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.
For a bit of context, the last two Martinsburg teams are arguably two of the best the state has ever seen. Spring Valley has played them tough early both meetings in the state championship before being overloaded. It should also be noted that the Timberwolves were playing without their leading rusher and did lead at halftime. From that runner-up team, they lose three incredibly important all-staters: quarterback Derek Johnson, linebacker Owen Porter, and tightend Jacob Cassidy. Those three were captains of the winningest class in school history.
As they depart, Coach Brad Dingess is ready to reload with over 100 players out for the sport. Let it be known, Spring Valley is not a very large AAA program. Of these massive numbers, they have two Division One lineman with Doug Nester and Zach Williamson- both top 15 players in the state. They also have two top runningbacks in Owen Chafin and Graeson Malashevich. Both are very capable all-state runningbacks.
Leading their path will be unsung hero Isaac Howard who has gained a lot of attention over the summer. He is a backbone leader of this team. The possible replacement of Johnson will either be more run-prone Nate Ellis or big passer Will Adkins. Only time will tell who gets the nod. Another interesting addition is well-sized sophomore transfer Wyatt Milum from Wayne who plays defensive end. He could rise into a young Cassidy replacement.
For now, it appears Porter will be the most missed. His defensive presence will surely be hard to simulate. Either way, this seems to be the fastest Spring Valley team in a long time yet they have that traditionally size and grit. The Timberwolves are definitely a title contender. They will have thick competition near… and far. They open up with an interesting matchup with nearby Wayne on August 24th.
Not to be Forgotten
To claim people are sleeping on Huntington and Cabell Midland might be a bit of an exaggeration. But with the consistent hype behind Martinsburg, Capital, and Spring Valley- they are often left out. Between the two, they boasted the #2 and #6 ratings from the past season (a very accurate predictor for AAA). It’s understandable to think the Highlanders might struggle slightly trying to replace 2k rusher Jadon Hayes but Cabell Midland’s neglect is a little more questionable.
Cabell Midland loses a playmaking quarterback but has seemed to retained more than they lost. A potentially phenomenal line will take place in Ona with Logan Osburn, Brayden Simmons, and Levi Kessler- three all-state caliber players with legit size. They will pave the way for Kennedy Award hopeful and #1 ranked runningback Ivan Vaughn. Though Griffin Adkins is a top 10 DB, he also has proven to be a dominant back as well.
The Scarlet Knights secondary seemed to be a weak spot last year. Besides Adkins, they return young all-state JJ Roberts and received a move-in transfer with Carlito Carter from South Charleston. Combine this with their excellent staff and training, don’t doubt them as title contenders. Nearby, Coach Billy Seals will field a similar team.
We all know their stacked line including Darnell Wright, Max Howell, Terrance Pankey, and Christian Hanna. They also have a top-notch defensive front with BJ Sumlin, Stephen Perrine, and Brocton Blair. The biggest question for the Highlanders will be their skill. Ty Wilcoxon made some noise after moving in, and Tay Blackwell has received a lot of praise at quarterback through summer camp. He will have WV’s Gronkowski and #1 tightend Bryce Damous to get the ball to.
In our opinion, AAA is between five or six schools. Huntington and Cabell Midland are in those five or six. Expect a lot of textbook ground and pound with some hard-nosed defense. Both have been very consistent and are led by top coaches. We are excited to see them perform. Cabell Midland opens up on the 24th with St. Albans while Huntington travels to Belfry (KY). The two meet in Ona on October 12th.
Only one team from West Virginia has beaten the mythical Martinsburg Bulldogs since their reign of terror began in 2010. That would be Capital- who did it twice. Last season, they gave the Bulldogs all they could handle early on before falling apart late in the game. Off that semifinal team, they lost… not really much aside from one or two all-state players which is nothing on the top AAA level.
Kerry Martin Jr. is the well-known headliner here. As our #1 quarterback and Kennedy Award favorite, his patience makes his decision making stellar- passing and occasionally running. A dominant game changer. His weapons in the skill positions? They are plentiful and quality. Quisean Gray and Deshaun James are both backs liable to strike for a touchdown anywhere at anytime. Receiver-wise, they are loaded with Deishawn Harper, Chance Knox, and Kerion Martin.
Defensively, they could see the most improvement. With the skill players listed previously mounting the secondary, the front seven should seek some level of improvement. Breece Hoff should be an anchoring force off the edge as he was in 2018 as a Huff Award finalist gaining 17 sacks. The defensive line could make the most gains with #1 defensive lineman Kalai Clark, Jesse Wilcox, and Tyrese Foster.
Coach Jon Carpenter has himself a talented team for sure. With his experience and offensive prowess, the Cougars are right to be a favorite for the state championship. Every win will be earned, however. Their road will be nothing short of incredibly difficult. They will more than likely have to take on the beast from the north at some point as well. They open up at Johnson Central (KY) on August 24th.
Hurricane loses some weapons off the edge and on the line but return a slew of all-staters. They are a team liable to go slightly above .500 but be a threat to anyone in the playoffs. George Washington gets one more year with stellar QB Grant Wells and will have their yearly death row stretch to start the season. South Charleston snuck into the playoffs at 4-6 last year and will look a lot different on offense this year with young talent. However, defensively, they sport two top ranked defenders with Zeiqui Lawton and Drew Joseph. Riverside and St. Albans both come under new management after losing good-sized senior classes that narrowly missed the playoffs. Only time will tell what these teams have. Finally, Ripley has the friendliest schedule in all AAA and several all-state players to take advantage of it.
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!