The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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December 3, 2013

Not as easy as it looks

McClung, Cavaliers back in state title game after 22-year absence

Perennial success in high school football is not as easy as Wayne and Martinsburg might make it seem. But there was a time when Lewis McClung thought it was.

McClung, the veteran head coach at Greenbrier West, got his first coaching job in 1990 as a volunteer assistant to legendary Spencer High School coach Jim Hamrick. The Yellowjackets played East Bank that year for the Class AA state championship, losing 15-12 at Charleston’s Laidley Field.

A year later, McClung returned to his native Greenbrier County. He coached at Rainelle Junior High, but helped out on the staff at Greenbrier West. The Cavaliers advanced to the Class AA state title game, where they met — ironically — Spencer. This time, the Yellowjackets got their championship with a 31-22 victory.

Again, McClung was on the wrong side of the field. Still, two state title games in your first two seasons as a coach? Not a bad start to the resumé.

But also, very misleading.

“I thought, ‘There’s nothing to this coaching thing,’” McClung said with a laugh.

He’s here to tell you, it’s anything but easy.

“That was the last time I was there,” McClung said. “I haven’t been back in 22 years.”

Finally, that streak will come to an end this weekend. The venue may have changed, but McClung will lead his seventh-rated Cavaliers (12-1) onto the turf of Wheeling Island Stadium on Saturday to face No. 1 Madonna (13-0) for the Class A state championship.

Kickoff will be 7 p.m.

West defeated No. 14 Magnolia 21-14 last Saturday to secure its first berth in the title game since 1991. The defense was challenged for the first time in the postseason, but responded with a dominating second-half performance.

The Cavs had given up a combined 120 yards of offense in wins over Notre Dame and previously-unbeaten St. Marys, but Magnolia running back Drew Keller approached that total in the first half alone, with 98 yards on 27 carries. Keller scored twice on a defense that had not yet yielded a point.

The second half was a different story.

West’s defense went back to its stinginess, with its sixth half of scoreless football, and limited Keller to 32 yards after the break.

A season-long defensive dominance has West on the cusp of winning that elusive title.

“This opportunity does not present itself often,” McClung said. “We need to take advantage of the opportunity.”

Wayne has won the last two Class AA titles, and Martinsburg is the three-time defending champion in Class AAA. Wayne has now won its last 11 playoff games and Martinsburg its last 15, and both will have the chance to defend their titles this weekend.

They are, McClung says, exceptions to the rule.

“I don’t think people appreciate how difficult it is to get there,” McClung said. “Martinsburg and Wayne and some of those other teams that seem to be there every year make it seem easy, but it’s not.

“Don’t get me wrong, we are happy to be there. But we don’t want the boys to get complacent just because we got there. We are going to practice all week and play with the intent of coming out with a victory.”

— E-mail: gfauber@

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@GaryFauber

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