By Dave Morrison
Summers County had one of the most impressive defensive finishes in recent memory and it carried the Bobcats all the way to the Class A semifinals. They lost to eventual state champion Wheeling Central Catholic 42-14.
Before that game, however, the Bobcats posted three straight shutouts, against playoff team Fayetteville (22-0) in the regular season finale, and against Webster (28-0) and Midland Trail (6-0) in the playoffs.
“Great defense allows you to be competitive with just about anyone,” coach Chris Vicars said.
He isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel. The Bobcats have the pieces back to make another run.
“I expect our team to come out focused and with great intensity,” Vicars said. “I hope to see an aggressive defense that plays mistake free football. If we get solid play from our defensive line then I feel confident with the defense we can put on the field.”
The Bobcats open the season with a PikeView team that was one of the best rushing teams in the area last season, accounting for 3,580 yards on the ground and 43 touchdowns. The two-headed monster of Hunter Mitchelson (1,747-22 TD) and Evan Rose 1,573-19) accounted for 3,320 yards and 41 touchdowns.
Half of that is back as Rose returns for his senior season looking for a third straight 1,000-yard rushing season.
Half the scrimmages were successful, PikeView assistant Josh Wyatt said.
Despite the 25-19 win over Summers last season, the Panthers started 2-2, a start that cost PikeView (7-3 last year) a playoff spot.
“Getting started has been a problem for us the last few years and that can’t be the way to victory for us Friday night,” assistant coach Josh Wyatt said. “Summers is the kind of team that can put you away early if we don’t put it together Week 1.”
The Panthers only passed for 272 yards last season so developing a game to keep teams from crowding the box to slow Rose was a priority.
Still Vicars expects a huge dose of Rose on Friday night.
“I expect PikeView to come out strong in a rivalry game and try to exert their power running game,” Vicars said. “Hopefully we can match what they throw at us.”
Marcus McGuire returns after back-to back 1,000 yard seasons. Last season he had 1,088 yards and 14 TD. The Bobcats lose the area’s only 1,000 yard rusher and 1,000 yard passer in Tucker Lilly, who took over for Timmy Persiani when the QB was hurt in the second game of the season.
Persiani is back under center this season. Chiristian Pack (6-4, 200) and Keandre Sarver (6-3 175) will be key pieces on offense and defense for the Bobcats.
“We have Summers at home and we know we are facing a very athletic team,” Wyatt said. “Thy have skill players who are quick and look extremely reliable on tape.”
Mount View (0-0) at Riverside (0-0)
Mount View has to replace record-setting quarterback but the Golden Knights certainly have the cast and crew to make a playoff push.
Elijah Barner leads the way. The senior had 1,055 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns and over 100 tackles.
The Golden Knight opened the season with a 26-14 win over River View and at one point stood at 4-2 but finished the season with four straight losses.
Sophomore Jesse Rose will replace Collier. He completed 3 of 4 passes for 33 yards in one varsity appearance but threw 15 touchdown passes in JV action.
“I expect Jesse to play with confidence, to show everyone grade level doesn’t matter, execution and decision-making is what matters,” Thompson said.
Oak Hill( (0-0) at Valley (0-0)
0ak Hill has the job of traveling to Smithers for what is scheduled to be Valley’s final home opener. The school is scheduled to close after another round of Fayette County consolidation after this school year ends.
“We have to match that intensity early in the game,” Oak Hill coach Jason Blankenship said.
The Red Devils have a healthy Khori Bass back this season. He got off to a quick start last year before being injured and missing four games. He missed his entire sophomore year with an injury.
Last year he rushed for 818 yards before being injured in the second quarter against Wyoming East Week 4. Bass had 260 and two touchdowns against Valley and followed that with 217 and three touchdowns against Liberty and 257 yards and four touchdowns against Mount View.
Key for Valley will be Adam Falbo, who started as a freshman at quarterback and split time his sophomore year. After a year exclusively at wide receiver, Falbo is back a under center. He is 25 for 55 in his career for 206 yards and a touchdown. Kaleb Crisp rushed for 291 yards and three touchdowns.
Oak Hill boasts the area’s biggest roster with 65 players. Valley has one of the smallest at 24.
“They don’t look too bad,” Blankenship said. “We know it’s owing to be an emotional game because two Fayette County teams are playing each other. I want to see our offense control the ball by getting first downs and protecting the football. Our defense is young so we want them I be in the best field position possible all night.”
Meadow Bridge (0-0) at Van (0-0)
Meadow Bridge ended the season what a three-game win streak to finish 3-7. It looks like the Wildcats are on the rebound with a plethora of talented players returning.
“Finishing on a winning streak was big for us,” Meadow Bridge coach Dewayne Reichard said. “It has helped keep our kids focused on getting better each day.”
Caleb Richmond leads the returns after a season in which he rushed for 905 yards and racked up over 100 tackles at linebacker.
A school that prides itself on its running the ball, Meadow Bridge has not had a 1,000 rusher since 2015. Richmond could change that.
He produced 874 yards and all of his eight touchdowns after moving to the feature back spot against Fayetteville in Week 4. He had 26 carries for 129 yards in that game and rushed for over 100 in six of the final seven overall.
Sophomore Ayden Redden added 439 yards and two scores as a freshman.
Van shut out Meadow Bridge 33-0 last season.
“I want to see a team that is the aggressor,” Reichard said. “We need to carry the confidence we played with in Weeks 9-11 last season into Friday night.”
Shady Spring (0-0) at Lincoln County (0-0)
Coach Vince Culicerto and four of his players made their acting debuts in a local commercial for a new car wash this summer.
In the commercial Culicerto is practicing his players in mud when he is told they have pictures in less than an hour. He comes up with an idea, sending the players to the car wash in a pick up truck. There they are cleaned off.
Defensive end Terymichal Alexander stole the show though, with his har flip.
“We had a lot of fun doing that,” Culicerto said.
He is hoping for some Oscar performances on both sides of the ball when the Tigers open at Lincoln Friday.
“I’m looking for leadership from all my veterans,” Culicerto said. “I want the defense to continue their aggressiveness. I’m looking for a strong running game.”
Versatile Tyler Bragg is back after accounting for 1,100 yards in to lead the Tigers. Isaiah Valentine and newcomer Haven Chapman (Woodrow Wilson) will lead the ground game.
As of Wednesday, Drew Clark was scheduled to start at quarterback but Joe Cantley will likely play as well.
Woodrow Wilson (0-0) at Riverside (0-0)]
After two 1-9 seasons Woodrow Wilson and coach Street Sarrett are looking to get of to a quick start.
Riverside beat Woodrow 45-7 in the opener. Woodrow last beat the Warriors in 2015.
“Riverside is a tam on the rise and they have developed over the years and their players expect to win games,” Sarrett said. “I feel great about my team as we get close to opening night. They have worked extremely hard this offseason and have developed so much mentality and physicality in a year’s time.”
As usual Woodrow has a tough line, led by Colton Wright, a player Sarrett said “plays with tremendous heart.”
Three-year starting quarterback Sutton Radford is gone. Former middle school QB Logan Cook and Payton Sheehan were engaged in a dual for the job.
Micah Hancock is finally healthy after missing four games last season and battling various injuries during his career. In 26 career games he has 242 carries for 1,177 yards and 11 touchdowns.
“Look for big things out of him this season,” Sarrett said.
Buckhannon-Upshur (0-0) at Princeton (0-0)
The big story of the preseason for Princeton has been the emergence of Ranson Graham at quarterback.
He was 16 of 31 for 293 yards and three touchdowns and he also had a rushing touchdown.
Chiron Cannady, Ethan Parsons and A.J . Jenkins have been top receivers.
“I hope to see us progressing on both sides of the ball,” coach Chris Pedigo said. We have gotten better each scrimmage, it’s time to see what we can do.”
B-U runs the 3-3 stack defense.
“They do a lot of different blitzes,” Pedigo said. “We have to be sound up front and protect the ball.”
In B-U the Tigers’ defense will have to contend with the Bucs triple option.
“They pose a big challenge to us, they run the triple option as well as anyone I’ve seen,” Pedigo said. “We have to play assignment football on defense.”
Greenbrier East (0-0) at James Monroe (0-0)
Greenbrier East coach Ray Lee said in preseason that his team was so young that only six players had driver’s licenses.
He is young but has some talented players back, including Colby Piner, who many have compared to Zayvion Lawson, the record-setting back who rushed for 2,000 yards in 2015.
Piner scored eight total touchdowns last season as a freshman, three on kick returns, one on a punt return, three rushing and one receiving. He rushed for 279 yards caught 10 passes for 385 yards.
“Piner is still improving and adjusting to making himself better each week,” Lee said. “He loves the game and has a great attitude towards the game.”
James Monroe returns Monroe Mohler, a dual threat on offense and he had six interceptions on defense to lead the area.
Lee expects a battle from the Mavericks, who have a small roster of 33.
“JM is always tough and they will put the toughest 11 on the field regardless of numbers,” Lee said.
Bluefield (0-0) vs, Graham, Va, (0-0) at Mitchell Stadium
The defending Class AA champions won this opener last year 17-14 and it ended up being their closest game until the state championship game victory over Fairmont Senior.
Kennedy Award winner Mookie Collier (2,234-33) and powerful fullback Truck Edwards (1,148-22) are gone but Juice Edwards (321 yards and five TD in six games), J.J. Davis (293-5) and Arnold Martin (128-1) return after serving as primary backups last season.
Wide receiver/cornerback Isaiah Johnson is one of the most promising college prospects in the state and has already received offers from the likes of Penn State.
Expect more passing from quarterback Chandler Cooper who was 38 of 61 for 704 yards and nine touchdowns.
The Beavers have the area’s biggest lines from tackle to tackle in left tackle Deiyantei Powell, 6-6, 279 Sr., left guard Nathan Pettus, 6-2, 267, Sr., center Mason Walker, 6-6, 280 Sr., right guard Derick Flack, 6-5, 335, So., and right tackle Matthew Peters, 6-7, 296. That’s an average of 291. 4 pounds along the offensive line.
Webster County (0-0) at Richwood (0-0)
Despite not faring well in two scrimmages, Richwood returns off a playoff season and a talented offense led by Jeremiah Johnston (177-1,585-18. He is one of the leading rushers returning in the area this season.
Caleb Jantuah ended the season at quarterback and threw for 301 yards and five touchdown and rushed for 658 yards and four touchdowns. Michael McGee emerged as a threat at receiver late in the year, with 306 yards and five touchdowns. He had five catches for 164 yards in a playoff las to South Harrison.
Nicholas County (0-0) at North Marion (0-0)
Jared Sagraves is back for his second-year under center and is coming off a season in which he was one of five area quarterbacks to top 1,000 yards passing. He completed 82 of 163 passes for 1,148 yards ad 12 touchdowns and rushed for 544 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Expect big things from defensive lineman Colton Groves.
Buffalo (0-0) at Greenbrier West (0-0)
Greenbrier West possesses a talented backfield in coach Dave Witt’s single-wing offense, led by Chad Ramsey.
In his last scrimmage, two quarters each against Meadow Bridge and Pendleton County Ramsey combined for 137 yards open 21 carries and scored a two-point conversion and threw a conversion pass.
Noah Brown and Malik Cox will also play key roles in the single-wing attack.
Buffalo has a veteran line but is young at the skill positions.