FEATURED PHOTO OF WILL COLE BY BLUEFIELD DAILY TELEGRAPH (2008)
Last season we had the honor of forming an official all-decade team for the 2010’s. It was an awesome moment in time where the present could reflect upon the past. Our anticipation was that it could bridge the gap between the stars of yesterday, the stars of today, and the stars of tomorrow. High school football is a magical thing filled with lore, debates, and stories. We have decided to dedicate every off-season to a new all-decade team.
The process for the 2000s was simple. We went out and selected eight coaches from each class to act as a voting committee. All coached for the majority of the decade or more AND each region is fairly represented: southeast (2), southwest (2), north/northwest (2), northern panhandle (1), and eastern panhandle (1). Coaches were provided a comprehensive ballot in which to rank all-staters from 2000-2009 based off high school performance, individual/team accomplishments, and some college/pro success. Players received more points for being ranked higher and the overall tally was created with the top vote getters earning a selection. The next three highest were awarded utility positions on both sides. Players who received votes for multiple positions were averaged out. The top three highest vote getters were awarded captain status.
*NOTE: to qualify for the all-decade team we decided a player needed to play two or more years within said decade. And, a player can only be on one all-decade team. Relevant to this team, Justin Reppert (Bridgeport 1998-2000), Justin Grogg (Wyoming East 1998-2000), Ashley McNeely (Wyoming East 1998-2000).
Class AA 2000’s All-Decade Team
Cole had the second-most votes of any player and the most on offense. The dual-threat Bluefield quarterback left his mark on the program and the state. As a junior he helped lead the Beavers to an undefeated 14-0 season and state championship win- their second of the decade. Cole’s senior year was even more memorable as he threw for 3022 yards and 33 TDs while rushing for another 182 yards and 7 touchdowns on pace to being the first-ever Bluefield Kennedy Award winner. He would have a stint playing for Virginia Tech.
Few players truly live up to their nickname but Tank Tunstalle did that. In only Wyoming East’s second season in existence, Tunstalle ran for 1639 yards to help lead them to 14 wins and a state championship- he was only a sophomore. As a junior and senior, he rushed for over 1900 yards both years while reaching the quarterfinals. A highly recruited back known for brute size with sprinter speed, he played for Marshall before ending his career as an all-conference linebacker at Concord University.
Before Santmyer’s arrival to the Dots, they had spent several years around .500. During his three years as runninback, Poca went on one of the best runs in AA history. This included 34 and three consecutive state titles between 2001 and 2003. Santmyer was integral as a hard-nosed runner and talented ball-carrier, rushing for over 50 touchdowns over his last two seasons. He would take up an offer to play at Fairmont State University.
Scott had never won a playoff game going into 2005 with Roberts as a sophomore runningback. The all-state back would lead back-to-back quarterfinal appearances before an epic season year. As a senior Roberts put together one of the greatest seasons in state history rushing for a record 3826 rushing yards 48 touchdowns along with 686 passing yards and 7 TDs; he also had 115 tackles and an interception. They would reach their first and only semifinal. Roberts would go to West Virginia University before finishing with an all-conference career at the University of Charleston. He would then make it on an NFL roster for the Kansas City Chiefs.
Ponder received the fourth-highest vote count of any player in AA and with good reason. On a star-studded Bluefield team in 2007, he was electric at wide receiver averaging 14.8 yards per catch with 11 touchdowns. His efforts were foundational to their 14-0 season and state championship win. The agile route runner had a journey in college with a stop at Western Michigan University before ending as an all-conference wide receiver at Concord University where he helped lead them to the national semifinals.
Few, if any, wide receivers possessed the natural gifts at receiver in the decade than Rollo. At 6’4 and nearly 200 pounds, he was also an elite track and field athlete. With under 3 wins as a sophomore and junior, Rollo’s contribution at a variety of positions gave the Tide one of the most memorable seasons ever. After 11 wins, they lost narrowly to eventual-champion Bluefield by only one score. He would sign to play for Concord University.
Altobello comes onto the all-decade as the highest-voted linemen by a longshot while being third in overall votes. During his time at Keyser he was an outstandingly large and aggressive blocker that helped Keyser reach only their second semifinal since 1969. His talents were widely recognized as he was heavily recruited by Marshall University where he went on to have a notable college career. Altobello currently is the head coach of Moorefield where he has led them to back-to-back playoff appearances.
Davis was apart of the one of the best runs in AA history. This included two semifinals, one runner-up, and one state championship during his four years as a Pioneer. Known for his gritty embodiment of Wayne football, he had a specifically excellent year as a senior while paving the way to the state championship. He would finish as the runner-up to the Hunt Award (modernly renamed to Stydahar) and would take his talents to Concord University.
Tolsia was a top-tier contender in AA during the mid-2000’s. A big reason for this was their dominating run game cornered by the tall and powerful play of Moore. With a vibrant offense (and stout defense) the Rebels would reach the 2006 AA state championship only to fall to rival Wayne. Many coaches and former players note the toughness of the 2000s Rebel teams specifically Moore.
Prior to Krebs’ junior year, it had been over a decade since the Black Knights’ last playoff appearance. As a junior and a senior, Krebs strength on the front helped Point Pleasant to back-to-back postseasons. His huge body was key on offense but also made him one of the highest-voted defensive linemen as well. Krebs’ class helped lay the foundations for a Black Knight program that has been a title contender every year since. He would go on to play for Fairmont State University.
Though the smallest of the selected linemen, Small finished his career with the most accolades of any AA linemen in the 2000s. As a starter, his play on the front lines helped the Red Devils to three-straight postseasons including the 2010 state championship where they narrowly fell. He was a renowned blocker but also recorded 34.0 sacks in his career, earning him the Hunt Award (modernly known as Stydahar) as a senior. He would sign to play for the University of Charleston.
In 2002 and 2003, the Beavers fell painfully close to state championships- losing both to Poca. Coeburn’s senior year would cement his legacy in Bluefield history as he led a 14-0 campaign en route to a blowout state championship victory. The well-sized, playmaking quarterback finished with over 2000 yards and nearly 20 passing touchdowns. After high school, he had a stint at West Virginia Wesleyan before ending as a starting linebacker for Concord University.
Prior to Gallaher’s arrival to Grafton, the Bearcats hadn’t reached the postseason in half a decade and sported a losing record. The dual-threat quarterback would help Grafton to four consecutive playoffs including a semifinal in 2006. But his career was truly embodied with a 13-1 senior year in which Grafton would win the state title, only the second in school history, while totaling 3839 offensive yards and 45 touchdowns. Gallaher would win the North-South All-Star MVP before going on to be a successful wrestler at West Virginia University.
It is no coincidence that Tolsia rose to prominence when Evans worked himself into the starting runningback role. The huge yet athletic runningback was a punishing ball carrier always due for a breakout run. His career was highlighted with a historical push to the state championship as a senior- he would finish the year with over 2000 rushing yards. A well-recruited prospect, he would take the chance to play linebacker at Marshall University.
Sotelo finished as the highest-voted player of the entire decade and undisputed captain of the defense. As a scaling and athletic defensive end, he raised absolute havoc on defense that assisted the Dots in winning three state championships. Also, he was a deadly option at tight end on offense. Sotelo would play Division I football at Eastern Kentucky before wrapping up his career as a tight end for Fairmont State University.
Williams is an often an overlooked name of the decade due to the Beavers’ inability to get past Poca before his graduation. However, the coaching committee strongly remembered his burst off the ball, plays made in the backfield, and overall ownership of the front line. He was constantly a tackle leader for the Bluefield defense that appeared in the state title game in both 2002 and 2003.
Twyman was a truly unique player for his alternating play on both sides. Defensively, he is remembered as an incredibly strong and athletic linemen that helped lead the Golden Tornado to several deep playoff runs. Offensively, he was a handful to take down which had him rush for over 1200 yards and 19 touchdowns as a senior while setting several school records. He would play at Fairmont State University.
Lilly is remembered as one of the best linebackers of the decade regardless of class. He led the title-contending Beavers in tackles all four seasons on roster, tallying over 500 career tackles. His sideline-to-sideline play helped Bluefield to two state titles in 2007 and 2009, also rushing for over 1300 yards as a senior. Lilly would sign to play for Concord University where he was multiple-time All-American linebacker.
Weir’s Cooper was a highly accomplished athlete for the Red Riders that saw some elite levels of success. As a senior he rushed for 1125 yards while leading Weir to the state championship where they would fall heartbreakingly short in a 21-20 OT loss to Bluefield. However, Cooper would win the Huff Award to cap off a career that saw him make 350 tackles. He would sign to play with West Virginia University.
Redman was definitively an all-purpose backer that made an impression across the state from the Eastern Panhandle. He was a key component in Keyser’s three straight playoff appearances that included an undefeated regular season his senior year. Also that season he would finish as the runner-up for the Huff Award after recording 119 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, and a sack. He would sign to play for West Virginia University.
Many great Wayne linebackers came through during the 2000s but Marcum left the biggest mark. He towered over opposing teams and was a highly aggressive player. His awesome play saw the Pioneers to a record of 25-2 during his junior and senior seasons. Marcum capped off his career with a state championship appearance and 90 tackle, 19 tackle for loss, two interception, two blocked kick, and 2 forced fumble season before going on to play for Marshall University.
Shumake leads the way as one of the highest voted defenders of the 2000s. The athletic playmaker was a threat on both sides of the ball and helped Weir become an annual title contender. As with other Red Riders on the list, Weir would lose in a 21-20 OT classic to Bluefield in the 2004 state championship. On a field littered with Division I talent, Shumake was as feared as any.
Miller was among several Ravenswood players remembered for their defensive play. Like others on the list, he was an asset on both sides of the ball. Known for his amazing catches on offense, he used that same ability to notch an incredible 22 career interceptions. With Miller heading the skill groups, the Red Devils reached the postseason three consecutive years. He would play collegiate baseball at West Virginia State University.
Patterson was apart of a legendary Bluefield class that won two state titles in three years. He was a do-it-all type player at receiver, defensive back, and return specialist. His legacy was cemented in big games where he constantly delivered with explosive catches or touchdown returns. His senior season, he caught over 600 yards and 8 touchdowns while being the best returner in the state. After the 2009 title Patterson would sign to play for Concord University.
Turner was argued to be the best player in the state in all classes during his time with Red Riders. A pure talent athletically, he excelled at multiple positions including wide receiver and defensive back. Leading a remarkably talented Weir team to the state championship, Turner recorded 52 receptions for 910 yards and 11 touchdowns while capturing 93 tackles and 7 interceptions on defense. A touted recruit, he would commit and play for West Virginia University.
Hardman was overlooked somewhat during his time and has been forgotten by many- except for the coaching committee. Hailing from Roane County, the 6’5 defensive linemen and tight end was a phenomenal ball player in all spots. As a Raider, Hardman recorded 294 tackles with 14 sacks and also had 87 receptions on offense. This garnered him a spot at Eastern Kentucky where he would be an all-conference standout. Hardman even had stints playing in the NFL for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Detroit Lions.
Several James Monroe players were highly voted but none moreso than Mann. The stout middle linebacker for the Mavericks saw their defense to two semifinals before finally reaching the state championship as a senior. They would lose 20-12 to Bluefield but not before Mann could cement himself as the best defender in AA and a finalist for the Huff Award.
Clay rounds off the defense as the oldest selection. Prior to Clay’s arrival at Wayne, the school had only reached the second round of the playoffs once since 1978. In 2000, the Pioneers had their best season ever by reaching the state championship but ultimately fell to Bridgeport 14-6. Clay was a traditional backer that loaded the box and brought a pop. Him and his class perhaps laid the foundation for the next 15 years of Wayne football that saw annual title contenders and plenty of excellent linebackers.
Bluefield’s offense in the early 2000s was already dangerous, throwing in the best kicker was just icing on the cake. Stone was recognized all three seasons as the best kicker in AA. While winning the 2004 state championship, he set the all-time school record for points scored at 257 (which was broken by the 2010s all-decade kicker Kaulin Parris). Stone was a nationally recognized kicker and would sign to play for Pittsburgh University.
Fox makes the cut as a punter but many could argue his selection for offense or defense. Though he was recognized multiple years as the best punter, he was more known for his play at quarterback. In his four years, he won an incredible 45 games while making two state championship appearances and winning one. In 2010 he would win the Kennedy Award after throwing for 2474 yards and 29 touchdowns while also rushing for 176 yards and 9 touchdowns (and 71 PATs). Fox would be a successful baseball player at West Virginia University.
There are several coaches that could easily be awarded the coach of the 2000s. Wayne’s Tom Harmon kickstarted a Pioneer run that would stretch into the 2010’s. Bridgeport’s Bruce Carey had massive success but spent much of the decade in AAA. Bluefield’s Fred Simon made five state championship appearances and won three. However, the committee selected Poca’s Bob Lemley. When he arrived in 1990, the Dots were 0-10 but within three years would win a state championship. From 2001-2003, Poca would notch three straight titles- the first-ever three-peat in Class AA history. Though the Dots fell off a bit in the following years, the peek success for Lemley at Poca was legendary.
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