Photo: Woodrow Wilson’s Maddex McMillen, Donte Qauttrone and Keynan Cook are ready to kick off the season tonight at Greenbrier East.

By Dave Morrison

Greenbrier East made good on its team goal of hosting a Class AAA playoff game last fall. One of those teams that beat Greenbrier East? Woodrow Wilson, 24-7. 

Street Sarrett’s Flying Eagles will be better in 2020, with returning quarterback Maddex McMillen.

A new offense is being installed and McMillen, for one, is ready to roll. The Flying Eagles will run mostly out of the shotgun. They will spread the field and throw the ball.

Last season Woodrow Wilson attempted 131 passes and ran the ball 342 times. The fact that Woodrow ran for just 3.1 yards per carry necessitated the move to a spread offense.

The move is not only benefitting the quarterback but his teammates as well.

“I think all of us are way ahead compared to where we were last year with the offense,” McMillen said. “With the people we have and the offense I think we will be better.”

Last season Woodrow Wilson attempted 131 passes and ran the ball 342 times. The fact that Woodrow ran for just 3.1 yards per carry necessitated the move to a spread offense.

Keynan Cook, like McMillen a basketball player, is one guy expected to have a big year. 

“He shot up about four inches in the offseason,” Sarrett said. “He’s running his routes well, catching the ball well. He’s got great hands.”

Tylai Campbell and Nate Grayton, a pair of sophomores will help at wideout along with veteran seniors Donte Quattrone and Koalton Raye.

One player to really keep an eye on will be senior Jace Colucci, a transfer from Westside who had three return touchdowns last season.

Lack of a run game last fall wasn’t the only thing the necessitated the change.

With new turf at Flying Eagles Stadium, the team can better use speed as a weapon and won’t be hampered by the mud that inevitably covered the field by midseason.

“A lot of people say, ‘You’re turfing your field for five games,’” Sarrett said. “It’s just the daily grind of being on the field. We practiced on that practice field and it would be dusty and if it wasn’t dusty it would be raining and and muddy. If it pours the rain in late September, October it’s hard to practice, hard to get timing down. At the end of the season, I think it was two years ago, we played Bluefield out here and by the end of the game you couldn’t tell who was who. It’s not going to benefit just football but other teams as well. A pat on the back to Raleigh County schools for stepping up for athletics.”

Indeed it was a major undertaking for the county but Independence and Woodrow got their turf this season, Shady and Liberty will get their turf next season.

Sarrett, whose brother is an assistant (offensive line) coach with the Pittsburgh Steelers, said getting Beckley football back to being a winning program is job one.

They won’t be in the Kanawha Valley-heavy Mountain State Athletic Conference, opting out, which gives the team the ability to play old rivals like Princeton and Oak Hill again, as well as their most ancient adversary, Greenbrier East.

“We’ve trying to get football back on the right track here, we’ve had some down years the last few years,” Sarrett said. “We’ve played some stiff competition. Every team we played last year was a playoff team. We’re trying to get back to where we can have some success, make the playoffs and make a run at it.”

Greenbrier East coach Ray Lee knows all about changing the culture of a football program. Lee has built the Spartans into a team that is now hosting playoff games.

The Spartans will have to replace seven senior starters on defense, those players who made the push to go out with a home playoff game.

“Every year, being a coach, is like going in the kitchen and cooking,” Lee said. “You don’t know what you’re going to get. We’re trying to put a team together. That’s the fun part of coaching to me. We don’t have a set plan every year of what we’re going to do offensively and defensively. We see what we have and we try to put kids in a position where they can be successful.”

One big plus is the return to football of Colby Piner. He is a player who can stretch the field and excels on special teams.

Lee has those types of players. Monquelle Davis, a year ago, could line up and quarterback and wide receiver and this season Christian McNeely will play running back, receiver and running back.

“I like playing everywhere, it gives the defense a different look,” McNeely said. “They’re like ‘oh here’s here, he’s there’, they don’t know what’s about to happen. It’s exciting. Sometimes I don’t know where I’ll be (until the play is called). But the good thing is I learned (the positions) and I know it.”

The game at Spartan Stadium kicks off at 7:30 p.m.