The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

High School Sports

August 29, 2013

Pirates looking for victories following winless 2012

— 2012 IN REVIEW: When Frank Spangler looks back on his career, the 2012 campaign would be the fish he’d throw back.

More often than not in Spangler’s tenure, Fayetteville has produced solid football campaigns, many ending with a playoff appearance. Last year’s Pirates, however, were winless for the first time in school history.

“We made history,” Spangler said ruefully.

“We just didn’t have any experienced players; we had five seniors, and only two had (previous) playing time,” added Spangler, who started coaching at the school in 1978. “We had a mediocre jayvee team.”

Quarterback/kicker Aaron Krise was the main loss to graduation. The Pirates will miss his talents and experience, Spangler said.

While Fayetteville failed to crack the win column, they were competitive in some contests. Spangler said the team played close games with teams such as Meadow Bridge, Midland Trail, Richwood, Mount View and Independence. “It was just the lack of experience,” he lamented.

The coaches and squad members haven’t dwelled on the 10-loss season, Spangler stressed. “We had injuries and suspensions. It was terrible. The kids didn’t like it, and I didn’t like it. We have never talked about it much.”

WHO’S BACK: Numerous players who contributed and gained valuable experience are back in the fold this fall, including wide receiver Jake Alton, linemen River and Hunter Pullens, J.B. Browning (a two-year starter) and Austin Tyree, Cameron Underwood (who’s been moved to fullback), Zach Hopkins, Hunter Shumaker and James Criss.

“We have 14 that played a lot and are coming back,” he said. “The two Pullens boys both are four-year starters (Hunter moves back to the offensive line this year after running at fullback as a junior). Their leadership skills so far have been a big help to us.

“We have 10 seniors, but to me (many of them) are young kids because they haven’t played much.”

Big lineman Dallas Duncan, who played as a freshman and sophomore but sat out last year, will be among those expected to provide major contributions.

HIDDEN GEMS: Spangler expects a senior transfer running back from Riverside, Austin Simmons, to make an impact. “He should be a help to us.”

Criss could also make an impact at tight end, he said. “He catches the ball real well.”

Also, the coach added, “I think people are going to be surprised with how (freshman) Dalton Dempsey plays and catches the football.”

Sophomore wide receiver Christian Harless could “open some eyes.”

PUTTING POINTS ON THE BOARD: Alton, a senior, will handle one wide receiver spot, and sophomore Troy Farrell and Dempsey will work at the other wideout. Senior Tasheem Saunders is also in the receiver mix. “We’ve got a pretty good little group of receivers.”

Duncan and Tyree will be the starting tackles, River Pullens the center, and Hunter Pullens and Browning the guards.

Senior Will Dooley and junior Caleb Bailes are battling for the quarterback spot, with Dooley likely to get the starting nod. Freshman Will Fenton is also getting reps. “He (Fenton) throws the ball pretty well.”

Simmons and Saunders will be the running backs, and Underwood will be at fullback. First-time player Trey Phares, a senior, is expected to be the wingback.

“We’ll still run the Wing-T, but we’ll try a little different spread, pistol-type stuff,” explained Spangler. “We’re going to open it up some with the passing game.”

MAKING STOPS: “Defensively we’re a little stronger right now,” Spangler said.

Tyree is expected to anchor the defensive interior, but two other candidates — juniors Zack Amato and Jake Cogar — suffered injuries recently.

Other defensive line contributors will be Shumaker, Duncan and Browning.

Both Pullens boys will play at linebacker, as will Underwood.

Saunders and Alton will man the corners, and Bailes and Farrell will be the safeties.

STANDING IN THE WAY: “We’ve got a murderer’s row,” said Spangler, 71. “We open up with Wahama, the defending state champion.”

He said traditional Fayette County rivals Midland Trail, Valley and Meadow Bridge always provide stiff competition. “All of our county schools are rivals. They all want to beat Fayetteville.”

“Man is always tough, and Greenbrier West is going to be right there.” Perennial playoff contender Buffalo is also back. And Moorefield, a new foe, is “always tough.”

“It’s a demanding schedule,” Spangler said.

WHAT’S IN STORE: “I think it depends on how we get started,” Spangler said of his team’s 2013 expectations. “Our kids are looking forward to going to Wahama; it’s going to be a great challenge. They’ve got great personnel, but our kids are willing to accept the challenge.”

Critical will be the response in that game and in the following two weeks, he stressed. “Those first three games are very, very important.”

Success will be “if we get through the year with a good year without very many injuries and the kids work hard and play hard.”

“We have to get better every week,” he concluded. “I’m not going to predict a number of wins and losses.”

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