Our North West Region borders the Valley to the south, splits along the MD/Panhandle, and touches on the Coalfields. It is the largest geographically thus why it is home to the most Single A’s. There are many storied programs through this area of the state with an unmatched uniqueness to every school. Title contenders of every class come from here every single year.
The Age Old Battle
For the past decade, Bridgeport vs Fairmont Senior might be one of, if not, the best rivalries the state has had to offer. Both have been yearly title contenders and their last three matchups have been nothing short of classics. Bridgeport’s only loss last year came by the heroic late antics of Antonio Parsons and Bryson Gilbert until they fell to Bluefield in the semifinals. The Polar Bears only loss came on a buzzer beater field goal to AAA University until they, too, fell to Bluefield in heartbreaking fashion in the state finals (their second straight runner-up finish).
Bridgeport loses less star power, that is for sure. They lose a playmaking quarterback/safety that’s impact was evident when injured against Bluefield. They lose several key men up front too. However, the switch and fit scheme that has replaced every position, including head coach, will be very much in play for the legendary town. Jake Bowen returns as a top ten defensive back but more importantly for them, an every down runningback that will score multiple times a game.
Tag-teaming him is potential game breaker D’Andre Holloway. He has more shiftiness and slasher qualities. Anchoring their upfront defense is Trey Pancake, an experienced watch list linebacker. This will be a textbook Bridgeport year. A higher question lies in Fairmont Senior. They lose two phenomenal playmakers by name of Bryson Gilbert and Dante Stills. According to recent developments, one of them might be replaced seamlessly.
Though the Polar Bear backfield already included Malachi West and Caleb Walker- Bryson’s younger brother, Breeden, has been said to have transferred in for his senior season after leading his Tennessee state championship team in rushing while also pulling 150+ tackles. Add in the Connor Neal to Antonio Parsons nasty connection plus top five lineman Zach Frazier, and the Polar Bears seem to be in much better shape than anticipated early offseason. On the 24th, Fairmont Senior opens up at Robert C. Byrd, and Bridgeport hosts Lewis County. The two will meet week four in Fairmont.
Super teams have not seemed to be a regular in high school sports, especially West Virginia. Many will argue the hype regarding Weir since they did not handle top teams like Fairmont Senior well last year. It must be pointed out, however, they held their own against Bridgeport in the first round with Tyler Komorowski, who recently committed to Army, out at quarterback. Their signal caller and outstanding defensive lineman should roll in healthy this season.
The big news came when Donovan Kirby, the state’s leading rusher in 2017, transferred from Madonna (in Weirton) to Weir. This was more than a replacement for the top runningback and spreads attention for watch list receivers Reed Reitter and Sebastian Spencer. Coach Tony Filberto also has a well-sized line with playoff experience.
A lot has already been said about Weir. At this point, they are probably tired of the hype. They are just a very interesting team in a very interesting class. With Mingo Central’s new guys unknown, a wonderment if Bluefield can replace Collier and Edwards easily, and Fairmont Senior having new faces- AA could be a five to seven team race. The Red Riders host Oak Glen on the 24th of August.
Big Ten Sleepers
For a long time, everyone bragged about the MSAC (still do), and the Cardinal Conference (we still do). Can’t forget the out-of-state panhandle schedule either (don’t shoot us). But the Big Ten could be one of the more competitive conferences from top to bottom this year. With the two perennial top teams covered, we look into several other potential contenders.
Robert C. Byrd began gaining a lot of steam at the end of last season. They began putting huge points behind freshman quarterback Xavier Lopez and first-team all-tate runner Ghovan Davidson. They both return as well as two top-rated offensive/defensive linemen Robert Arnold and Jaden Marino. Between these four, that is an electric base that can compete with about anyone.
Continuing upon teams that blossomed last season, Liberty (Harrison) and Philip Barbour look to both prove to not be flashes in a pan. Philip Barbour tallied eight wins after back-to-back gutter years. They do lose a notable linebacker but have Chase Collier, a two-way star, to pick up the slack. Overall, they seem to be in a reloading phase. The same is said for Liberty as they lost two headline rushers. Luckily, they return all-state quarterback Seth McIntyre, who can really shine as a passer this year, and top ten big man Jaden Rollyson. Two teams that should not be overlooked.
Finally, we have North Marion. Coach Daran Hays has set a high standard for the culture of this program, and it is obvious to the outsiders. Playing the brutal big school division of the Big Ten has had them as borderline playoff teams the past two years. This year, it looks to be further ahead than usual. Defensively, they can improve tenfold with watchlist linebacker Ricky Newbrough and transitioning watchlist corner Desmond Fluarty. The big key will be quarterback Dalton Malcomb. He is much raved about but had to battle injuries in 2017. North Marion is definitely in position to have a banner year.
Lincoln and Braxton County both lost superstars off their 2017 playoff teams. While the Eagles have several all-state caliber players returning in the secondary, the Cougars will have to rely solely on Hunter Moore until new help arrives. As we said last year, Lewis County was much better than their record last year. They return some big men and a good quarterback. Grafton also returns a solid quarterback and a decent defense off a under .500 regular season. Roane County and East Fairmont have fallen on harder times, but the adversity has hopefully made them stronger in the likes of Philip Barbour. We hope to see an improvement. Up in the tip top of the state is Oak Glen who runs a pass-heavy offense and collegiate-style defense. We are excited to see Ted Arneault’s wild side.
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!