The Valley Region is the most dense area regarding talent. From Huntington to Charleston with a trickle towards Parkersburg, this is the most historically excellent region in the state. It hosts the majority of the hardest WV conference: the MSAC and guaranteed title contenders in all three classes every year.
Fast Times in the Cardinal
2017 had us see two high-powered Cardinal Conference offenses fire at will. Between Sissonville and Winfield, they gave everyone except the other top two teams in the conference a lit up scoreboard. Winfield achieved one of the highest ratings in the state overall after a memorable regular season finale with Mingo Central. They could not handle Bridgeport, however. The Indians of Sissonville had a kryptonite last season too. Wayne defeated them close within the regular season then ran away with it in the playoffs. A big difference in the returning squads on both teams is the signal caller.
Sissonville returns Will Hackney. Hackney is one of the top quarterbacks in the entire state because of prolific scoring through the air and occasionally on the ground. He, along with many other returners, will have Sissonville in a steady situation. Their next weapon, and Hackney’s tag-team partner, Andrew Burdette had an all-state junior campaign especially at safety. Seth Frame is a talked about two-way lineman. The line of scrimmage and secondary is arguably where the Indians could use the most improvement.
Nearby, Winfield departs with dual-threat stat collecting QB Andrew Huff. Coach Craig Snyder was ready for the adjustment as he has transitioned young all-state runner Nick Vance to the one position. His numbers of the past year aren’t even justified with injuries derailing him multiple times. He will have a solid run game behind underrated hog Jacob Huff and big boy Logan Steenburgh.
The Generals best defensive force lies in linebacker John Covert who collected accolades as a freshman last season. He’s definitely years beyond his age physically and mentally. With the question lying around Mingo Central, who has won the conference for several seasons, the time to strike seems near for both the Indians and Generals. Look for both teams in the postseason. Winfield hosts Hurricane and Sissonville travels to Chapmanville both August 24th. The two go head-to-head in Sissonville October 12th.
The Veteran Pioneers
No top AA team lost as little from 2017 as Wayne. After a dominant regular season and quarterfinal appearance, the Pioneers are a much looked to team when it comes to title contention. Their only two losses arguably are attempting to replace their horses. Wayne, on the other hand, returns almost every position including their star running back and entire offensive line. It seems as if Wayne might return to prominence.
Leading the way is well-known name Mike Bartram. If you haven’t heard, Bartram is a well-sized runningback and linebacker that brings a high level of tenacity to the game. His game includes a lot of vicious hits and trucking runs. He would argue his veteran line does a lot of paving as well. This unit is led by giant big man Johnny Adkins. Adkins has enormous size with the ability to pull and set well.
There will plenty of help for whoever rises into the new quarterback role. Tanner Owens was an all-state receiver and defensive back and can be a reliable go-to player on the outside. Devon Matzdorff also had an all-state year playing at the tightend position on an already stacked offensive front. All these players will be vital on the defensive side of the ball.
Coach Tom Harmon is familiar with being feared and being the favorite. We expect the Pioneers to stick to their scheme and attitude that has traditionally brought them success. As stated before, AA is the most open field for title contention this season and Wayne is very much apart of that. The Pioneers must travel to nearby AAA power Spring Valley on the 24th to open the season.
Over the Hump
Point Pleasant lost three games last year. Two to champion Bluefield and their opener to defending champs Mingo Central. Other than that, the Black Knights were rarely challenged. There is a reason the Black Knights struggle every year to find games, just recently picking up a ninth game for this season. That is mainly because David Darst has built one of the most consistent programs the state has seen. However, the state title has remained elusive.
The last two AA champions were led by Kennedy Award winners Jeremy Dillon and Mookie Collier. Their prolific lefty QB, Cason Payne, comes into this season as a preseason candidate in this race. Payne has a rocket arm and good tuck-and-run ability. On top of all that, he is probably stronger than most defensive lineman. His performance will completely dictate their season.
His main target will be the school’s record holding receiver Josh Wamsley. Wamsley has undoubtedly been Payne’s favorite man and that experienced chemistry should help them out greatly. He will also have Andrew Jones, a potential breakout star in the upcoming season. The Black Knights, who are known to have dominating lines, will be anchored with underclassman Gabe Hall.
Point Pleasant appeared several times either as a champion or runner-up in the writer’s predictions. There is a reason for that. They dominated everyone except for the two teams who lost their respective Kennedy Award winners while they retain their Kennedy hopeful. If Point Pleasant isn’t in your conversation for the 2018 title- we don’t know what you’re looking at. They will travel to Miner Mountain August 24th to seek revenge week one.
Nitro rolls into this season with a lot of new faces. Head coach Zach Davis has arrived into town from Riverside, and runningback Orange Dyess comes in from South Charleston. Herbert Hoover has a gamebreaking passer with Rhett White and several other all-state skill and linebackers. Poca snapped their losing streak and return several watchlist players such as Ethan Payne and Bronson Skeens. They will look to improve even further after a historical year. Finally, Lincoln County rolls into the season with some of the more interesting storylines. They obtained two all-state players from Scott while losing one to Cabell Midland, but regardless, they have too many Single A’s on their schedule to even qualify for the playoffs regardless of record. They are one of the largest AA’s in the state.
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!