FEATURED IMAGE BY CHRISTOPHER DAVIS (CLARKSARTISTICPHOTOGRAPHY.COM)
Over the last several weeks, we have conducted a popular vote on each classification’s top eight champions and progressed them in a tournament-style system. Undoubtedly, they are all great and it is truly impossible to claim one better over the other. Though AAA was thoroughly dominated by Martinsburg from start to finish with the likes of Cedric Brown, Malique Watkins, Eugene Germain, Justin Arndt, etc.- two other programs managed to crack a title: 2014 Capital led by Kennedy Award winners Kashaun Haley and Tyrhee Pratt and 2015 Wheeling Park led by Cross Wilkinson and Elijah Bell.
It ultimately boiled down to 2017 Martinsburg and 2019 Martinsburg. A good amount of players played on both and each dominated their opponent’s similarly. Both were coming off championship wins the year prior. There is no true way to decide which team would have won especially with mirrored stars and coaches. Through voting and our opinion, we do believe 2017 Martinsburg gains the edge. Here is a recap of their story:
In 2016, Martinsburg had won their fifth title of the decade. This was coming off two consecutive seasons not making it to the title game thanks to Capital. The fire had been lit and a large amount of starters were returning for the 2017 season with some talented rising sophomores as well.
Many speculated they were the surefire winners of AAA in preseason thanks to a powerful offense led by Tyson Bagent and a dominant defense led by two Division I athletes- Tavis Lee and Dewayne Grantham. Coached by the winningest head in state history- the pieces were in place.
In their first six games they outscored their opponent’s 321-36. This included lopsided wins over Loudoun Valley (VA), Spring Mills, and Morgantown. Midway through the year, they faced out-of-state power Sherando (VA). Though it was closer than others, the Bulldogs proved they could win in the fourth with a 31-28 victory.
The remaining games were thrashings with their offense scoring 83, 73, and 62 points consecutive weeks. Martinsburg was full tilt pushing through the postseason dropping their round one and two enemies 61-0 and 54-0. This pit them against the only West Virginia team to beat them in the 2010’s: Capital. Despite an impressive effort by the Cougars, Martinsburg would move onto the Super Six with a 21-point victory.
Once again, they would rematch Spring Valley again for the title. The Timberwolves team was loaded with Division I talent and all had matured to a head. They got off to a great start, taking a lead a early. However, Martinsburg’s skill and toughness allowed them to pull away in the second half and win by four touchdowns. Their second straight title.
The list of accolades for Bulldogs that year was lengthy. Quarterback Tyson Bagent won the State Player of the Year and C&C’s Class AAA Offensive Player of the Year. First team all-staters included Bagent, Trey Henry, Jalen Hesen, Tavis Lee, Dewayne Grantham, and Grant Harman. Second team all-state players were Jarod Bowie and Teddy Marshall. Honorable mentions: RJ Barrett, Michael Berlo, Mikey Jackson, Lucas Duffy, and Tylik Norris.
The 2017 team was led by the juniors and seniors that started the longest winning streak in state history. Martinsburg would of course win in 2018 and 2019 to make it a four-peat for the second time in the 2010’s. For the stars on the team, Bagent would go onto be a standout at Sheperd University. Hesen would join him at Sheperd. Lee would go onto play for West Virginia University. Henry at Fairmont State. Bowie would win the 2019 Player of the Year and sign with Concord University. The 2017 Martinsburg team was absolutely loaded and delivered as being the best team of the 2010’s.