FAIRMONT — The 99th annual East-West game is upon us and the No. 1 Fairmont Senior Polar Bears are looking to close out a second-straight undefeated regular season.
Standing in the way of perfection is a rebounding 4-5 East Fairmont team that will have its work cut out for it if the Bees hope to spoil the Polar Bear party.
West is riding an 11-game winning streak in the rivalry game with East’s last win coming in 2007 in overtime.
During that streak, the Polar Bears have pitched three shutouts and have outscored the Bees, 445-82.
The Big 10 is well represented in the playoff race with one week to go.
The conference has five teams that would make the playoffs if the season ended today.
In addition to the No. 1 Polar Bears, No. 2 Bridgeport and No. 8 North Marion are in line to host first-round games.
Liberty and Lewis County are Nos. 15 and 16 respectively and would be on the road to open the playoffs.
Robert C. Byrd’s Jeremiah King still reigns supreme atop the Big 10 Conference rushing leader board.
Despite back-to-back losses to Fairmont Senior and North Marion, the Flying Eagles running back is still head and shoulders above the competition with 1,883 yards on the year.
He’s being chased by Fairmont Senior’s dual-threat quarterback Gage Michael with 1,224 yards who is running at a 15.3 yards per carry clip. But due to the undefeated Polar Bears’ knack for eliminating opponents from the game early, Michael doesn’t usually get much time to show off his skills.
Lewis County’s Marshall Hobbs has joined the duo as the third conference running back with over 1,000 yards — now with 1,173 on the season. Liberty’s Seth McIntyre is fourth with 776 and Preston’s J.J. Townsend is fifth with 605 yards.
King is still the rushing TD leader with 23, followed by Michael (19), Hobbs (15) and Bridgeport’s Carson Winkie (10).
Marion County is still 1-2-3 in passing for the Big 10.
North Marion’s Gunner Murphy continues to lead the way with 1,854 yards through the air.
Fairmont Senior’s Michael is less than 100 yards behind with 1,772 and East Fairmont’s Postlewait has 1,477.
All three are completing over 50 percent of their passes with Michael leading the way with a 61.3 completion percentage.
Buckhannon’s Ryan Strader is the only other conference quarterback close with 1,161 yards in fourth and Preston’s Trevor Thomas inches closer to the 1,000-yard mark with 910 yards passing in fifth.
The back-and-forth battle for the conference touchdown pass lead between Murphy and Michael has the Polar Bear signal-caller on top 22-21. Postlewait is third with 13, followed by Liberty’s Noah Leggett with 10 and Strader and Thomas tied with nine each.
East Fairmont’s Aiden Slusser leads a deluge of Marion County receivers on the Big 10 receiving leader board.
Slusser has caught a conference-high 39 passes for 733 yards, also best in the conference,
Fairmont Senior’s Cam Longwell is second with 31 receptions.
Of the 10 best receivers in the Big 10 this year, six are from Marion County.
Slusser and Longwell are joined by North Marion’s Tariq Miller (27) in fourth and Jahkari Mesidor (22) in eighth. The Huskies Tyler Thorne and Fairmont Senior’s Kayson Nealy are tied for ninth with 21 receptions each.
Longwell and Miller are now tied for the conference lead in touchdown receptions with 10 each while Slusser has nine.
As for scoring, the top of the leader board remains unchanged with RCB’s King in first with 146 points and the Polar Bears’ Michael next with 122 points.
They are the only players to exceed 100 points on the season so far with just one game left in the regular season.
East’s Slusser is third with 84 points, and you would have to go back all the way to 2007 to find a Bee player who put more points on the board.
Lewis County’s Hobbs and Fairmont Senior’s Longwell are tied with 78 points each.
Fairmont Senior’s Frankie Smith is the conference kicking leader with 49 points and will look to add to that in Friday’s East-West game.
Bridgeport’s Austin Springer is second with 44, followed by Lewis County’s Jared Griffith (35) and East’s Slusser (30).
Slusser has kicked the most field goals of any kicker with four and also holds the longest make with a 47-yarder.