Capital, GW among MSAC contenders
CHARLESTON — Normally, when someone thinks of Capital’s football program, there is one word that comes to mind first — playmakers.
While there is again an abundance] of playmakers for the 2018 season, Capital coach Jon Carpenter is more intrigued by another facet of the Cougars’ team.
“I think we’re excited about our line,” Carpenter said. “Offensively and defensively, that’s what’s got me excited. I think we’re in better shape and stronger than we have been in a little while. That’s what’s important.”
That line, which returns three starters and averages 290 pounds across the front, will block for a myriad of talent, led by potential Kennedy Award candidate Kerry Martin, Jr., who returns after accounting for 3,431 yards and 48 touchdowns last season.
The dual-threat quarterback goes into his third year as a starter with plenty of weapons surrounding him, including running backs Quisean Gray and Kalai Clark, along with wide receivers Deishawn Harper and K.J. Figures.
On the defensive side, Breece Hoff returns after amassing 17 sacks from his end position last season.
Linebacker will be the team’s biggest need defensively with junior Logan Spurlock leading a group that includes Christian Gist. The secondary should be strong with all the skilled playmakers on offense seeing time in the defensive backfield, as well. Capital is looking to reach the Class AAA semifinals or better for the sixth consecutive season.
CHARLESTON —Quarterback Grant Wells has proven to have one of the top high school arms in the state.
In 2017, the problem was Wells couldn’t
throw, receivers suffered through a case of the drops. That led to a 5-6 campaign that ended with a loss to Spring Valley in the first round of the Class AAA playoffs.
“A lot of that is we have to catch the ball better,” GW coach Steve Edwards said. “That’s all there is to it, you’ve got to execute better. It’s not a lack of ability, it’s a lack of execution. We’re hoping to execute a little better, and I think we’re better at the receiving spots than we have been.”
Wells’ targets for this year include Logan Leeber, Preston Taylor, Brayden McCallister, Luke Grimm and Alex Mazelon.
Running back Aidan Johnson returns after injuries slowed him in 2017. Johnson leads a backfield that includes Dakota Cosby, who will also head the line-backing corps on the defensive side.
The story of George Washington’s offense will depend on the offensive line, which features three seniors — left guard Logan Brabbin, right guard Wyatt Bunderson and right tackle Tallon Saunders — along with juniors Andrew Preast and Benji Adkins. Size is an issue up front on both sides, but Edwards hopes his team makes up for it with its fight.
“We’ve got to continue to play hard defensively,” he said. “We weren’t very big up front, but we held our own with teams because we played so hard. We’ve got to keep the kids playing that way. Now we’re a little bit better athletically, and I think that might help us out a bit.”
SOUTH CHARLESTON — Last season, injuries forced South Charleston coach Donnie Mays to play a lot of young players maybe a bit ahead of time.
Mays and the Black Eagles hope the 2017 trial by fire pays off. South Charleston will need all hands on deck and a little more injury luck than they had in 2017 to make the playoffs for a sixth consecutive season.
“I like where we are,” Mays said. “I think we could get a little more physical and we’re going to find out how physical we can be. I like where we are potentially offensively this year as opposed to last year. I like it a lot better.”
Defense will set the tone for the team with first-team all-state linebacker Drew Joseph returning, along with second-team all-state defensive lineman Zeiqui Lawton, who is a major NCAA Division I prospect despite only being a sophomore.
Offensively, Sophomore Shyleik Kinney returns at quarterback after being thrust into action as a freshman last year because of injury. His top targets will be Samahji Simon, Shaun Agard and Romeo Dunham.
The offensive line returns five players with starting experience, which bodes well for Kinney and running back Jaydyn Johnson, whom Mays said will receive the bulk of carries.
“Jaydyn Johnson is going to be our bell cow,” Mays said. “We’re going to get him 15 to -25 touches per game because he’s that type of player.”
ST. ALBANS, W.Va. — First-year coach Nick Watts, who was previously an assistant at Cabell Midland, takes the helm for the Red Dragons.
Running back Reggie Jackson and receivers Cayden Doub and Steven Eaton - all seniors - look to be the key figures for a team that went 4-6 in 2017 and fell just short of a Class AAA playoff berth under former coach Scott Tinsley.
Jackson carried 66 times for 449 yards and four touchdowns as a junior, an average of 6.8 yards per carry. Doub caught 25 passes for 253 yards (10 yards per catch) and a pair of scores.
“We’ve got a good mix of talent and a good mix of skill,” Watts said. “Those guys are all good skill players, and will fill out our secondary and wide receiver/running back slots.”
Senior center Colin Wilkinson anchors the offensive line, and while Watts said he provides a solid foundation, two others are expected to get considerable attention by year’s end.
“Andrew Vickers and Hassan Harper are a couple sophomores. They’re young guys who are going to be head turners,” Watts said.
Another sophomore, Jaxon Holbert, will carry significant responsibility for the Dragons, as Watts will count on him to be the “heart and soul” of the defense from middle linebacker.
St. Albans will look to either senior Nathan Roy or senior Dionte Patterson to take over at quarterback after Robert Alexander left St. Albans following his freshman season when he threw for 1,998 yards, 12 touchdowns and 18 interceptions. Patterson caught 26 passes for 429 yards and a score a year ago as a receiver.