the open field translated into greater than 200 rushing yards against a Mountain Heritage team that has been relatively stingy in its rush defense this season.

Quarterback Ty Polsgrove showed last week that an extra week of practice as signal caller makes a huge difference. He made safe and effective passes and failed to throw an interception following a four-INT night the previous week against Madison, giving the Big Red an opportunity to win late in the game.

Turnovers will be the difference-maker in this year's Border Battle Classic. The team that can force the other team to give up the football will have a huge advantage. Both teams have relied heavily on running the football, so the battle at the line of scrimmage between the offensive and defensive linemen will play a large part in determining this week's contest.

The loss of Avery receiver and defensive back Austin Robbie is another significant injury for the Vikings to overcome. Robbie is the team's leading tackler and one of its best pass defenders. Other players must step up in the Avery secondary and fill the void left by Robbie's loss, a tall order since the Vikings also must account now for the loss of two of its top three wide receivers.

A win against its rival may secure Avery a wild card state playoff berth, while a win at the hands of its neighbor and rival could dash any hopes of continuing its season. Neither team wants to go winless in the conference season, so both teams will likely hold nothing back in attempting to earn victory.

By the numbers

0 - passing yards by Mitchell in last week's loss at Madison

13 - interceptions by the Vikings defense this season, including a pick by Jonah Tenge last week against Mountain Heritage

14 - point deficit overcome by Avery in last week's game at Mountain Heritage

21 - receptions by AHS's Daniel Childress to lead the club

767 - rushing yards by Avery RB Luke Childress in 2012

2,000 - yards in total offense amassed by Avery this season. Mitchell has racked up 2,101 yards