Freshman Survival Guide: JUNE BALL

We were all those awkward ninth graders coming up at one point (even if your next door neighbor claims to be 6’4 305 at age eleven).  There’s always that one in the class already built like a grown man and the rest are a mix of lanky kids with no facial hair or butterbean lineman awaiting their six inch growth spurt.  June Ball can be intimidating- it’s your first opportunity to show your on-the-field ability and realize your hardwork or lackthereof in the off-season.

June Ball is also confusing.  While you begin learning the vast array of plays on offense, or run right or run left if you’re Bridgeport, you also have to begin learning the culture of the team.  Knowing when and when not to go hard is important because there’s a fine line between playing hard and playing out of control.  We’ll take you through several pointers to navigate your first June.

ASK QUESTIONS IF YOU DON’T GET IT All coaches are different and some might get annoyed with constant question asking but at the very least, they will recognize you trying to learn.  Most coaches have been doing it for decades, and there is probably no question they haven’t answered before.   It’s better to know what is going on then pretend to in the back.

GET A HOLD OF A PLAYBOOK/PLAYCHART Some coaches don’t give these out- if that’s the case, make your own.  Knowing the plays and schemes is just like lifting weights.  It puts you in a great position for success while giving you the confidence to perform said task.  Try and coach up X’s and O’s with your fellow teammates- it will help you learn it even more and also looks incredibly mature.

ASK WHY YOU DO THINGS SCHEMATICALLY Knowing the plays is one thing- knowing the reason behind adjustments or alignments is another.  Understanding your coach’s philosophy can be instrumental.  This can go past freshman and goes for any player.  Hopefully, the older players already know the strategy regarding their offense and defense.

WATCH THE MAN IN FRONT OF YOU The coach will explain the drill and then you get a free set of examples go before you.  Why would you bother gazing off in the distance then look like an idiot when it’s your time up?  Pay attention.  Pay attention.  Pay attention.  I realize they hand out an ADHD diagnosis like free candy these days but most coaches already have GYFC meaning get your feet chopping.

HUSTLE, HUSTLE, HUSTLE You would figure that this would be instilled in most players but the essence of hardwork can fade if not held accountable.  Hustle doesn’t necessarily mean trying to blow your ACL’s out doing high knees in the warm up but slipping while catching a pass and getting up and sprinting through the drill.  Or, falling during a blocking drill but fighting to get up until that whistle blows.  Are you going stop early in a game?

CONTROLLED DEMOLITION Linebackers playing a little rough on the receivers in pass skelly?  Oh yeah, piss off the wide receivers coach.  Diving for balls and taking out your teammates legs?  Welcome to the liability club.  Coaches love physicality when it’s asked for and even a little when it’s not, but it must be controlled.  Gaining that reputation as a bull in a China shop sticks and it all comes full tilt when you get called up in Oklahoma drill against the senior you cheapshotted.

DON’T BUDDY BUDDY UPPERCLASSMAN Seniors can be the worst when it comes to drills.  You’ll have one set that want you to take it easy on them or else you’re a tryhard or you’ll have the all out balls out that will try and demolish you every rep.  The solution?  Go hard every rep.  If they get mad at you for making them better, so be it.  You did your job and potentially will take their’s.

FINALLY, NUT UP OR SHUT UP Though politics will plague any sport on any level, high school football is your first step into the wild.  Tell your mommy and daddy to stay home.  Most coaches give reps out to anyone willing so there is no one to blame except yourself going through June.  This is your first step in the legacy you’re building- don’t ease up.




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

Chance Knox (Capital) 2020

Jake Johnson (Parkersburg) 2019

Michael Boaitey (Martinsburg) 2019



TIE – #5 Jack Stakem

Photo Credits: The Intelligencer

School: Wheeling Park

Year: 2019

HT/WT: 5’8 / 175 lbs

Stakem heads into his senior year with impressive stats under his belt but without star-QB Cross Wilkinson tossing him the pigskin.  With a lot of new faces on the Patriot offense, Stakem will be looked to as the spark plug that can hit at any time.  Though smaller in size, he has modest hands and the ability to get north fast.  His big play ability will have offenses struggling as he also is a stellar short route runner.



TIE – #5 Deishawn Harper


School: Capital

Year: 2019

HT/WT: 5’10 / 180 lbs

Harper possesses some of the best hip movement in the state.  If he is allowed more than a yard of open space, very few players in the state are tackling him.  Capital has a multitude of tools on their offense so he will receive plenty of opportunities to slash for big plays.  If he can play with more consistency all-around, Harper could have a great senior year.



#4 Jarod Bowie


School: Martinsburg

Year: 2020

HT/WT: 5’9 / 170 lbs

Any other year and Bowie comes in at the number one spot.  He’s small but plays similar to that of Kansas City’s Tyreek Hill.  Being a deviant on special teams as well, Bowie has perhaps the best acceleration of anyone in the state.  His plant-and-go is a big reason he became Tyson Bagent’s favorite receiver last year.  Besides his speed, he has a stellar ability to high point balls in the air for his size.



#3 Brenton Strange


School: Parkersburg

Year: 2019

HT/WT: 6’4 / 220 lbs

Strange only falls to #3 because he is a tight end playing wide receiver.  Don’t let the rank indicate our feelings- Strange is one of the most college-ready players in the state.  He has unfair length and a good amount of finesse and grace with his route running and catching.  Though lanky, he is also deceptively elusive and has a deep book of tricks.  A for-sure campaign year as he caps off a Parkersburg Hall of Fame career.



#2 Malakai Brown

Photo Credits: WVU Wire

School: Hedgesville

Year: 2020

HT/WT: 5’11 / 195 lbs

Once again, any other year and Brown is #1 and even in 2018, we can’t fully say he isn’t.  Brown exploded onto the scene for Hedgesville last season as a sophomore leading the entire country in receiving stats for his grade.  He has almost everything you want in a receiver with an elite ball-tracking instinct, big play-making ability, and moments where you can’t believe he just did that.  We won’t argue those who have him as #1.



#1 Amir Richardson


School: University

Year: 2019

HT/WT: 6’3 / 205 lbs

Richardson comes in as our numero uno because he is a combination of many of the other’s great traits.  He has big play ability, excellent hands and ball-playing, and is very consistent and versatile.  What separates Richardson is he has superb speed and explosion but also a next level frame.  University’s offense might not have his numbers match the others on the list but go watch him for yourself.



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 wide receivers in AA/A!  Let us know who should be in there!