The Mason-Dixon Panhandle Region was created by us to even the spread of teams in the state due to the vast amount in the North West Region. The Panhandle is often a second-thought and looked at as an outsider as they tend to play in their own league and/or out-of-state. However, the king of the state lives there with some other promising title contenders. We have grouped all M/D bordering counties so the always exciting Morgantown teams are involved this time around. The fastest growing region in the state.
East Hardy has been a household name the past three seasons for West Virginia football fans. In that time period, they lost three games: two state championships and a semifinal. No one can doubt that they have truly been the most dominant team in their class since 2015 despite their lack of state championships. However, they do lose some incredible athletes in which they may never see the likes of again.
Looking to step into the star-role this season will be Aden Funkhouser. He was shadowed under the phenom that was Brett Tharp, but a respected all-state receiver/defensive back nonetheless. He is about as efficient as they come in regards to catching and getting up field. Funkhouser will be the glue in a new-faced passing game looking to replace quarterback Clay Skovron.
Some other notable players return like the Dove’s Chance and Preston, who will be much needed as stated before in a different-looking pass attack. We might see a more heavy approach on running by coach Devon Orndorff with some experienced linemen and a stable of proven backs.
The ultimate question is how dominant are they going to be? Is East Hardy a product of a legendary class or is this a system that outputs greatness regardless? Their road is not a barn burner, but they must play defending champs Wheeling Central early- that will give us some idea. The Cougars open up against Frankfort on August 31st.
We Want Moore
The program that once won six out of eight state championships, not even twenty years ago, did not win a single game in 2017. The Moorefield Yellow Jackets finished 114 out of 116 teams. We were not expecting anything out of the ordinary from them but not a winless season. With pitfalls such as injuries, depth issues, and not the easiest of roads- the 0-fer is understandable.
There is a lot to look forward to this year for coach Matt Altobello, though. Matthew Jenkins is a much-raved about runningback/linebacker in the panhandle. The words tough, gritty, mean, etc. all seem to describe his play. He’s on the smaller end of the spectrum but definitely brings that Moorefield attitude to the field.
Also, they return their quarterback, Brent Moran, who had a modest year throwing previously. A big-time weapon will be all-state kicker and punter Atikilt Tamiru. He has legit in-game range and will help them in the field position battle. Overall, that’s a lot coming back for a Single A program.
They will face the same depth issues and some holes along the front. Their schedule does them no favors with Single A title contenders, AA’s, and out-of-states. Regardless, don’t expect a zero win season. The Yellow Jackets are on their way back- perhaps, sooner than expected. They open up at Frankfort on August 24th.
A Lurking Beast
2016 introduced us to Pendleton County. A stellar regular season and a run to the semifinals had us all high on the Wildcats in 2017. However, after a late loss in their opener against Notre Dame and the bites of the injury bug, the season quickly turned forgettable. It happens though, especially in small school ball.
When it comes to returning players, Pendleton County might be at the top of the list. They don’t just return experience but a lot of talent. This march is led by quarterback/defensive back Kole Puffenberger. He battled injuries all last season and was still a top ten talent in the state. With his wounds healed up, we can really see how much he can impact a game.
On the line in front of him will be two experienced and potentially next-level lineman in Amile Jackson and Philip Hull. Both of them are well-sized with a solid motor, which is needed for the amount of total snaps they see. A great start for Zach Smith and company.
Timothy Thorne also caught for over 1,000 yards in 2017 and looks to add to that number his senior year. When it comes to reliable receivers who can YAC it up, he is on the upper end of the list. Between all this returning, Pendelton County seems to be in another potential run of a season. They open up at home against Notre Dame on 8/24.
Tucker County had a down year in 2017. But not really, if you observe their numbers, they lost several games incredibly late and super close. They return bundles of talent that could have them battling for a playoff spot. Tygarts Valley was a forgotten team last year, and it might happen again this year. They don’t return much off a sub-.500 team. Regardless, a semifinal (at the very least) squad has come out of the handful of panhandle Single A’s for several years now. Will that continue, and who will it be?
FOOTBALL IS ALMOST HERE. Each week we will be diving into one of our four regions. We’ve sliced it up a little different to equal the spread of talent out. We have the Coalfields region, MD (Mason-Dixon) Panhandle region, North West region, and Valley region. We will spend a week on each in that order. Every week will include Monday: Single A, Tuesday: Double A, Wednesday: Triple A, Thursday: Preseason All-Region Team, Friday: Top 10 in the Region. Let’s get it!