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.
The Battle for Motown
University and Morgantown have traded blows year after year. This is one of the truest rivalries in the state because any given year, either team could win. In 2018, the first time in several years, both teams look like promising deep playoff squads. They, of course, both have their faults, but nonetheless, are talented. There is also a little added spice for this inter-town competition.
2017 showed Morgantown a tough road. Hard losses came early and often. Even with an upset loss to Riverside, Morgantown managed to back into the playoffs only for a Martinsburg rematch. 2018 looks much brighter. Their schedule is not easy by any means but losing Martinsburg always helps. They will have a incredibly strong front on both sides with linemen Nick Malone, Jaden Wolfley, and Marcellus Marshall. On defense, behind them, are watch list backers Ty Konchesky and Jestohn Moore.
The skill group will be their point of fresh faces looking to make that all-state step. Quarterback Cameron Rice, wide receivers Kaden Rice (brother) and Preston Fox, and do-it-all player Aaron Alvarez. University’s bread and butter will bee the skill position. Their quarterback will be Morgantown-transfer Logan Holgorsen (#5 QB in West Virginia). Wide receivers will be Amir Richardson (#1 WR in West Virginia) and Evan Parow- a returning all-statesmen.
University’s question mark lies on the line. They will see some young faces and a lack of size. If anyone can make it work, however, it is coach John Kelley. Across town, Morgantown walks around with a big chip on their shoulder. They will get their shot against Top 10 Parkersburg to open the year on the 24th. University will open up at John Marshall the same night. The two will play each other in MoHawk Bowl week eleven.
A King and His Throne
Martinsburg has redefined dominance in AAA football. They don’t rely on a revolutionary offense. They don’t rely on the transfer of talent. They don’t rely on a strategic schedule to the championship. They simply just win. 2017 showed us the second half of two of the greatest teams in state history, without a doubt. With only several more wins needed to break the all-time win streak record, how far will they climb with the loss of a legendary senior class?
Up front lies that question. Three next level linemen made the Bulldogs’ D what it was. Their surge in the state championship game was the difference. These spots hope to get filled by Matthew Bednarski, Brandon Moran, and AJ Brinegar- offensively and defensively. Good-sized but have never had to be the go-to guy. Linebacker and runningback-wise, now we’re talking. Dewayne Grantham, Trey Sine, RJ Barrett, Aaron Pierson, and Asa Creamer-Jenkins are all-state caliber from top to bottom with Grantham being a Huff Award candidate.
Out wide, they’re deep as well. Jarod Bowie and Teddy Marshall are top five WRs/DBs. Michael Boaitey, Chelo Teneval, and Matt Vanduzer would be absolute star players on any other team in state- they must fight each other for catches here. Replacing Tyson Bagent at quarterback will either be rising junior Elijah Banks or Grant Harman, the number one defensive back in the state.
When your program reaches the level that the Bulldogs have, you are going to lose bundles of talent every year. They lose some key positions, but the talent level is still at the top. We will see how Dave Walker maneuvers his known top men around into playmaking places. The Bulldogs are still the king. They open up with Loudoun Valley (VA) on August 24th.
Only several years ago was Hedgesville at the bottom in AAA. Now, after back-to-back successful years under head coach Joey Yurish, they enter the season a top ten team with the ceiling of a top five performance. This begins with two electric playmakers. N’iyjere Smith got on our radar early with some clutch catches and teeth shattering hits on defense and special teams. He embodies the rise of this program with finesse but also some mean hitting.
Secondly, Malakai Brown blew up out of nowhere in his sophomore campaign. As you’ve heard 100x by now (because it’s that impressive), he led the country for his class in receiving statistics. He is nearly unguardable down the sideline and in the open field, he is liable to make three to four miss any play. Tossing them the rock will be new, but widely praised, Owie Ash.
They possess Jesse Cain and Keenan Smoot, two watchlist linebackers and runningbacks. They will be running behind talented linemen Michael Turner and Nathaniel Hughes. A solid key for Yurish will be that of Finnegan Hall, a top five kicker/punter in The Mountain State. With all this returning and the possibility of rising stars, it looks promising. They open up at home against Washington on the 23rd (Thursday) of August.
Musselman lost a next-level quarterback, left tackle, and the all-time school leading rusher. However, they do return several all-staters like Tre Beard III (who will be the QB), Blake Hartman (top five runningback), and Sebastian Oldham (watchlist linebacker). Schools like Spring Mills, Jefferson, and Hampshire all have next-level players. Their lack of depth might do them in when it comes down to their schedules though. Preston and Washington do seem to be moving in the right direction but are still far from their final product. 2018 doesn’t appear to see any major power shifts coming out of this region, but when it comes to those Friday Night Lights… you never know.
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!