The smell of hotdogs and popcorn and the sounds of crunching pads and cheering fans will be in the air tonight as the 2013 high school football season gets started in the area with some intriguing matchups.
It’s time for all the talk to stop and the games to begin. Here’s a look at the area teams that will be in action on what is expected to be a perfect Friday night under the lights.
GAME OF THE WEEK
Who: Greenbrier West at Nicholas County
Where: Nicholas County Memorial Stadium
When: 7:30 p.m.
What this means: Both teams have lofty goals.
Greenbrier West finished 10-2 last year, advancing to the second round of the Class A playoffs before being dumped by eventual state champion Wahama, which finished 14-0. The game was close — Wahama won 21-12 — so West feels it’s just a step away from making a real run at a Class A title.
Nicholas County also went to the second round of the playoffs in 2012, winning its first-ever playoff game over Ritchie County before also losing to a state champion, Class AA king Wayne.
Both teams have the bulk of their 2012 rosters back and expect to be somewhere near the top of their respective classes this season. A win in the opener is important to those goals — as well as playoff points.
Tonight’s game is also a rivalry contest. The teams are separated by only about 30 miles. When Greenbrier West was in Class A and Nicholas County was in Class AAA, they couldn’t get together. But now that Nicholas County is back in Class AA, the rivalry has been renewed.
Last time they played: Greenbrier West won a 24-22 thriller in last year’s season opener in Charmco.
Who to watch:
Malik Boatwright — Now in his third season as a starter, and his second as a quarterback, the senior will draw most of the attention from opposing defenses. He rushed for 1,650 yards and 18 touchdowns last season and threw for 416 yards, just to keep the defenses honest.
Corey Cox — At times, Boatwright has to have somebody to hand the ball to, and Cox, a senior, will be that guy. He’ll move to the tailback spot after rushing for 612 yards and eight touchdowns as a halfback last fall.
Chase McClung — A three-year starter at linebacker, the 6-foot-1 senior knows the game and has a nose for the football.
Wil Mayes — The Grizzlies’ go-to man out of the backfield rushed for more than 500 yards and scored 10 touchdowns as a sophomore last season. He’s stronger and more experienced this time around.
Tyler Sagraves — Entering his third season as the starter at quarterback, Sagraves threw for nearly 1,000 yards last year and tossed eight touchdown passes. He knows the offense well, is the team’s unquestioned leader and can also use his legs to move the chains.
Austin Hill — A finalist for the Register-Herald Defensive Player of the Year last season, the 6-foot-2, 270-pound nose guard, who also plays center, is a disruptive force in the trenches.
What they’re saying:
Greenbrier West head coach Lewis McClung — “Right off the bat, we are going to find out what we’ve got, because (the Grizzlies) are going to be pretty good.”
Nicholas County head coach Gene Morris — “It’s obviously a huge challenge. But our guys don’t want to lose to them twice in a row. They have big goals this season.”
OTHER AREA GAMES
Woodrow Wilson at Winfield
The Flying Eagles will roll out Brent Osborne for his first game at quarterback, but he’ll be surrounded by plenty of weapons. Donte Nabors is poised to take on a bigger role as a go-to wide receiver, and Troy Lilly is a star on defense. Coming off a 6-4 season that included a berth in the Class AAA playoffs, Woodrow is looking to make another run.
Winfield, which finished 4-6 last season, has quarterback Toby Show back under center. He threw for 1,500 yards last year, but was prone to the interception. The Generals, though, have not had a winning season since 2008.
Shady Spring at Princeton
The Tigers went without a Class AAA win in 2012, their first in the state’s biggest class, but they did have a powerful offense and will again try to spread it out and put the ball in the air. Timmy Culicerto has taken over at quarterback and will try to fill the big shoes of Adam Weeks, one of the school’s most prolific quarterbacks.
Princeton also had a difficult year in 2012. Randy Peek didn’t take over as the full-time head coach until August, after the sudden retirement of Ted Spadaro, and the Tigers struggled to find a groove, limping to a 2-8 finish.
A couple of key contributors are back for Princeton. Quarterback Jay Palmer rushed for 660 yards and threw for 684 more last year, and running back Tahj Sho-Johnson rushed for seven touchdowns, averaging more than 11 yards per carry.
James Monroe at Greenbrier East
These two neighboring schools ended the 2012 season going head-to-head, and they’ll begin the 2013 campaign the same way.
James Monroe is coming off of back-to-back 2-8 seasons but has some new energy thanks to new head coach John Mustain, who replaces Don Jackson. Reed McNeer is a threat with his arm and his legs at quarterback, but the Mavericks will have to put a great deal of youth on the field.
Greenbrier East is also fielding a green group after a 3-7 finish in Ray Lee’s first year on the Spartan sidelines. It will be replacing its top rushing threat and some of its best defenders, but the Spartans do have quarterback Isaiah Kinder back. He threw for more than 800 yards last year and is also a threat on the ground.
Greenbrier East won last year’s game 45-6. All Greenbrier East home games will kick off at 7 p.m. this season.
Oak Hill at Elkins
These two teams thrilled fans with a high-scoring battle in last year’s season opener before Elkins finally pulled out a 43-36 victory. Oak Hill, though, went on to win its next five and after a 7-3 regular season found its way into the Class AAA playoffs, where it lost to Cabell Midland.
The Red Devils have big expectations with the state’s top returning rusher, 2012 Register-Herald Offensive Player of the Year Jalen Jones, in the backfield. He rushed for 2,194 yards and 27 touchdowns last year.
Elkins, which also finished 7-3 before being booted by a Huntington-area team, Huntington High, in the first round of the playoffs, returns all five starters on the offensive line, but the Tigers will have to replace a pair of 1,000-yard rushers.
Independence at Midland Trail
New Independence coach Chris Vicars will be looking to start off a new era in Patriot football with a victory over the other Patriots from Midland Trail. Trail head coach Joe Dean, though, won six games last year and is confident his team can stay on the winning path.
As always, it comes down to players. Trail has some impressive athletes on both lines, but it’s looking for some skill guys to fill the shoes of Jake Grimmet and company, who nearly made the Class A playoffs last season.
Independence is led by Brian Sexton, who threw for close to 1,000 yards last year as the Patriots finished 5-5 in the final season under longtime head coach Scotty Cuthbert.
Liberty at Westside
Liberty is coming off a 5-5 season and looking to take that next step into the playoffs. Westside was also .500 last year and has similar expectations. The winner here will take a major step toward reaching those goals of a spot in the Class AA playoffs.
The Raiders will try to replace quarterback Joey Lacek and receiver Matthew Bailey, two of their top playmakers from a year ago. But they do have Hunter Wright, who saw some time at quarterback a year ago and will take over the full-time duties.
Westside had a proven quarterback in place until Justin Cogar went down with an injury in a preseason scrimmage. Now it’s up to Larry Cook Jr., as his father makes his debut as the Renegades head coach.
PikeView has gone to a spread look to try to put new life into its offense after a disappointing couple of seasons. The Panthers have some weapons to do just that with Hunter Moses and Joe Jennings in the backfield. Quarterback Chris McBride returns with another year of experience under his belt.
Summers County has a new coach, Nate Tanner, but not much else has changed on a team that finished 7-4 and made the Class AA playoffs last season. Isaiah Brown and T.J. Smith are playmakers on both sides of the ball, and Matt Ryan came on strong at wide receiver as a freshman last season.
River View at
Gehrig Justice is the new head coach at RiverView, where the Raiders will be installing a run-oriented offense, similar to the zone read attack Rich Rodriguez used during his time at West Virginia. Jordan Wilson and Greg Marshall will be the featured backs in that scheme.
Mount View snapped a 33-game losing streak last year, and second-year coach Todd McCoy is confident the Golden Knights can begin to climb to the top with 10 starters back on offense and the entire defense returning.
Wyoming East at Mingo Central
The Warriors were a Class AA playoff team last year and are looking to get back there again — and take another step with a victory — with the return of one of the state’s top rushing threats, Jacob Summe. Christian Hedinger is also back and can be a go-to guy in the passing game.
The Miners from Mingo Central are coached by Yogi Kinder and had a strong season last year, finishing 5-5 with losses to some quality teams, including Wyoming East, which won 19-16 last season.
The battle for the Wagon Wheel trophy is always a good one, and Webster County wants that prized possession back. Richwood, though is looking to improve from a 3-6 season a year ago and has Michael Adams ready to fill the shoes of the departed Zach Bennett as the featured running back.
The Highlanders have a new coach in Wes Eddy and feature 11 seniors on a team that went 4-6 last year.
The Greyhounds have been to the Class A playoffs three times in the last four seasons under veteran head coach Benny Hopkins, and they’re looking to get back there again with senior quarterback Raeshawn Breckenridge leading the way. He should get some time to use his arms and his legs behind a solid offensive line.
Wirt County will use an up-tempo offense and try to wear down its opponent. The Tigers believe they are conditioned well enough to play fast.
The Bulldogs won just two games last year, a major step down after a pair of seven-win seasons the two previous years.
Meadow Bridge had a solid 8-2 regular season last year, riding the back of standout running back Jake Parker, who rushed for almost 2,500 yards on the way to a Class AA playoff appearance. Parker’s back and that makes the Wildcats a huge challenge for anybody they’ll face this season.
The winless season that the Pirates suffered through in 2012 was far from the norm. A perennial playoff team, Fayetteville just couldn’t get things going last fall.
Veteran coach Frank Spangler hopes it was just a temporary lull, and he has some key players back, including 10 seniors.
The opener won’t be an easy one, though. Wahama finished 14-0 last season and won a state championship.
This year’s version is a little younger, after much of that team was lost to graduation, but the White Falcons are still the defending champs and have plenty of players who have tasted playoff success.
Area high school football teams hit the field tonight to open 2013 campaign
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