CHARLESTON, W.Va – Despite not making the playoffs the last two seasons and undergoing a coaching change in the offseason, optimism is running high for the Black Eagles of South Charleston.
Donnie Mays has taken over for John Messenger, who led the Black Eagles to the state title in 2008 and 2009. However, South Charleston has failed to make the playoffs the last two seasons, even though they went 6-4 a year ago.
For Mays, he is no stranger to the success the Black Eagles have had over the last few years. He served as an assistant for the last decade, including being the team’s offensive coordinator since 2008.
Mays will have several offensive playmakers at his disposal this fall. Sophomore quarterback Kentre Grier will begin his first full season as the team’s gunslinger.
Last year, Grier led South Charleston to a 4-1record, including a second half comeback in week four against Capital. Marquel Hampton and Kevin Forrest will be the top targets for Grier as the duo combined for more than 1,500 receiving yards and 18 touchdowns a season ago.
However, the Black Eagles will be able to do more than just pass the football, according to Mays.
“I think we have a pretty good running game with A.D. Cunningham,” he said.
Mays also expects L.K. Richmond and Chrisjamar Perkins to see carries out of the backfield.
What could especially make the Black Eagles dangerous to any opponent is the development of the offensive line.
“Right now, we’re trying to build our offensive line,“ Mays said. “We’re big, we’re just youthful up front. They are starting to get the grasp of what we’re trying to do in our run game and we really focused on the pass protection this 7-on-7 season. Our kids are picking up on what they should be checking in our protections.”
Of course, navigating through the MSAC schedule will be no easy task for South Charleston.
“The Mountain State Athletic Conference, we jokingly say, it’s kind of like the SEC of West Virginia high school football,” Mays said. “And you can tell that because we start off with a state playoff team in George Washington.
“Then we go straight into playing our rival, St. Albans. It doesn’t get any easier because the last game of the year is against Huntington High School,” he continued. “We did some 7-on-7 stuff with those guys and they are pretty good as well. From top-to-bottom, I would say our schedule is pretty tough.”
And, of course, Mays has been preaching to his kids about the importance of being focused for every game.
“We just have to go compete on every single down,” he said. “When we take plays off, then we start getting down because we’re giving up plays. If we get after it, then I think we have a very good shot at making the playoffs this year.”
South Charleston will play George Washington in its season opener Thursday, August 29.
- Wes McKinney