Prep Notebook: Football season’s midpoint arrives

September 25, 2018

The high school football season has hit its halfway mark and from it we can make some observations.

Spring Valley is really good. The Timberwolves (5-0) feature a bevy of weapons, a plethora of college-bound players and can score via a dominating running game or a strong passing attack. Spring Valley’s interior defense is nearly impenetrable. Do-everything standout Graeson Malashevich might be the most-underrated player in the state.

Huntington High (4-0) can be mentioned in the same breath as Spring Valley, with tackle Darnell Wright leading a potent offense that replaced all-time leading rusher Jadon Hayes with Fairland transfer Ty Wilcoxon and hasn’t slowed at all.

Ironton (3-2) appears to be back. After winning Ohio Valley Conference championships their first two years in the league, the Fighting Tigers stumbled to a 4-6 mark last season. Ironton is 2-0 in the OVC and its only losses were respectable defeats to defending Ohio Division V champion Wheelersburg, and Ashland, the No. 1-ranked Class AAAA team in Kentucky. Ironton’s home game Oct. 19 with Gallia Academy (4-1) could be for the OVC title.

After being relatively down for a few years, the OVC is much better this season. Chesapeake (3-2) Coal Grove (3-2) and Fairland (3-2) join Ironton and Gallia Academy as teams with legitimate playoff aspirations. Rock Hill is 1-4, but has lost close games against a rugged schedule. Credit South Point coach James Gifford for keeping his Pointers believing after an 0-5 start. In some seasons, players have defected in droves, but not this year.

Wheelersburg’s Tanner Holden is so talented he can land a major college scholarship in football or basketball. Watching him leaves some wondering if the 6-foot-6, 180-pound wide receiver might be wiser to pursue football, where he would be a much more rare commodity than he is in basketball.

Green is 5-0. With one more victory, the Bobcats will have clinched a winning season for the first time since 2005.

Cabell Midland is 2-3, but don’t underestimate the Knights, who have gone back to the Wing-T after experimenting with a spread offense in the first half of the season. Cabell Midland lost just 20-7 Friday at top-rated Capital.

Hurricane is an enigma, looking like a Top 10 team one week and quite beatable the next. The Redskins’ defense is sound. The offense is inconsistent. Woodrow Wilson, which Hurricane beat 14-6 Friday, is significantly improved from recent seasons.

Fairland’s Joel Lambiotte has thrown 18 touchdown passes. The senior has college football talent, but wants to go to medical school, so whether he plays somewhere after high school is to be seen.

Ashland might have its best team since its 1990 state championship squad that featured a potent trio of runners in Chris Hutt, Charlie Johnson and Juan Thomas.

Raceland is outstanding and might be the best small-school team in the Tri-State. The Rams became even better last week with the addition of Ethan Cox, a transfer wide receiver from Boyd County.

VOLLEY FOR A CAUSE: For a pair of arch rivals, Chesapeake and Fairland work well together when a cause arises. Last basketball season, the Panthers and Dragons teamed up for the “Rally for Ally,” raising funds for Fairland soccer player Ally Henderson, who was battling cancer. Now, the Ohio Valley Conference foes are teaming up to help fund the costs of Chesapeake basketball player Tanner Harr, who is dealing with cancer in his knee.

The Panthers and Dragons will participate in Volley for a Cure when their teams meet on the volleyball court at 6 p.m. Oct. 4 at Fairland. The girls are selling raffle tickets for gift baskets, working a bake sale after school and during games and will conduct a 50/50 raffle during the volleyball game.

Proceeds go to The Pink Ribbon Fund, which helps women who qualify to receive no-cost mammograms, and to Harr to help with his battle with osteosarcoma.

For more information or to donate to the cause, e-mail bowenmom2@gmail.com

RECRUITING NOTES: Cabell Midland defensive back J.J. Roberts visited the University of Toledo on Saturday. Huntington High offensive lineman Christian Hanna received an offer from West Virginia State University. Spring Valley running back Owen Chafin visited Eastern Kentucky University Saturday. Purdue University assistant basketball coach Greg Gary visited Gallia Academy Monday to recruit Blue Devils’ center Zach Loveday. Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann visited Loveday on Thursday, as did University of Michigan assistant DeAndre Haynes.

Chattanooga assistant basketball coach Aaron Fuss visited Wheelersburg High School and Pirates’ star guard Tanner Holden on Monday. Eastern Kentucky assistant Reece Gaines visited on Thursday. Capital defensive lineman Breece Hoff picked up a scholarship offer from the University of New Hampshire. Poca softball catcher Karlie Hill committed to West Virginia State. Bluefield defensive end Sean Martin picked up an offer from West Virginia University.

ROUNDING UP: Cabell Midland’s boys and girls cross country teams won the Boyd County Invitational Saturday. The Knights’ Steve Ball was the boys champion and CMHS’ Emma Jenkins won the girls title. Former Point Pleasant High School football star Cody Mitchell left Marshall University’s football team. One week after his father died, Johnson Central running back Devin Johnson ran for 111 yards and four touchdowns, made 11 tackles and had two sacks in a 49-21 victory over Louisville Moore last week. Spring Valley’s volleyball team won the Cabell Midland Invitational last week.

Russell’s boys and Greenup County’s girls cross country squads won the Tomcat Invitational at Ashland on Tuesday. Wheelersburg volleyball standout Abbie Kallner made her 1,500th assist last week. Fairland’s boys won the Ohio Valley Conference golf tournament for the second consecutive season. The Dragons’ Clayton Thomas was the medalist. Boyd County’s girls golf team won the championship of the Eastern Kentucky Conference Tournament last week. The Lions’ Olivia Hensley was the medalist. Former Huntington High and Marshall University basketball star David Wade has joined the coaching staff at Huntington Prep.

Portsmouth Clay volleyball standout Jensen Warnock recorded her 1,000th career dig last week. Oliver Skaug broke the single-season scoring record for Boyd County boys soccer last week, netting his 25th goal to surpass the mark of 24. Cassie Schaefer of Portsmouth Notre Dame volleyball made her 1,000th assist last week. Stan Elkins is the new boys head basketball coach at Mingo Central High School. Ashland quarterback Braxton Ratliff became the school’s all-time leader in total yards two weeks ago when he eclipsed Sam Hunter’s total of 7,076.

Tim Stephens is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. Call him at 304-526-2759. Follow him on Twitter @sportsturtle11.

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