North Central Preview Part One

North Central Region Preview Part One

With the season rapidly approaching, Coalfields and Co. will be putting out an eight part series (four regions- two parts each) to preview the upcoming season.  From the top teams to the dark horses that are looking to break into the playoffs, we will attempt to cover mostly every team that the Mountain State has to offer. In our series, we divided the state into four regions.  Covering each corner of the state and letting you know about players and stories that you need to keep an eye out during the 2017 season.  Without further to do, here is part three: the North Central Region.

The North Central is the largest region out of our four.  Running along the outskirts of the Valley and bordering the Coalfields and Panhandle on the south and east, respectively.  This is a polarized region producing the state’s top teams and bottom teams with very few lingering around .500.  A home to a bulk of the county schools and a lot of big cross town rivalries.  Many traditionally excellent schools set up shop here and state title contenders are plentiful.

 

Big Times in the Big Ten

The opposing force of the Cardinal Conference in AA football is a conference that has stuck together through classification changes along with addition/subtraction constantly of programs during its existence.  It is almost a guarantee-  each year a title contender will come out of this conference.  A lot of this success comes from Bridgeport and their success over the past 20 years, but there is plenty of quality coming out of this conference.  The conference rivals the MSAC for the amount of Division 1 signees tallied over the years and will rival them this year.

The amount of sustained success is profound, and the depth of quality teams is impressive.  While some of these teams ride the rollercoaster of talent, a select few are constant athlete pools.  As in previous years, the two big dogs going into 2017 are area rivals Bridgeport and Fairmont Senior.  Both teams fought two hard, physical, and intense battles last season.  Bridgeport stumped the Polar Bears 17-14, seeming to have their number yet another year.  However, the two powers would meet again in the semifinals of the AA playoffs.  This meeting would go down as a classic.  In Double OT and after a highly controversial play, Fairmont Senior would finally get past the Indians and into the State Championships.  The two forces will play again this season having a large impact on the conference and state.

From the conference, we see teams that rise up via talent and become contenders, and it happens often.  Lincoln last season made noise in the playoffs- scoring a first-round victory.  With Kobie Carpenter back at QB, they could make another run as well.  Grafton has been down recently, but won the 2008 state championship.  Robert C. Byrd is a team that rides waves of talent as well.  Some years they will be 5-5 and the next they will be 10-0- that’s dangerous when making predictions for the upcoming season.  Lewis County was a regular in the AAA playoffs and is always a disciplined, tough team to play against.  They started the season out last season very strong but tailed off at the end; they will be one of our teams to watch this upcoming trying to sneak in the playoffs.  Word on the street is Liberty and Philip Barbour are both sporting very solid squads and their schedules work out in their favor, mostly.

The conference is fun to watch from top to bottom and will be exciting to see how it all plays out.  They could easily have 5 or 6 teams make the playoffs next season, and they will probably be facing each other early in the playoffs.  One last team that will leave a mark this season is the boys from Sutton and the Braxton County Eagles.  Led by Heath Cottrill, the Eagles have the talent to win a bulk of their games this upcoming season.  Staying healthy is always key, and their schedule is manageable. Braxton County’s toughest game will probably be the last one of the season when they face the #4 pre-season team in AA (Sissonville).  They have 4 or 5 games that can be considered swing games.  If they are for real, like we think they could be, they can easily have a pretty good record going into that last game. They will be a quiet team this season, and they will sneak up on people in AA.  Is the Big Ten the best conference in AA?  That’s debatable for sure, but this is setup for a great season for the conference and will give people in the NCWV region a good show on Friday nights.

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2016 Double OT victory by Fairmont Senior – Photo credits: TheET.com

 

The Road for the Mohigans

Scheduling tough has always been a pride and tradition for the Morgantown Mohigans.  A program who has dominated high school football in the North Central region for many years.  With the recent classifications absolutely flipping the division on its head, it left teams like Morgantown struggling to find competition.  It would be nice if there were set rules in place to make sure that teams are forced to schedule each other if they are in the same region.  It would be make life much easier and not put teams into tough scheduling situations.  Morgantown has fallen victim, if not the worse victim, from these recent difficulties.

The Mohigans open up with arguably the toughest two opponents that you could possibly ask for. Morgantown will travel to Pittsburgh powerhouse North Allegheny and will welcome one of the top teams in Ohio in Steubenville.  Now who in the world scheduled those games should be questioned for sanity especially in back to back weeks.  The next two games are no cake walks with both Brooke and Parkersburg South being playoff regulars. That set ups the annual matchup with the Bulldogs from Martinsburg, a team that beat Morgantown last season 52-0 in the semifinals of the playoffs.  After that, Morgantown will play Musselman and Wheeling Park, the #3 ranked team from 2016 and the 2015 State championship team.  The “light part” of their schedule has the dark horse of the state with Riverside, and a John Marshall team who has improved over the past few seasons.  The season caps off with the Mohawk bowl against the pre-season ranked #5 team in the state, University.

Now my heart and tradition point to the fact that Morgantown has been better than most of these teams.  Morgantown has talent as well and the loss of Logan Holgerson won’t hurt as bad as people might think.  This isn’t a plea or a beg to give the Mohigans a chance, this is saying don’t sleep on this team. They still are very talented and possess a great coaching staff.  The schedule is brutal and one that can wear on a team very quickly.  It’ll make every game they play this season incredibly important, but don’t give up on this team yet, they’ll be around.

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Morgantown vs Hurricane in the 2016 quarterfinals – Photo credits: WAJR.com

 

Quiet Small Rumbles

This region has given us a number of storylines coming out of the small school division in the state. Coming out of the pre-season polls that we had, the region has a number of teams that will be making rumbles this next season.  These can be hard to predict but the hype around these teams can be real. The first team on the list are the Cameron Dragons, and they will be hard to really figure out.  The Dragons finished 10-0 last season before getting knocked off by Pendleton County in the playoffs. The Dragons return an absolute playmaker at QB in Colby Brown.  Brown finished last season with over 2,000 yards in the air, 24 passing TDs on only 2 picks with another 15 scores on the ground.  The same question is being asked of the Dragons from last season, how good are they?  There isn’t a game on their schedule that will test their level of transcendence so our answer won’t fully be answered until the postseason.

The Bulldogs of Doddridge County are next and while their first two games on the schedule are tough, the rest of it set ups rather nice.  This team is big and physical- a team that will come to punch you in the mouth.  You can tell from their film that they play with an attitude.  The question is if they have enough firepower to make a deep run in Single A.  That first game against South Harrison is going to be a huge game, and one that will tell us a lot about both teams.  South Harrison is a team from the region who is also on high alert.  They might have the best two-headed monster in Single A.  With Freddy Canary and Cam Barnette in the backfield, they’ll be very difficult to stop.  Barnette is bigger with a bruiser style while Canary is electrifying talent using his speed.  Their schedule is not easy, however, they have big games with Doddridge, Steubenville Catholic, Tolsia, St. Mary’s, and East Hardy. They will be tough as any team in Single A, but will they be able to handle the schedule, health wise, to make a run?

A school in the region that would be difficult to not say anything about would be Wheeling Central Catholic.  A squadron that is always in contention within Single A- they’ve now added even more talent due to the closing of Bishop Donahue. Everyone knows about Wheeling, but we have one last school from the region that could make some noise that would be the Knights from Sistersville in Tyler Consolidated. They came into the playoffs last year as a 16 seed and would lose to East Hardy in the 1st round.  We see them being in one of those situations again but possibly taking another step in the right direction.

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Freddy Canary – Photo Credits: TheET.com

 

Speed Round

It’s hard to touch every team in a region so sometimes we have to wrap it up in a sentence or two going into the season.  So, North Central?  Tyler Komorowski and the Weir Red Riders are trying to build on a solid outing last season- can they push to the state championship?  Will Williamstown assert itself as a power once again or will Jaiden Smith and St. Mary’s run ship again?  Liberty (Harrison) led by Broderick Lantz and Roane County both had above average season in 2016, can they improve?  The CB Cee-Bees from Blacksville went 7-3 last season but nothing else cooked up in their stew.  Elkins has sat around 5-5 for several years and it’ll be interesting to see if they progress up, down, or stay the same.  North Marion has a sharp set of uniforms and shouldn’t hang their heads after falling to Point Pleasant by 3 in the first round last year- they should build on their 6-4 record.  Notre Dame has a talented quarterback by name of Ryan Laasmar, but he only has three wins under his belt from 2016.   Which recent pushover who suffered 7 or more losses will push back in 2017- Madonna, Preston, Tygarts Valley, Hundred, Paden City, Ritchie County, Parkersburg Catholic, Calhoun, East Fairmont, Magnolia, or Wirt County.  Gilmer had a great 11-1 run last season before being thumped by St. Mary’s in the second round.  Ravenswood and area rival Ripley both went 4-6 even though Ripley capped that off with a 66-0 swamp against their rivals.  And a big question mark is placed on historic powerhouse Parkersburg who went 5-5 the past season though several of their losses came close against top AAA’s in the state.  Brenton Strange is the returning headliner for the Big Red.  Oh yeah, there’s team called Wheeling Park with a QB named Cross and a RB named Rennie- and they know how to win state championships.  The North Central is a polarized area with the best of the best… and some of the worst of the worst.  It’ll be a great year for some football.

 

Crossroads Games

Brooke @ Parkersburg South (October 6th)  – For the Bruins, this will  be a key game for their playoff push. This is the same for Parkersburg South. Brooke faces the harder stretch of their schedule in the beginning of September, but the 2nd half is where they can make their run for the playoffs.

Preston @ Hedgesville (September 29th) – We haven’t talked much about the Knights of Preston, and we will hit on Hedgesville another day.  Both of this teams are fringe AAA playoff teams, and with points being as valuable as they are, this will be important for both teams. With four AA teams on the schedule for Preston, they need the full point total, and the same can be said for Hedgesville playing in a tough region.

University @ Wheeling Park  September 15) – A battle of two top 5 pre-season teams with division 1 talent all over the field.  This could be a game that will put teams in home field position not only in the first round of the playoffs, but further on than that.

Fairmont Sr. @ Bridgeport (September 15) – Unfortunately, this game is being played the same date as the one above, but this annual battle of two powerhouses from the region is one that you should try to watch.  The stakes in this game are similar to the game above, and it could have huge implications of who has to go through who in November. This rematch of the semifinal classic from last season will be fiery and heated and should be a great game.

Lewis County @ Elkins (September 8th) – Two teams that will be fighting for position in AA and both will need the points. Taking a look at each of their schedules, this could be a key game to give them each momentum through the meat of their schedules.

South Harrison @ Doddridge County (August 25) – Spoken above, but worthy of mention again. Possibly the Single A game of the week and will be a battle of two very good teams.  We will find out a lot about Doddridge County and whether or not they are for real.  For South Harrison, they play a tough schedule and need big wins when they can get them.

South Harrison @ St. Mary’s (October 20) – Late season matchup against two of the top teams in Single A.  The defending state champs might have their biggest test when South Harrison rolls into town. This game will see if South Harrison is a State Title contender or a playoff team.

Magnolia @ Tyler Consolidated (October 20) – Both of these teams will need to win this game to make the playoffs in Single A. Tough schedules for both teams will make this game the determining game for their season.

Coalfields Region Preview Part Two

Coalfields Region Preview Part Two

The second part of each region preview includes a preseason ranked list of the Top Ten teams and the Elite Eight players with several accolades to look out for.  The Coalfields region strength comes in AA with young potential in both AAA and A.  High school football is extremely difficult to predict- it is hard to see what several seniors do for a team.  As said before, if you or your team is left off you have two options: prove us right or prove us wrong.

 

Coalfields Region Top Ten

MingoCentralMiners1. Mingo Central Miners

What more can be said about the Miners, a team that is loaded in experience and talent. Playing in a tough conference will test their resilience, but they rolled through a similar schedule last season.  Though legendary coach Yogi Kinder departed the program, three all state players return to lead the Miners of Matewan.  The pressure for a repeat is present- expectations are always high for a program like this.

 

ChapmanvilleTigers2. Chapmanville Tigers

Adam Vance, Dylan Smith, and the Tigers offense have given them state recognition as  team to watch out for in 2017. They finished 5-5 last season, but a couple of close losses down the stretch costed them a chance at the AA playoffs.  On paper they haven’t lost much- returning quarterbacks are a treasure.  Returning quarterbacks that threw for over 2000+ could be special.  A year of experience in this air raid system could be the formula needed to push them to the postseason.

 

BluefieldBeavers3. Bluefield Beavers

A lot of emphasis has been put on the Beavers on whether or not they can restore their winning tradition.  We have confidence that they can, but they must improve in the trenches for that to happen.  Skill wise, they have all the talent in the world.  Speed, hops, explosiveness- you name it.  If both units play at their ability or higher the Beavers could be a top 5 team in the state.

 

JamesMonroeMavericks4. James Monroe Mavericks

James Monroe reached as high as two in some of our rankings.  It’s a toss up between the Tigers, Beavers, and Mavericks.  James Monroe had a very impressive outing last season with their only loss in the regular season coming to defensive standouts Nicholas County and they fell short to Mingo Central in the state semifinals.  They return a good running back and have a favorable schedule for success.

 

WoodrowWilsonFlyingEagles5. Woodrow Wilson Flying Eagles

One of the only AAA teams in the area comes in at 5th.  They were incredibly young and had to grow up quickly last season.  Compared to their MSAC opponents, they will still be young.  Knocks on the chin build character- a three year starting quarterback will hold the ropes and some aging skill players sprinkled around him.  If they can win early they can turn their season into an impressive one.

 

GreenbrierEastSpartans6. Greenbrier East Spartans

Another AAA team with question marks looming around them.  However, their schedule is a little more manageable than Woodrow’s.  Little is known about the upcoming Spartan team, but last year’s squad had a surprisingly successful campaign.  This year could see similar wins.  Wins against other region teams is very necessary for those W’s to come in.

 

FayettevillePirates7. Fayetteville Pirates

The David Moneypenny led Pirates are coming off one of the best seasons in school history.  Finishing undefeated in the regular season and going all the way to the semifinals of the Single A playoffs.  While they do graduate a very good Senior class, they have a top player in the region coming back.  If the offense builds around him, they could be a Single A juggernaut yet again.

 

IndependencePatriots8. Independence Patriots

Independence falls into the same category as Fayetteville.  A great defense captains this squad as it did in 2016.  Changes have occurred, however, with a new coaching staff and having to replace some very good players.  Their first game with Midland Trail is going to be huge for both Patriot units.  Hopefully, they can go deeper into the playoffs than previous seasons.

NicholasCountyGrizzlies9. Nicholas County

They finished last season 9-1 and could replicate that again this season.  A few big games will be key for them because they will struggle to gain quality points.  Notably, the Grizzlies had one of the stingiest defenses throughout the state not even allowing a point in their first four contests (and only 9 in their fifth).  Like other teams at the top, success within the region and winning favored games is important.

 

MidlandTrailPatriots10. Midland Trail Patriots

A sleeper that we believe can have a breakout year in Single A.  Knocking off AA opponents and winning rivalry games will poise them to accomplish some great feats.  This team has been in the works for several seasons, and it is evident that the Patriot program is coming full tilt.  They slide in the top ten and could soar higher.

 

Honorable Mentions

Mt. View Golden Knights, Princeton Tigers, Logan Wildcats

 

 

Elite Eight 

  1. Jeremy Dillon (QB) Mingo Central

6’4 190 Senior

4,057 yards, 61 touchdowns, one state championship, zero losses.  Jeremy Dillon, a Marshall basketball commit, won multiple awards including the Kennedy (state’s best player) and House (states’ best quarterback) after his 2016 campaign one year removed from Tug Valley.  Dillon is a legitimate game changer.  Athletically, he is a handful match up with him + his solid ability to throw + a strong knowledge for running the quarterback position is the equation to equal the statistics and accolades listed.  Dillon transcends AA, believe that.  Dillon leads a Mingo Central program excelling in football culture heading into 2017- good luck to any in their way.

DILLON

 

2) Mookie Collier (RB) Bluefield

5’10 170 Senior

Collier is pure electricity.  As an all-purpose player, Collier totaled 1,713 yards and 22 touchdowns.  Bluefield had a lackluster season in 2016- that was in no fault to Collier.  He is a slasher with bounce.  His size doesn’t bring many issues either as his explosiveness is enough to compensate.  Collier has a certified 39-inch vertical- complete absurdity.  Collier is another player that transcends his division and is one of the top players in the entire state.  If the Beavers want to rebound this season, Collier will need to build on his success.  He has several backs and a veteran coach who will aid in fully utilizing his ability.

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3) Drew Hatfield (WR) Mingo Central

6’0 170 Sophomore

Similar to Collier, Hatfield is a player that affects a game at different positions including special teams.  His catching ability is bar none with an added shifting ability.  His straight-line speed is bound to be improving from natural growth.  Considering Hatfield had such an impact as a freshman on a state championship team- it can be assumed that expectations are high for his sophomore season.  His quarterback returns, and the departure of Joe Hunt (all state running back) will open up touches for skill players.  In 2016’s finale, Hatfield capped off his season catching five balls for 103 yards in the State Championship game against Fairmont Senior (one of the best defenses statewide).  His progression should prove noteworthy.

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4) Dalton Fields (OL) Mingo Central

6’0 230 Senior

Fields in an old-fashioned player with grit.  Weighing under 250 can be a flaw for lineman, but it can also put a chip on their shoulder.  Fields fires off the ball every single play- his lack of weight benefits his late quarter endurance.  Fields could make this list on either side of the ball.  Fields has the ability to play in a toe to heel line set or a spread.  Sadly, Fields name won’t be mentioned in the newspapers or blogs up until in the off-season awards- the life of a lineman.  When you see Dillon, Hatfield, and the Miners of Matewan putting up big numbers- remember to associate that directly with the play up front led by Fields.

df

 

5) Jordan Dempsey (RB/WR) Fayetteville

6’0 170 Junior

Fayetteville returned to their glory in 2016 after a stellar regular season and march to the semi-finals of the Single A Playoffs.  Will Fenton, Dalton Dempsey, and Jordan Dempsey were the trio to take them there.  Jordan, however, is the only one returning to the pirate ship.  As a sophomore compiled 1,129 yards on the ground with 19 touchdowns and another 241 yards and 3 touchdowns catching Fenton passes.  There is no doubt that his touches will increase with his partners in crime gone.  Fayetteville might not reach the level it did the previous year, but Dempsey will no doubt have spectacular numbers.  He’s a skillful player with enough athleticism to dominate the gorge taking into account the growth usually seen from sophomore to junior year.

jd

 

6) Grant Mohler (RB) James Monroe

5’10 190 Senior

Grant Mohler has one of the more impressive highlight films with a less than exciting stat line (902 yards with 12 touchdowns).  However, we trust the eye in the sky over the dots and the lines.  Mohler was a key part in the deep playoff run of the Mavericks who eventually fell to the powerhouse that is Mingo Central.  Mohler has a knack for hitting holes and escaping tackles.  The formula for success has been found in Lindside and Mohler is a profound piece to this equation.  His senior year is guaranteed to have more touches, more experience, and an overall exceptional performance.

"Brad Davis/The Register-Herald

 

7) Adam Vance (QB) Chapmanville

6’1 185 Senior

Vance leads a Chapmanville team that explodes offensively.  Last season, Vance threw for an impressive 2055 yards and 19 touchdowns with only six interceptions.  His top receiver, Dylan Smith, is back to catch passes and he goes into year two within this system.  From the beginning of last season to the end, the increase in points per game was noticeable.  The air raid is starting to thrive for the Tigers.  Their schedule is favorable and it is very apparent Chapmanville will finish above .500 and be a dark horse in the post season.  Vance’s film is full of deep bombs, extended plays, and consistent short darts.  His arm talent is on par with the top quarterbacks in The Mountain State.

av

 

8) Matt McKinney (LB) Independence

5’11 170 Senior

The lone defender on the list is the representative of the Independence defense.  Connor Gibson and Logan Muncy are both returning pieces to a defensive unit that kept its opponent under 14 points in eight of their eleven games.  McKinney is the alpha dog of this unit.  He is small in size, but his downhill play evens out the weight disparity.  He’s an efficient tackler that can do well in space.  If he’s added a little size and strength without negating his quick play- he could make a case to end up being our Coalfield Region Defensive Player of the Year.  He recorded 85 tackles the previous season; we can expect an increase in that department.  Independence’s schedule and return of talent pits them to replicate and improve on their results.

mm

 

Honorable Mentions

Micah Hancock (RB) Woodrow Wilson, Thomas Ferris (RB) Midland Trail, David Early (QB) Logan

 

Preseason Predictions

Offense of the Year: Chapmanville Tigers

Defense of the Year: Independence Patriots

Hardest Schedule: Woodrow Wilson Flying Eagles

Underclassman of the Year: Drew Hatfield (WR) Mingo Central

Biggest Rivalry Game: Fayetteville Pirates vs Midland Trail Patriots

Coalfields Region Preview Part One

Coalfields Region Preview Part One

                With the season rapidly approaching, Coalfields and Co. will be putting out an eight part series (four regions- two parts each) to preview the upcoming season.  From the top teams to the dark horses that are looking to break into the playoffs, we will attempt to cover mostly every team that the Mountain State has to offer. In our series, we divided the state into four regions.  Covering each corner of the state and letting you know about players and stories that you need to keep an eye out during the 2017 season. Without further to do, here is part one, the Coalfields Region.

This region runs through the soul of West Virginia, where the coalfields once raged and the idea of a West Virginian was truly born.  This region has produced incredible talents and phenomenal teams over the many years. Looking at the region this year, however, makes it tough to really see a group of teams that will make noise this year. Excluding Mingo Central, there are teams that have some major question marks and a few dark horses that are sprinkled into the mix. Other than Mingo, it’s tough to decipher if there will be a dominant team come out of this region.

 

Is Bluefield Back?

Bluefield had a mess of a season in 2016.  Struggling to see 4 wins after starting out 0-3 with losses to their three main rivals, the Beavers had a disappointing season to almost anyone’s standards let alone the lofty expectations that come with the Bluefield program. The good news is that many of those young players that played significant minutes are back meaning experience.  Mookie Collier is the blood of the Beavers, a top player in the state across any level, and will need to perform well for his team to follow.  There is plenty of firepower for the Beavers to get back on track but the question is if their offensive line and defensive line play will improve.  I can only improve.

The schedule is easier to navigate than most years for Bluefield. We have seen Bluefield travel to North Carolina and play top quality private schools out of Charlotte for many years. This year seems much easier, and puts them primed for a run back into the AA playoffs.  Picking up games teams like Tazewell (VA), and Man lightens up the load a little bit.  The game that will determine their season, however, we believe is the opener with Graham (VA.). A huge rivalry which we have talked at length about, but after the destruction that occurred last season at the hands of the G-Men, this will give either huge momentum or create a roadblock early on.

Is Bluefield back? Who knows?  We will find out soon with their first three games being key games and large rivalries. There is talent on that team and Bluefield has the athletes to compete with anyone in AA and most of AAA.  The question is their offensive line, can they survive up front?  We have the Beavers finishing 7-3 next season. The three losses come at the hands of Graham(VA), Richlands(VA), and Point Pleasant. That’ll put Bluefield ranked somewhere from 9-13, and that’ll be a scary first round game for anyone.

mookie
Mookie Collier – Photo Credits: MarcusConstantino.com

 

Triple A Question Marks

The big school division for the region has shrunk since the reclassification from the previous year. Leaving only Greenbrier East, Princeton, and Woodrow Wilson as the only AAA programs in the region. Hopefully, this changes with the next round of classifications coming around.  For now, this will have to do.  Each one of the schools are coming off subpar years to say the least.  Greenbrier East won both matchups with the other AAA schools in the region, and Princeton and Woodrow still do not play after the Tigers had an uneasy exit from the MSAC.  Each school comes into 2017 looking to improve and attempting to make a push for the State Playoffs.

Princeton enters the 2017 campaign with a new head coach after Wes Eddy left to go to East Fairmont. Chris Pedigo, a longtime assistant in the Princeton program, received the nod to lead the program in a new era.  The late departure of Eddy gave the Tigers very little time to make moves before the June practice period; the delayed start will put the Tigers behind the rest.  The Tigers still have a brutal schedule since leaving the MSAC.  Down the stretch of the year, the Tigers will play Parkersburg South, Mussleman, Graham(VA), Wheeling Park, and Brooke. None of those teams will be easy games, and the Tigers will have to play well to get a victory.  Bluefield and Princeton is always a big game, and Greenbrier East pounded the Tigers 44-0 the year before.  James Monroe has been on a roll the past 3 seasons, making it to the AA semifinals last season. Oak Hill has been talked to be on the rebound after a few seasons. The question bares, did the Tigers schedule get easier after leaving the conference or are they stuck in limbo?

Woodrow Wilson continues to battle in the absolutely brutal MSAC slate. Facing nearly 6 pre-season top 10 teams before there is even a kickoff.  Woodrow does look to improve though, as many of the Sophomores and Freshman are now a year older and a year wiser.  Micah Hancock will give them firepower in the backfield and is one of the top players in the region.  Woodrow returns a three-year starter at QB which will hopefully pay dividends in the progression of the offense.  This is the second season with their coach, and we expect the team to be more solidified.  However, it is essential for Woodrow to win games early to build momentum to go into the lion’s den of the MSAC- perhaps, the toughest schedule in the state.

Greenbrier East is one of the teams and is very quiet, especially during the off-season and June practice periods.  Not a lot of information typically comes around about the Spartans, as they are typically an outcast on the far side of Greenbrier County.  The Spartans were young as well last season, after losing a very talented team the year before that played right with Martinsburg in the state playoffs.  They have the most navigable schedule out of the three teams in the region.  Games with Lord Botetourt (VA), Allegheny (VA), and Spring Valley will be their three toughest contests of the season.  With the AAA classifications in such a flux, a 6-4 or even 5-5 record could put the Spartans in the playoffs.

chris pedigo
Chris Pidego – Photo Credits: PTOnline.net

 

In Mingo We Trust.

It’s no secret by now that there is a lack of confidence coming from the region when it comes to teams the we believe will make noise in the state.  AA is always interesting to watch in the coalfields as many of the teams and rivalries have lasted decades and the region is thick in AA.  Those schools will battle each other, and will bring up many interesting headlines with those teams fighting for playoff positions.  The team that will be leading the charge out of the region is the Miners from Mingo Central. Coming in at an impressive #3 in overall rankings throughout the state and #1 in AA after an impressive 2016 campaign where they won the title over Fairmont Senior.

Everyone knows that the Miners are returning arguably the best player in the state and the Kennedy Award winner in Jeremy Dillon.  What people don’t know is that the rest of the team is incredibly talented as well.  The rise of the Miners has been built on the backs of their offensive line, which has shown to be physical and tough even if they lack in overall size.  Dalton Fields, senior guard, is a top player in the region.  He embodies the Mingo mindset which has pushed them to this stage.  Mean, stocky, and wears fluorescent jerseys.  Another weapon that starred last season is sophomore phenom Drew Hatfield.  After a thunderous state title performance, Hatfield looks for even more touches (including kick and punt returns) with the departure of Joe Hunt (all state running back and State Title Game MVP).

They are loaded, are they our only hope in the Coalfields region of the state?  I don’t believe so, but they have a ton of hype riding on them.  Coming off a title and returning a pretty good team with the pre-season #1 ranking will put a lot of pressure on them.  Replacing Yogi Kinder will be tough as well, but Joey Fields has been in the program since its start and is more than capable of leading the Miners. They play in a difficult conference, the toughest in AA and possibly the state.  A culture of football and winning has begun thriving in Matewan.  This is attracting small town players such as Dawson Elia (all state running back from Tug Valley), and created a lot of confidence.  We’ll have to see, but either way, it’ll be fun to watch.

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Dalton Fields – Photo Credits: Wes Wilson Photography

 

Teams to Watch Out For

Mount View

The Golden Knights enter year number three under Head Coach Larry Thompson’s tenure, and this could be the season where the Knights really take off.  The last time the Knights made the state playoffs was 2006 where they suffered a 33-14 loss to Grafton in the first round of the AA playoffs.  Since then, quite a bit has changed.  Mount View dropped from AA to A.  Clouds of darkness loomed over the historically excellent area- bringing question marks on if that level could be reached again.  The previous generation failed to live up to the Mount View standard which used to compete at the top of AAA.  This year however, the Knights are primed, and ready for getting back to glory. They have athletes who can ball.  Led by the duo of Elijah Collier, an undersized yet effective quarterback, and Elijah Barner, a big bodied back with break out potential.  Mt. View has a straight shot at the postseason and will be a handful for any competitor.  We have them finishing 7-3 for the year with their losses all being toss ups at.

 

Midland Trail

A team that has grown up together, put through the pains of youth and being forced to grow up quickly. This team has firepower, and is well coached.   Midland Trail is similar to Mount View in ways and very different in others.   Similar in the form that they were once contenders at the AAA and AA levels for years.  A team that has had a great amount of tradition in success, especially in the single A division. The last time the Patriots entered the Single A playoffs was in 2008, where they came across Wheeling Central Catholic, losing 42-24 in the first round. The rebuilding process has taken time and many obstacles came in their way.  A reliance will be put on hard-nosed running back Thomas Ferris It will be tough for the Patriots to make the playoffs, as a stacked schedule stands in their way.  We officially have them finishing 7-3, but they could easily finish 8-2 or 6-4. There are some very big games that will determine their season, and that could let them finish in either direction.

Elijah Barner
Elijah Barner – Photo Credits: BDTOnline.com

 

Speed Round

Will Jordan Dempsey be capable of another stat packed season for the Pirates of Fayetteville?  He is absolutely vital if they want to return to the state semifinals a second year.  Expectations are just as high for James Monroe as any other team in the region.  Finishing 11-2 the previous year after goose egging Point Pleasant and losing to Mingo Central- Grant Mohler, a top player in the region, needs a banner year for their success.  Can the Independence defense ran by Matt McKinney, Logan Muncy, and Connor Gibson improve on their 9-3 record?  Nicholas County and Zach Payne want another successful season- but they aren’t just looking for wins, they’re looking for titles.  Can Chapmanville’s air raid consisting of Adam Vance and Dylan Smith carry them to the postseason?  Will AA’s such as Liberty (Raleigh), Westside, Shady Spring, or Wyoming County break from the 3-7 to 5-5 middle class of AA?  Or is the 6’4 240-pound sophomore QB, David Early, from Logan going to run through them?  Is Man going to move from their 5-5 record with their new spot in AA, or continue their success in reclassification like Summers County?  Sherman’s Will Hensley and Van’s Brady Grant will need more help to push their teams deeper into the playoffs.  And we are all hoping for a change in the tides of recent bottomfeeders Pikeview, River View, Meadow Bridge, Greenbrier West, Richwood, Oak Hill, and Montcalm.  There’s still talent on those teams such as Wil Bragg and Brock Muncy- change is possible.  We’re excited to have all of our questions answered.  Prove us right, or prove us wrong- either way is fine with us.

 

Crossroads Games

Greenbrier East @ Woodrow Wilson (September 1st) – This game will be a huge difference maker for both teams.  Both will need to win this game to get the points to make a playoff push.  With the intensity and the importance of this game, it will be a great one to watch.

Independence @ James Monroe (September 8th) – Both teams lost studs from the previous season but there will be plenty of players on the field when these two go head to head.  From a pre-season look, this game will be huge when it comes to playoff positioning.

James Monroe @ Nicholas County (September 29th) – Two of the best teams last season in the AA Coalfields Region went head to head with the Grizzlies pulling out a 25-9 victory in Lindside. That loss would be the Mavericks only regular season loss, and the Grizzlies were undefeated in the regular season against AA opponents. This matchup could very easily be the same situation as it was the year before.

Greenbrier West @ Midland Trail (September 1st) – Early season matchups against a perennial Single A power and a dark horse for the 2017 season. We will find out if the Cavaliers are back after a dip in results and we will find out if Midland Trail is for real.

Fayetteville @ Midland Trail (October 13th) – The Pirates come in after a very successful 2016 season after going to the Single A semifinals. These schools are literally only a few miles separated from each other and this might be the most important game these two have played against each other in many years.

Mount View @ Notre Dame (September 29th) – This game is a must win for the Knights if they want to go to the Single A playoffs. They will make the trip to Clarksburg and can be in great position to make a run for the playoffs.

Sherman @ Van (September 22nd) – There has been rumblings of noise from both of these teams, and it’s going to be interesting what they do this season. This game could be a determining factor of how their respective seasons go and could put them in position to slip into the Single A playoffs.

Independence @ Summers County (October 6th) – Going to be fun as Chris Vicars returns to the school he took to the AA playoffs the year before. Both teams have been on the upswing in recent years but coaching changes could make that trajectory go in a different direction.

Pre-Season State Rankings

The 2017 Coalfields Pre-Season Rankings showed very few surprises when it came to the top teams in the state. Martinsburg, Mingo Central, and St. Mary’s all topped their respective classes. Now each of these have lost a fair amount of talent, and some a little less than others. It allowed for some debate amongst us on whether or not these teams are really the top teams coming into the season. For AAA, without a doubt Martinsburg is the school we all chose. With a ton of talent coming back and an experienced team coming back, it’s hard not to choose the Bulldogs. Now with Double and Single A, there was more debate. The Miners return the Kennedy Award winner at Quarterback in Jeremy Dillon and that gave them the nod over perennial power Bridgeport. Single A is a little more unique situation, as there are a few teams that we saw that can easily grab the top spot. Another aspect that is unique to Single A that many times there are teams that will go 10-0 or 9-1 and aren’t one of the three best teams in the division. Teams like Cameron, Tucker County, and Doddridge County all have those capabilities but they might need to prove more in the playoffs to solidify them as one of the top teams. St. Mary’s still got that nod in Single A, and will have many teams right on their tail.

Without further to do, here are the Official Pre-Season Rankings from Coalfields and Co.

*Note: We have ranked the overall top 10, then the AAA, AA, and A Top 10

Overall 7-20-17

AAA July 20

AA July 20

A July 20

AAA

Martinsburg came out way ahead in the preseason rankings, with many returning players off a state title team that dominated the AAA playoffs from the season before. Losing Isaac Brown does hurt a little bit but there is more than enough firepower there for the Bulldogs. Capital came out as the almost unanimous #2 team as they continue to just reload. #3- #8 could have gone in any direction. We could have put them in any order and would’ve been satisfied. You could easily see them beat each other on any night, it made these difficult to pick who came in front of who. South Charleston, Musselman, and GW round out the top 10. GW could slide up into the top 5 in the after the scrimmages due to rumors of a few transfers coming in.

AA

Arguably the most competitive division in West Virginia High School Football for 2017. The debate was if Mingo lost too much from last season’s team to hold onto the #1 spot. We said no, for right now, with Jeremy Dillon, a quarterback who has shown they can win games, big games, by himself and that would put the Miners in good position to take the top spot. The rest of the rankings were really a crap shoot with us making cases for each one of these teams. Bridgeport came in 2nd, and we were all confident on that one. From there on out, it was straight debate till we found a consensus. Fairmont could be ranked higher than 5th as Keyser does return a pretty good squad but there is a trust factor that questions if the Golden Tornado can take that next step. Then the question of Bluefield and Wayne came in, does Bluefield rebound or do they continue their slide? Can Wayne return to dominance or are they still a year away? What about Winfield, Chapmanville, and Sissonville; these teams are a scary match up for most of Double AA but do they have enough to compete with Mingo and Bridgeport?

A

Finally, Single A, the division where it can be incredibly difficult to predict but pure coaching can be more influential than any level in the state. St. Mary’s returns probably the best player in Single A with Jaiden Smith in the backfield. A team that is always coached very well and finally got over the hump with a ring last season. From that point on, the debate was rather, are we going to rank the best teams or the teams that will end up with the best record? We found compromise with those ideas in our head. Wheeling Central came to number 2, with the new talent coming from Bishop Donahue, and they are believed to have a very good squad this season. Teams like East Hardy and Williamstown have established themselves as perennially Single A contenders. A few teams to look out for this season that could be on track to have a great year are Cameron, South Harrison, and Doddridge County. These teams can easily finish 10-0 or 9-1 but are they able to compete with the perennial powers? We will find out.

 

Be sure to follow us on our social media pages to keep up with the upcoming season.

-Writer2

Back Road to Glory- PART ONE: Exposure in the Mountain State

In this three-part series, Coalfield and Co. will cover advice and processes to succeed in being recruited, making a decision, and preparing for college ball life.  The Mountain State is proving to have athlete after athlete under the radar.  Don’t be that uncle who said he would’ve made it to the pros at every family barbecue.  Play it right and get the most out of it (A FREE EDUCATION).

Football
“Ego and a lack of knowledge is your worst enemy.”

First off, know the system before you start trying to jump in.  College football is a BUSINESS especially Division One.  Coach’s jobs depend on who they bring in and how they perform.  Scholarships are a limited resource of INVESTMENT for them.  They are only going to go down that path if they see promise.  The Division One race is so competitive that they must find players younger and younger- which results in a depletion of the amount of scholarships they give to each class every passing year.  So, if you are a late bloomer- you better bloom hard.  I’m not trying to be pessimistic, it is necessary to know.  If you haven’t had a big school contact you going into your senior year, that ship has sailed.  Junior year is the year for Division One, throw away your ego and realize what schools want you.  Know your opportunities and the deadlines of the levels you are pursuing.  KNOW THE SYSTEM.

If this realization doesn’t sit well with you, walking on is an option- but that is an entirely different article in itself.  This article is supposed to help you get seen so reaching that level is possible or potentially give advice on if that ship is off on the horizon.  A great tip is to pitch to the right people.  I understand you may be five foot eight and two hundred pounds as a defensive end with the motor of Dale Jr’s hot rod- but there isn’t much space on the top level for squatty body lineman.  Take this as motivation to prove me wrong, or take it as advice to go to other schools that picture you playing.  Remember, think of the odds of them in INVESTING in YOU.  Know your ability, always continue working on it, but pitch to people who will want you and not just someone that you want.  Realize when a school is not interested.  PITCH TO THE RIGHT PEOPLE.

West Virginia is not a mecca of exposure, obviously.  Though more Division One athletes are surfacing every year in the Mountain State, most of them come near the cities of Huntington, Charleston, Morgantown, Martinsburg, etc.  Small town players will still struggle to gain traction.  Obviously, even if stupid numbers are put up by a player if it is against smaller schools the feat instantly gets overlooked.  Now, you must become proactive and strategic.  Camps are a great way to be seen and show your talents directly to coaches.  However, picking the right camps is ESSENTIAL.  If you’re not a test out stand out- there’s no point in going to combines.  As said before, if you’re going into your senior year- it is HIGHLY UNLIKELY you’ll pick up on offer going to big school camps.  Find smaller camps that is ran by a multitude of different college coaches that will see you.  CHOOSE THE RIGHT CAMPS.

Finally, forget about it when it comes to football season.  We all know the teammate that has become more focused on playing next year than with the brothers he only gets one more season with.  It’s like rushing through the actual Road to Glory on NCAA 14 trying to get to college- it can hinder the experience.  Just remember, there’s nothing like high school ball.  College is fun, but it is completely different.  If you have talent and you have drive- you will succeed.  Focusing on your grades and finishing your senior year strong will pay dividends when it wraps up and things get serious.  That’s when you start finding your options and work towards a decision.  I’ll cover that next time, don’t worry.  FOCUS ON YOUR SEASON.

Summarizing, it was not meant to imply that you should let your size, speed, or current ability decide what you strive for.  Simply put, if you want to go big- you need to be seen as early as possible.  If it is too late (going into senior year), don’t miss out on opportunities for schools that would be willing to give you FREE EDUCATION because you are too busy chasing the big dawgs.  If you’re really struggling, find someone who went through the process.  Listen to people who have done it or have dealt with the process, not just anyone who thinks they know what to do.  Ego and a lack of knowledge is your worst enemy.  LISTEN TO THE RIGHT PEOPLE.

BONUS TIP: No coach wants to watch a twenty-minute highlight tape.  Trim it down to 3-6 minutes, include plays that have good technique, and don’t use that same god awful Hudl song in every video.

Gun Slingers

The game of football has evolved over the past ten to fifteen years. The advent of the spread offense has trickled into the high school game and become notably evident. As with most new theories or inventions, it starts at higher levels and slowly makes its way down to others as they begin to experiment with their own thoughts and ideas. The beginning of this new evolution truly came from a product of our own state with Rich Rodriguez bringing the read option to the forefront beginning at Glenville State in the 90s and bringing it to national relevancy at WVU. The spread offense was around before then as well, in various forms of the run and shoot that Mouse Davis and June Jones evolved in their various stops around the nation.

That evolution came to West Virginia, probably slower than any other state around, but to say it’s not here to stay would be completely false. It’s harder to find teams on Friday nights that do not run some form of the spread offense, even those who have been forever known to be smash mouth type teams; they now include a spread package in their repertoire. The first teams to really bring the offense to the state were those of the late 90’s Nitro teams especially with the ones led by JR House.  House would put up 69 points in the state championship game over Morgantown in 1997. Since then, more teams have experimented with the spread, with many of these schools becoming systematic programs that breed players directly for their offense. Many of these schools found success in the early years of this offensive revolution and defenses struggled to adapt. Now, it would be not be far off to say that the majority of the schools in the state either run one of two systems. The first is a form is a variation of the Wing-T; the other is a form of the spread.

With more and more schools moving toward the spread offense over past decade. We are seeing the fruits of those new ideas coming to be. We are seeing better, more efficient, and an overall higher quantity of quality quarterbacks around the state. More emphasis is made to the position and the growth of 7 on 7 play with the June practice period has had much to do with that growth as well. 8 out of the last 9 State Champions in Triple A have been a version of the spread, and if you consider what Wheeling Park does as Pro-Style Spread, then it would be 9 out of 9. Each one of those teams have had absolute studs at the quarterback position with names like Tyler Harris (South Charleston) and Tyree Pratt(Capital) who both won Kennedy Awards in their respective years.

This year has a group of quarterbacks who have proven themselves on the field and are gathering large looks from colleges around the country.  It’s tough to think of a time where the quarterback position has had this much depth and quality within the Mountain State. A few of these kids already have state titles on their resume and Division 1 offers on the table.  This list is in no means a ranking in which one is the best, as we each have a choice of which one we would take. Each of them has a different structure and a different game; they each offer different qualities from the others. It makes it fun to debate which one you would take because they are different in their own ways but they are very much gifted as well.

 

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  1. Grant Wells – The George Washington QB comes in with a large amount of pressure, but that is something that he has felt since he stepped on campus for Steve Edwards Jr. Playing right into their spread attack, Wells threw for over 2,200 yards and 26 touchdowns as a Sophomore, adding another 530 yards on the ground. Measuring in at 6’1, 175, Wells has received two Division 1 offers from Marshall and UNC Charlotte. He has also been busy this summer visiting Virginia Tech and West Virginia.

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  1. Cross Wilkinson – The 2018 Class Toledo commit comes to put on a huge senior season. With a state championship underneath his belt in the form of a state title in 2015, Wilkinson looks to solidify himself as the top quarterback coming out of the state. Another Pro-Style Quarterback on the list, he measures in at 6’3, 205. Pulling around 8 Division 1 offers, Cross is rated as a 3 Star recruit by Rivals. His stats fell off a bit compared to his sophomore season granted that Wheeling Park team graduated 4 essential playmakers at the running back and receiver positions. We could see Wilkinson taking a big step in a rebound year and that is considering that coming off 1700 yards and 19 touchdowns is really that much of a down year.

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  1. Jeremy Dillon – The reigning Kennedy Award is coming off a season where he led the Mingo Central Miners to a AA State Title. This kid is well known around the state and provides a dual threat capability that our first two players might not have. Dillon, a two-sport athlete with big looks to play basketball at the next level, puts up stats that absolutely overshadow everyone else in the state. The 6’5 Senior threw for 2,852 yards with 37 touchdowns and only 3 interceptions. On top of that, he totaled 1,205 yards on the ground with 24 more scores. The Miners did lose a lot from the previous year but with this kid in their backfield they must be favorited in Double A.

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4.Tyson Bagent – When comparing Bagent to the others in the list, his name tends to fall out of thought. Partly because of the distance between Martinsburg and the rest of the state, but make no doubt about it, this kid deserves to be in the conversation. The Senior led Martinsburg to their 5th title in 7 years last season, and with most of the team returning, their chances to make it six appears favorable. Bagent is noticeably talented, picking up offers such as Division 1 Albany.  If you watched him last season, especially in the State Championship game, you can tell that Bagent is commander and winner. From their results in the 7 on 7 circuit (Finishing 2nd to Kenton, OH at WVU, and winning multiple tournaments), he has made even more steps in his development.

 

QBs To Watch For

Kerry Martin Jr. – The Junior dual threat quarterback led the Cougars to another semifinal appearance in the AAA playoffs the season before. He is being recruited more as a DB than QB for the college ranks but in the high school ranks, he will be one to put on a few shows this upcoming season. Martin racked up over 2,000 yards and 25 TDs through air with another 9 score on the ground.  With Martin coming in holding a full year under his belt as the leader on offense and an arsenal of weapons around him, Capital are much in line to make another run at a state title.

Andrew Huff – The four-year starter from Winfield is a name that has been coming out of a few coaches’ mouths this offseason. The kid is big, strong, and looks like a quarterback. His quarterback appearance can be deceiving as his ability to run and avoid (or run through) tacklers is underrated.  He has a good arm and with good weapons around him- could be very dangerous. Winfield is a dark horse in AA, and it is surprising that many people have them ranked as low as they do.

Adam Vance – This kid comes in fairly unknown but you might want to watch him under the radar this year. Leading Chapmanville’s spread attack, Vance put up solid numbers during his Junior season.  With his main target, Dylan Smith, returning and a big play waiting to happen at every snap, Vance is one to watch.

Heath Cottrill – The 2019 Senior QB from Braxton County has been another QB that has flown under the radar. When you watch his film, you can tell that he has arm talent and is a decent athlete. The Eagles went 4-6 last season but Cottrill has impressive film. With a not so difficult schedule, the Eagles could be a sleeper team to sneak into the AA playoffs.

-Writer2

This is Home

No one can explain it, it’s tough to really talk about to people who aren’t from here. It’s a disconnection from the outside world. When you leave the area, even if it is just for a few days, you do have a slight sadness of missing home. I can only imagine what that feeling is like for those who are hundreds of miles away from here. For many of us, this is home, these mountains, these people. It’s cliché to say but it’s true. Even for those who are desperate to get out of here as soon as you can, there will forever be a piece of you that has grown with these mountains and grown with these people. There is always a piece of you that stays here, and there is always a piece of here that will go with you where you go. That is what lead us to starting this blog.

You can’t find better people than the people from the Mountain State. Being all over the country and many places around the world. Those who live in West Virginia are bar none to anywhere else. Our passion, work ethic, love for family and neighbors are one of a kind. It’s a special breed of people who love their athletics and love their hometowns. It gets shown over and over the type of people that we are. From the floods that ravaged the state in 2016 to the water disaster that struck a few years ago, and the many of mining disasters that plagued our history for hundreds of years. The type of people that make it through that, those that will literally give all that they have for a stranger, and the ones that care about their community stronger than anywhere in the nation. They have stories that never get told, that’ll never slide out of these mountains.

 

That is what we are trying to do…to tell those stories.

 

Friday night in West Virginia is special, entire towns and communities come out in droves to watch the games. When people see and hear how it is like you see in movies or read in books, West Virginia is one of those places where that truly occurs. Generations of families come out, where grandparents participated on the same fields many years ago and the same traditions still take place throughout the time. Where high school sweethearts now watch their children play on those fields. The place where tradition still has meaning in many of these backwoods places. Towns that will literally shutdown to go pack these old stadiums. A place where a game between two communities has bragging rights that go back 75 years and those that will last a life time. Where the smallest of schools in the state can make it feel like the biggest game in the country on a Friday Night by just how intense their love for their community, their school, and their people is.

 

That is what makes it special…because this is the only thing that many of these communities have.

 

That’s what we are trying to do, to show the rest of the world how much these communities love their schools. From the largest schools in the state pushing 2,000 students to the small community schools that barely have 500 people in the entire town. We want to tell their story, we want to put schools that never get talked about on the front page, we want to show the world why the Mountain State is an amazing state for athletics.

This is what we know…this is home.