The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

High School Sports

June 20, 2014

Area players have plenty to prove at tonight’s North-South Classic

All Malik Boatwright did his senior season was win a wrestling state championship, lead his football team to a Class A state title game and help the Greenbrier West baseball squad to a strong season. If he had played tennis or golf, he probably would have ended up competing for titles in those sports, as well.

Still — even after being named the captain of the Class A all-state defense, recording 65 tackles, two interceptions and two fumble recoveries, and throwing for 645 yards and rushing for 1,432 as the team’s quarterback — all anybody could notice about the talented athlete is that he stands just 5-foot-4.

Oak Hill’s Jalen Jones can sympathize. The 2012 Register-Herald Player of the Year, who was a finalist again in 2013, rushed for 1,647 yards and 21 touchdowns as a senior, playing through an ankle sprain. He was a first-team all-stater but because he was just 5-6, he didn’t get any hard looks from major college football programs, instead choosing to go to Genesee (N.Y.) Community College to play basketball.

Isaiah Kinder, the Greenbrier East quarterback who will head to William & Mary to play for the Tribe this fall, is a giant compared to Boatwright, who looks up to Kinder like Spud Webb trying to look into the eyes of Manute Bol. But at 5-11, many still felt Kinder too small to play football at the highest college level.

His statistics — 2,096 passing yards, 24 passing touchdowns, 460 rushing yards, 10 rushing touchdowns — were enough to convince the William & Mary coaches, but there are still those doubters that wonder how much playing time he’ll receive in his career there.

The questions surrounding Jake Parker are mostly of a different nature. Yes, the 6-foot, 198-pounder is still a little small to be a major college running back — especially in today’s game where running backs resemble linebackers — but the bigger knock that many used on Parker was the level of competition he faced.

The 2013 Register-Herald Offensive Player of the Year rushed for more than 2,500 yards and scored 33 touchdowns as a senior. He was the leading rusher in the state. But despite leading his team to an 8-3 record and an appearance in the Class A playoffs, Parker ended his career with plenty of doubters who asked what those numbers would have looked like had he faced Class AAA competition.

The good news is that these area stars have a chance to silence those critics.

They’ll get a chance to show what they can do when they go head-to-head with the best the Mountain State has to offer in the North-South All-Star Classic, which kicks off at 7 p.m. at Charleston’s Laidley Field.

While all-star games are sometimes criticized for a lack of heart and hustle from players who don’t really want to be there, that’s not likely to be the case tonight.

These players, and many others, have something to prove, just as Woodrow Wilson quarterback Andrew Johnson did in last year’s game, on his way to MVP honors. They’re playing with a chip on their shoulders.

These players will take the field as if one of the Seahawks’ sparkling new Super Bowl rings is on the line for the winners. They’re going to give their best, and the game should be an entertaining one.

Will they change their doubters’ minds? That remains to be seen. But at least they’ll get one more chance.

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Other area players in tonight’s game include Hunter Brash (Oak Hill), Isaiah Brown (Summers County), Austin Hill (Nicholas), Chase Hancock (Woodrow Wilson), Christian Marshall (Princeton), Tyler Sagraves (Nicholas County) and Jacob Summe (Wyoming East).

The South Cardinals will be coached by Greenbrier West head coach Lewis McClung, with Gene Morris (Nicholas County), Jeremy Tincher (Greenbrier West) and Kelly Vaughan (Greenbrier West) serving as assistants. The Cavaliers’ Russ Gilkeson will serve as the South trainer.

Prior to today’s game, the West Virginia Athletic Coaches Association will induct a new class into its Hall of Fame. It will include former Peterstown star Steve Newberry.

— E-mail: chuffman and follow on Twitter @CamHuffmanRH.

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