To some it might seem early but as players begin hitting lifting PR’s and getting in shape- the season has never quite ended.  The chase for a trip to Wheeling never ends, and we are taking Fridays in the current offseason to highlight the top five players returning per position in AAA and AA/A (combined).  Not on the list?  Good thing it’s not even preseason yet.  Prove us right or prove us wrong.


Without further ado…


Honorable Mentions

Trey Sine (Martinsburg) 2020

Caden Easterling (Riverside) 2020

Tyler Moler (Parkesburg) 2019

Christian Hill (Hurricane) 2020


#5 Blake Hartman

Photo Credits:

School: Musselman

Year: 2021

HT/WT: 6’0 / 175 lbs

Just as the school’s all-time leading rusher departs, a new one stands ready to take his place.  Last season Hartman made an immediate impact as a freshman.  Though a little skinny at the moment, Hartman has great shiftiness.  This is what allowed him to rush for over 1000 yards and catch for another 600+.  He is a do-it-all back that is only going to get better and better.  Look for him as a shoe-in for all-state.



#4 Quisean Gray


School: Capital

Year: 2019

HT/WT: 5’11 / 185 lbs

Gray might get a little overshadowed with the immense amount of talent on the Cougar offense, but we notice.  He might have the best jump cuts of any runner in the state.  Plenty of the times it seems that he’ll just have to lower his shoulder and take three-yards, but he somehow manages to jive out of it for a 20+ yard game.  Gray should have an awesome senior season and be integral in a loaded offense.


#3 Owen Chafin


School: Spring Valley

Year: 2019

HT/WT: 5’10 / 190 lbs

In 2017, Chafin battled some injuries and battled for carries in a deep backfield.  With a new quarterback and only one other primary runningback, Chafin will get the load he wants.  He is a little shorter in size, but he possesses great straight-line speed and enough strength to break a lot of tackles.  You match this up with a run-happy system and arguably the best offensive line in the state and watch out.



#2 Dewayne Grantham

Photo Credits:

School: Martinsburg

Year: 2019

HT/WT: 6’0 / 185 lbs

Grantham heads into the 2018 year already as a Mountaineer.  Similar to former Bulldog, Deamonte Lindsay, he will most likely play defense at the next level but for now, his main load is in the backfield.  Grantham has the deepest skill set of any of the players on the list.  He doesn’t rely on juking, trucking, stiff arming, or spinning- he does them all in a creative fashion.  With a new quarterback and amtough out-of-state schedule, his responsibilities will be at an all-time high.


#1 Ivan Vaughn

Photo Credits:

School: Cabell Midland

Year: 2019

HT/WT: 5’9 / 185 lbs

Our top runningback going into the season is Ivan Vaughn.  This kid is something special to watch on film.  His best feature is his attitude when running the ball.  Usually found in more experienced backs, once he sees a lane he will plant his foot and go.  When he does that he has the low-built strength and both great speed/agility to escape an allure of tacklers.  He’s been doing it since a sophomore.  Time to eat.



Who did we miss?  Let us know!  We never shy away from people telling us we’re missing out on kids!  Our next Feature Five Friday will take on the top returning runningbacks in AA/A!  Let us know who should be in there!


TAKEAWAY: Appalachian Prep Combine

On Saturday, the first ever Appalachian Prep Combine was hosted and was a great success.  Top talent from multiple states and regions were in attendance for a fun day of athletic and on-the-field competition.  The registration and segments went by very smoothly with just a slight delay in the schedule by the end.  Here’s our takeaway:


WV Came to Play

Many of the top awarded players reigned from the Mountain State.  Bluefield’s Isaiah Johnson clocked the fastest time right in front of Spring Valley’s Owen Chafin and Richwood’s Jeremiah Johnston.  Big time bench reps came from Robert C. Byrd’s Robert Arnold, Montcalm’s Christian Carper, Wayne’s Mike Bartram, and Madonna’s Donovan Kirby.

The 1v1 and 7v7 periods had a lot of guys getting after it.  Malakai Brown was dominant route runner and pass catcher.  Capital’s Chance Knox was also very hard to guard.  Huntington’s Bryce Damous was playing at a dominant level.  Team West Virginia in the 7v7 circuit played high quality ball due to big plays from Sissonville’s Will Hackney, South Charleston’s Carlito Carter, and Bluefield’s Juice Edwards.

Down with the lineman, Huntington’s Terrance Panky and Hedgesville’s Michael Turner played very impressive.  Nick Malone of Morgantown also had an extremely solid day.  Robert Arnold was the most impressive in athleticism and size.  There were also several younger lineman from around that state that showed great promise.

APC Carlito.png


Out-of-State Came to Play Too

Not lying, we initially wished the Appalachian Prep Combine was primarily West Virginia, but we quickly jumped on board for the idea of a regional combine.  A lot of fantastic talent got opportunities to get timed, measured, and play some ball.  The camp has already accelerated the recruitment attention Graham (VA) defensive back Cameron Allen was already receiving- he won Camp MVP.

Another great aspect of this a learning curve for different styles of plays and different types of athletes.  A great example of this was Capital’s star-linebacker/defensive end/safety (he does it all folks) Breece Hoff.  Hoff started rough with covering some very quick and nimble receivers.  Coming out of the MSAC against run-heavy teams, the curve can be steep.  However, by the third rep, Hoff was all over mostly every rep from then on out.

Also adding to the benefit of out-of-state kids, it is a great standard for West Virginia talent.  Every area offers something good and going against exposed D1 talent can tell players a lot whether it means they can play or they can’t.  Overall, it was an excellent idea and every kid got treated with complete unbiased and fairness- which is the name of the game.



What’s to Come

Speaking to the staff of the Appalachian Prep Combine, who were incredibly professional and helpful to us, they have some grand plans moving forward.  As their site explains, you will be able to view the results.  Not only that, but college coaches have access to results, reports, and contact information.  They’re becoming a heck of a middle man for these young men.

As with any type of coach, nothing is ever perfect.  Speaking to them, they believe there is worlds of improvement that can be made in every asset of the process.  They are dedicated to polishing and polishing until it is perfect.  Be excited because there is a lot of passion here.

Finally, it can be agreed with a resounding yes that the combine is the first step in exposing not just West Virginia talent looking for a next level home but also to any kid that the Appalachian Mountains can touch.  They won’t stop until every region has the type of event that gives these young men a chance.  Two thumbs up.