Panhandle 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 Panhandle region is slept on and that includes both its teams and players. 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.
Panhandle Region Top Ten
1. Martinsburg Bulldogs
2. Keyser Golden Tornado
The Golden Tornado have a squad this season. They have been building very high expectations and will be faced with the difficult task of achieving that. They have a rough schedule to overcome, however, that’s a plentiful opportunity for quality points. We believe in Keyser.
3. Jefferson Cougars
We put Jefferson at #3 due to the fact of the playoff win last season over Musselman. Was it a fluke? Possibly, but Jefferson could take another step to get back to their winning ways. They have their annual weapons on offense but also have put together quite the defense.
4. Musselman Applemen
A funny team at the moment, going 9-1 last season in the regular season before losing to Jefferson in the first round. There has been a weird vibe coming out of Inwood. Can they repeat what they did last season or will they take a step back? We’re not sure; a solid game is always a safe bet though.
5. East Hardy Cougars
A perennial power in Single A ball looks to go back to Wheeling Island and finally get that ring. The growth of this program has been impressive and seems to just reload and hardly rebuild. The Cougars have several players that would be great on any level which can translate to a lot wins in their division.
6. Hedgesville Eagles
Coming off a year where they shocked many people around the state and slid into the State Playoffs. Hedgesville was considered one of the worst teams in the state for many years, but in Joey Yurish’s first year, Hedgesville went to the playoffs. Their schedule isn’t easy- they have the players to improve though such as Gavin Smoot and Jonathan Garver.
7. Spring Mills Cardinals
A young program that has started to grab footing in a tough AAA area. Making the playoffs consistently over the past couple of years, they’ll be looking make it three in a row. Spring Mills has begun gathering a rep of bringing on an elite player that was hardly known prior, who will that be in 2017?
8. Pendleton County Wildcats
A team that came up quickly and took many by surprise. They took a big step last season and notched ten wins. They return a lot of that talent from last year and could be in great position to make a run toward Wheeling Island. Knocking off the usual powers will be tough.
9. Buckhannon-Upshur Buccaneers
A team that could be rising in the rankings fast. Not much was heard from them during the off-season but after the scrimmages, they could be better than what people might’ve first thought. Look out for them as a sleeper team to sneak into the AAA playoffs.
10. Hampshire Trojans
The last team to come into the rankings in the Panhandle region is Hampshire. We like our takes nice and hot. They went 1-9 last season, however, flashes of improvement picked up. Word is that they have continued on a solid development path. Hopefully, the Trojans will prove us right with more discipline and less misdirection.
Pocahontas County Warriors, Petersburg Vikings, Martinsburg JV Bulldogs
1. Tavis Lee (DE) Martinsburg
Senior 6’3 220
The returning Huff Award winner is about as intimidating to a quarterback as anyone. Lee has college linebacker size with acceleration to make him a nightmare for a tackle. He led his team in tackles on the front with 109 which included 24 TFL and 11 sacks. He has Division One talent; Lee knows how to dominate already and has great teammates around him which will keep him from getting ganged up on too much.
2. Mikey Jackson (RB) Martinsburg
Senior 5’10 185
Jackson is very underrated. He did get accolades, and he did get a state championship, but he was a large part of it. He is a smaller sized back which gives advantage to his running styles. On numerous occasions his lower center hits quick jukes on safeties turning 10-yard gains into forty-yard touchdowns. He ran for nearly 1,500 yards and 20 TDs last year and more of that is to come.
3. Grant Harman (S) Martinsburg
Junior 5’11 180
The third straight Bulldog on our list, Harman is arguably the best DB in the state. He has good size as a safety with a large radius. With the excellent line and linebackers he has, he still wrapped up 79 tackles last season. Anytime they tested deep shots, he’d affect the play (8 interceptions). He is only a junior- we always see a jump in play from sophomore to junior year- we will expect it from Harman.
4. Brady Ours (S) Keyser
Senior 6’2 185
Alongside Harman as a top defender is Ours. He also plays quarterback for the Golden Tornado where he totaled 2,000 yards of offense. We were more impressed with his defensive play. His stats don’t pop (60 tackles), but we go by film more than numbers. His frame allows for him to demolish running backs and set the edge when necessary. He has a very good football IQ and helps wall off certain areas of the defense. This aside, Ours will fly downhill full speed and change the momentum with one hit.
5. Scooter Gaskins (WR) Jefferson
Senior 6’1 170
If you’re looking for some excitement on Friday nights, go to a Jefferson game find the Jeffrey kid they call Scooter. He’s good height, long legs, and can score from anywhere he catches the ball. Screens, deep shots, crossing routes, it doesn’t matter quite frankly. He caught for an astounding 1,044 yards and 12 TDs. He also shows up on defense with over a handful of interceptions. Jefferson’s high-speed offense will continue to thrive as long as Gaskins is in the mix.
6. Tyson Bagent (QB) Martinsburg
Senior 6’3 210
Bagent is the engine that roars the Panhandle’s most lethal offense. He’s passed for over 4,000 yards and 50 touchdowns the past two seasons (2,535 yards 36 TDs in 2016). He did lose his top receiver, Isaac Brown, but he still has more weapons around him them 99% of the state. He’s grown too (reports up to 6’4) and already possesses a great spiral. Bagent has experience and the trust of his coaches and teammates. His performances this season could be more than stellar.
7. Jevon Lang (DE) Jefferson
Junior 6’2 220
One of the players we found sifting through All-State Honorable Mentions in 2016. Lang has good size and most likely got even bigger and faster after his sophomore season. His fire off the ball and aggressive hand placement makes him a noteworthy player. Jefferson’s defense has became an afterthought to their offensive reputation, but if Lang plays like we think he will, gameplans will need editing.
8. David Robertson (OT) Musselman
Senior 6’1 265
We love giving love to lineman. Not every lineman is 6’6 standouts, but if you played high school ball, you know the guys who can pull like tanks are the ones to be scared of. Don’t get it wrong, Robertson has good size and will hold his own against the state’s top defensive interiors. His leg drive, intensity, and hip work makes him standout as a precise and feared lineman. Musselman’s running backs are in good hands.
Jalen Hesen (DT) Martinsburg, Brett Tharp (WR) East Hardy, Trey Henry (DT) Martinsburg, N’iyjere Smith (S) Hedgesville
Offense of the Year: Martinsburg Bulldogs
Defense of the Year: Martinsburg Bulldogs
Hardest Schedule: Hedgesville Eagles
Underclassman of the Year: Grant Harman (S) Martinsburg
Biggest Rivalry Game: Musselman Applemen vs Jefferson Cougars