Valley 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 Valley Region has by far the most talent and many great players will get left off. These players would make the top eight in every other region most likely. 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.
Valley Region Top Ten
1. Capital Cougars
The Cougars suffered a close loss to Spring Valley in the state semifinals in 2016. Capital has been the team to beat for several years and that will be the case once more. They possess an all state returning quarterback, several lethal skill players, and a bolted defense led by Chase Goldsmith. The front on offense and defense will prove whether they can handle teams such as Spring Valley and Cabell Midland.
2. Spring Valley Timberwolves
Losing to Martinsburg heavily in the state championship left a sour taste in the mouths of these young men. However, a vast majority of them return including QB Derek Johnson and D1 bound linebacker Owen Porter. They have a top three front line in the state and a hard schedule ahead. They slip to two because of the unknown about their capability to bounce back and to win a lot back to back seasons.
3. Huntington Highlanders
After an early exit in the playoffs thanks to Curon Cordon and the Black Eagles of South Charleston, the Highlanders too have a bad taste from 2016. However, they have proven year in and year out under Coach Seals to be well-coached and in shape. Two things that bode well when you have the athletes they do. Their respected defense will be led by Shymeik Burger. They also have a big play type receiver in Mikal Dawson.
4. Cabell Midland Scarlet Knights
Everyone other than the fans in Ona despise the fireworks let off after every touchdown- better buy some earplugs. Few programs have the standard Coach Salmons has installed. 6-5 for them is like 2-8 to everyone else. They dropped some close games last season and let Capital get the better of them twice. The Scarlet Knights will replace their departed seniors as always and we expect a better output this year. Getting junior first team all state running back Ivan Vaughn and hard hitting safety Griffin Adkins back is key.
5. South Charleston Black Eagles
The year would look a little brighter if they returned everyone they should’ve, but tribulations call for triumphs. Trae Murphy is still an outstanding quarterback who will give fits to any defensive lineman not running a 4.7. DQ Watkins will try to step in the notorious tradition of star wide out for the Black Eagles. Drew Joseph is an absolute fiend on defense. Their line is the biggest question mark and will decide how well they can fair against the smash mouths of Cabell and Wayne County.
6. George Washington Patriots
George Washington is riding a hot streak that doesn’t rely on luck as much as it does experience. They won six straight games last season after a tough start including wins over Capital, Wheeling Park, and a noteworthy outing versus Martinsburg. They have star players on both sides of the ball. Their biggest enemy is their schedule which they will not run from- we don’t predict a flawless start but better than last year.
7. Sissonville Indians
Sissonville had a superb 2016 campaign. They went 9-1 and lost first round to a very good Weir team (their other loss was to Mingo Central). Along the way they blew out some worthy opponents. They’ve lost several pieces from the year before, but we can see a similar season this year. The question is can they be just as dominant and knock off the big dogs they’ve yet to beat?
8. Hurricane Redskins
Hurricane falls into the same boat as George Washington as a team that could sneak up on you- even though they made it to the quarterfinals last year. A game where they probably should’ve won. Studs transferring in on offense to accompany a lights out defense that includes JT Cooper should prove battle worthy for the MSAC. Last season they performed very well under the pressure vs big time opponents, can they do it again?
9. Winfield Generals
The Generals lost four games last year to four very good teams. Their first year down in AA proved they had learned a lot battling in the MSAC for several seasons. They return a great quarterbacke in Andrew Duff and a solid line. Their schedule will not ease, however. They have the talent to draw a high playoff seed if they win the games they should and knock off the great teams they will face.
10. Riverside Warriors
This might be a hot take, but we love how the program has turned around. This might be premature- they could still be a year away. However, its the last year for some talented seniors and they don’t get a next season. This senior class is the same ones who were on the tail end of the dark times and a big reason for their turnaround. They still lack overall compared to some powerhouses they face, but we like their schedule (compared to seasons prior). If they can pick off a high ranked team or two, they could sneak into the dance.
Point Pleasant Black Knights, Herbert Hoover Huskies, Tolsia Rebels
1. Doug Nester (OT) Spring Valley
6’6 300 Junior
Nester is the returning star at lineman for the reigning runner ups. Nester and Wright are neck in neck with each other, it’s basically a tie. What the Spring Valley tackle has going for him is a little heavier frame and his ability to move. His highlight film is entertaining- watching him toss defensive lineman. He’s a rare talent by any state’s measure. He committed to THE Ohio State and received a five-star rating per some recruiting sites.
2. Darnell Wright (OT) Huntington
6’6 280 Junior
A county over is Darnell Wright, a just as excellent lineman. He was ranked No. 7 in Rivals list of the Top 100 of 2019. He has pulled in offers from some of the top programs in the country (UNC, Oklahoma, Florida, Nebraska, WVU) and will definitely pick up more as they battle for his commitment. He’s a lanky 280, if that’s a thing, and has exceptional footwork and hand placement. His athletic ability is above average as well. A five star for sure.
3. Grant Wells (QB) George Washington
6’1 180 Junior
George Washington made one step in the postseason in 2016. This was in large part to the play of Wells. As a dual threat QB, Wells is a phenom. Last year he threw for 2,272 yards and 26 TDs and ran for 502 yards and 9 TDs. His arm talent is very good which is complimented by his mobile running. He is fantastic at extending plays and minimizing damage on blown ones. He’s only a junior too. GW might be slept on slightly going into 2017, but Wells will wake them come game one.
4. Curon Cordon (WR) Hurricane
5’8 160 Senior
Few players hold the ability Cordon possesses. His film is jaw dropping at times with absolute nutty catches and plays being made. It shook us when we found out he was only 5’8- he plays much bigger than that. He played at South Charleston in 2016 and will suit up for Hurricane come Autumn. In one of the most spectacular games of last season, Cordon caught 13 balls for 316 yards and four touchdowns against Huntington in the opening round of the playoffs. The Redskins have acquired quite the weapon.
5. Tanner Williams (LB) George Washington
6’0 215 Senior
Williams should be in the conversation for the Huff Award this season. His cross-field ability is very good and his aggressiveness is bar none. If he sees an opening and opportunity to make a TFL- he takes it and usually succeeds. Alone, he can plug multiple holes which can turn a good defense into a great one. George Washington has a hard-nosed linebacker in Williams that can fly around the field and change the game in multiple ways.
6. Jadon Hayes (RB) Huntington
5’10 170 Senior
Running behind Wright is a quick back named Jadon Hayes. The season prior he tallied 1490 yards and 17 TDs on the ground. He’s a little better sized than some of the other speedy small backs we’ve covered. His technical ability is fantastic- the footwork and detailed motions are polished. He also affects the game on defense (five interceptions in 2016); no doubt that Hayes is valuable and a relied upon Highlander on offense and on defense.
7. Steven Shine (DE) Hurricane
6’4 240 Senior
Last year Hurricane gained a talented transfer as well from Florida, Steven Shine. Shine has the height and size to demolish tackles. One of the best matchups last season was Shine vs Nester, a duel that many debate who got the better. Either way, Shine instills anxiety to opposing backfields because there’s a small chance he’ll be blocked effectively. His presence along with several other contributors could help Hurricane get past the quarterfinals this season.
8. Jacob Cassidy (TE) Spring Valley
6’3 235 Senior
Cassidy is the embodiment of Spring Valley football. Big, strong, tough, and capable of big plays. Though passing isn’t the forefront of Timberwolves football, he averaged 25.4 yards a catch last season. His size makes him more than respected across the offensive line- he could probably be an all-state lineman as well. He committed to play at Marshall in the summer and will join a loaded Spring Valley team which we could see up in Wheeling yet again.
Drew Joseph (LB) South Charleston, Ivan Vaughn (RB) Cabell Midland, Kerry Martin Jr. (QB) Capital, Jordan King (OG) Cabell Midland
Offense of the Year: Capital Cougars
Defense of the Year: Spring Valley Timberwolves
Hardest Schedule: George Washington Patriots
Underclassman of the Year: Darnell Wright (OT) Huntington
Biggest Rivalry Game: Spring Valley Timberwolves vs Huntington Highlanders