The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

High School Sports

August 29, 2013

Warriors hoping to build on momentum from 2012

— 2012 IN REVIEW: Wyoming East coach Gary Poindexter has a clear message for his team in 2013: Improve on who they were in 2012.

“We just want to take it a step or two more than we did last year. That’s been our goal all along,” Poindexter said.

The Warriors finished the regular season last year with a 7-3 record, finishing strong with a 41-20 victory over Independence and a 41-22 win over Liberty, before bowing out in the opening round of the playoffs to Scott, 46-16.

“They were a little stronger than us,” Poindexter admitted. “They were better offensively and defensively on the line. We still played hard. We’re just hoping to build on what happened at the end of the regular season.”

That won’t come easy as the Warriors will be without two of their most valued weapons in Chris Cecil and Brandon Peck.

“Chris could play offensive line, running back, and fullback. He kicked extra points. He kicked off for us,” Poindexter said. “He’s going to be largely missed. He could a lot and he was a hard worker. He was a leader on this team.”

Peck, who spent much of the season injured was a four year starter, and is now playing at Glenville State.

“It’s going to be hard without those two guys,” Poindexter added. “We’re going to be missing them.”

WHO’S BACK? While Wyoming East will surely miss Cecil and Peck, there are two returning players who are sure to please Warrior Nation.

Jacob Summe, a 6-foot, 191-pound senior returns in hopes of matching his success of 2012.

Summe was a second team Class AA All-Stater, who rushed for over 1,200 yards.

“I expect big things from Jacob this year,” Poindexter said. “He’s a great athlete with a tremendous skill set.”

Also returning will be 6-1, 155-pound, Class AA honorable mention athlete, Christian Hedinger.

Hedinger is expected to contribute in a big way on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball.

“Christian is an all-around great athlete,” Poindexter added.

HIDDEN GEMS: It’s not very often that a returning quarterback can be considered an unspoken treasure, but that’s just the case for junior quarterback Aaron Griffith.

Perhaps overshadowed at times by the bruising running game of Cecil and Summe, the 6-1, 179-pound junior signal caller will be called on to provide game management and leadership this season.

“He’s going to be asked to do a lot of different things this year,” Poindexter said. “He’s been a two-year starter for us and has really developed in the offseason.”

Another overlooked player is 5-11, 230-pound Coty Bishop.

Bishop led the Warriors in tackles in 2012 and will be called on to do the same in his senior season, providing veteran leadership at linebacker.

He’ll also step into the role Cecil had in the backfield.

“We’re looking for special things out of him on both sides of the ball,” Poindexter said.

PUTTING POINTS ON THE BOARD: As important as Griffith will be to the Warriors, no one will be as critical as the five young men who line up in front of him.

Stevie Cook, a 5-11, 274-pound junior, and 6-0, 216-pound sophomore Matt Perry will start at the guard position.

“Steve is a three-year starter for us. He’s a very strong individual with a lot of hard work and a lot of good football instincts,” Poindexter said. “Matt Perry is a sophomore that we’re looking to play for us. He’s coming along pretty good.”

Captaining the line will be 5-11, 224-pound senior Derek Laxton at center.

“He’s started three years for us at center,” Poindexter said. “He’s solid and makes a lot of calls on the line for us. He keeps things straight up.”

Returning to the line will be 5-9, 300-pound Ryan Cantrell at tackle.  Joining him will be 6-3, 318-pound Jordan Jedra and 6-foot-5, 266 pound Eric Taylor.

“Brian is probably one of our strongest players,” Poindexter said. “He plays both sides also. He’s improved dramatically every year he’s been in the program.”

Poindexter expects to use sophomore Levi Summe and Stephen Shrewsbury in spot duty.

At the tight end position will be John Morgan, a tall and a lanky threat with good hands, as well as Jon Culicerto and Michael Bland.

While Hedinger will be the go-to-guy for Griffith at receiver, he’ll be joined by an experienced group, led by 5-11 senior Brad Shirley. Also expected to get playing time at the position will be senior Jacob Boyce and juniors  Jacob Dulce and Nik Walker.

Joining Griffith, Summe and Bishop in the backfield will be David Powers and Brian Whitt.

Whitt will also serve as the backup quarterback.

MAKING STOPS: Poindexter will look to a well-seasoned staff on defense for the Warriors this season, in hopes of capturing some of the magic that helped them hold opponents in 2012 to only 220 points.

“It’s a very experienced bunch,” he said. “There’s a great deal of leadership.”

Coty Bishop will play a major role in that.

“Coty really clogs up the middle,” Poindexter said. “He was our leading tackler last year.”

Joining Bishop in the linebacking corp will be Jon Culicerto and Jeremy Myers on the inside, while Aaron Griffith, Brian Whitt and Alec Lusk will work on the outside.

Jordan Jedra, Brian Cantrell, Stevie Cook and Michael Bland will also see action on the defensive line, and will be joined by Stephen Shrewsbury, Eric Taylor and freshman Austin Kivley.

The corners will be manned by a pair of 5-foot-11 Warriors in Casey Saunders and Jacob Dulce, while Hedinger and Brad Shirley will play safety. Jacob Boyce and Nik Walker are also expected to see time in the backfield.

STANDING IN THE WAY: In order for the Warriors to return to the playoffs, they’ll have to earn it.

Wyoming East’s first test will come when it travels to Mingo Central in week one.

“We’re going to take them one game at a time starting with Mingo Central,” Poindexter said. “They’re all big games when you get into the season.”

It wouldn’t be Wyoming East without mentioning Westside. The two Wyoming County high schools will match up in week two.

The Warriors will attempt to seek revenge for a loss handed them by the Renegades in 2012. Westside beat their county rival 22-20.

WHAT’S IN STORE: Making the playoffs isn’t going to be good enough this season for the Warriors. They’ve got to win.

After being thrashed by Scott last year, Poindexter hopes to see his team advance further in a slightly diminished Class AA field.

“We just want to take it a step or two more than we did last year,” he said. “That’s been our goal all along — get better every practice and every game. That’s always been our goal since we started, and that’s what we’re going to do.”

But what would a successful season be for Poindexter?

“Make a run in the playoffs,” he said.

“That could be a reality if everything goes our way this year,” he added. “We can’t have the turnovers and costly mistakes and penalties that cost two of the three games we lost last year. We had some mental breakdowns at the wrong time. The ball didn’t bounce our way. If we can cut down on those mistakes, with the maturity we have coming back, we think we could make that happen.”


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