By: Wes McKinney
Class A No. 10 Man at Logan
Both teams look to start the season in a positive direction after early exits in their respective playoff runs last year. Man lost in the first round to No. 12 Bishop Donahue in Class A while Logan fell to No. 4 Point Pleasant in Class AAA.
Logan has had the upper-hand in this series over the last decade, winning seven of the last nine games against the Hillbillies. However, Man has a wealth of talent back, wanting to knock off their Logan County big brother, including two-year starter and junior quarterback John Keffer.
“It’s the biggest crowd of the season for both teams, no matter where the game is played,” Man head coach Harvey Arms said. “It’s always been an exciting time for both towns.”
And an upset for Man over the Wildcats would present a multitude of bonus points that could be significant come postseason time.
“We feel like we have a variety of talent and we are just hoping to get the best out of them,” he said.
Meanwhile, Logan is looking to take the Logan County crown by beating Man on opening week before playing Chapmanville week five.
“Our number one goal every year is to be the county champion,” Logan head coach Gary Mullins said. “It’s hard to do that if you lose the first game.”
Four key starters return for the Wildcats in quarterback Ryan Miller, linebackers Jacob Browning and Jeremiah Spears, along with running back/defensive back Matthew Cox.
Class AA No. 1 Wayne at Tolsia
Wayne had its winning streak of 36 games snapped last year on Wheeling Island when it lost 14-13 to Bridgeport in the Class AA championship game.
“Losing cleanses the soul a little bit, but it’s not something you want to get used to,” Wayne head coach Tom Harmon said.
The Pioneers will look to get back to their winning ways when they take on county rival Tolsia in week one of the season. Fortunately for Harmon and Wayne, the Pioneers return quarterback Grant Ferguson as well as running backs Mason Hodge and Cody Stiltner.
Tolsia and Wayne, meanwhile, are separated by just 27 miles.
“Of course being a county rival, it’s a spirited game,” Harmon said. “The old cliché of ‘throw the records out the window’ is true. We’ve had years where we had good records and they didn’t and played us very tough. Going there to start the year, I don’t expect it to be anything easy.”
Riverside at Class AAA No. 8 Cabell Midland
Last year, Cabell Midland opened up the season by thrashing Riverside on the road 70-0 in what was the first game at Riverside for coach Steve Freeman.
“We’re going to prepare like we always would, because we know they are ready to come here and win,” Cabell Midland head coach Luke Salmons said. “Their coach is entering his second season and that first year is always challenging.”
The Knights will enter the week one matchup having to replace 18 of 22 combined starters from a team that went 9-3 and made the quarterfinals of the Class AAA playoffs.
Senior quarterback Coy Pettit and senior running back Alex Childers will be leading the offensive attack for Cabell Midland.
Salmons is looking forward to starting the 2014 campaign at home.
“The first game is always meaningful,” he said. “It’s the first game for the seniors, sometimes it works out where you get to start the season at home. I think it’s neat because the crowds are always big.”
Hurricane at Class AAA No. 4 Huntington
Huntington started off last season by holding a high-powered Hurricane offensive attack to just eight points, which spring boarded the Highlanders’ defense to giving up just 10.2 points per game on the season.
Huntington used that stingy defense to get to the state championship game in Class AAA before falling to Martinsburg in a 9-7 defensive battle.
“I think our kids took away a positive experience from being there,” Huntington head coach Billy Seals said. “I don’t think our kids are intimidated or scared of anyone.”
Huntington will open up this season against a Hurricane offense that is under first year offensive coordinator Scott Tinsley.
“With Scott Tinsley coming in, they are going to air it out a good bit,” Seals said. “They have kids on the outside that can make plays. It’s a timing offense. They’re a program year in, year out that’s in the playoffs. It’s definitely going to be a tall task for our program to get started on the right foot.”
St. Albans at Spring Valley
Wayne County was one of the first county school systems to return this year, starting August 5th.
That early start significantly cut into preseason practice time for Spring Valley and head coach Brad Dingess.
“We don’t have near as much stuff in our system right now,” Dingess said.
Spring Valley this year will play four of its first five games at home after beginning last year with four of five on the road.
“It felt like we were on a school bus forever,“ Dingess said. “Our kids are excited to open up at home. It’s better to kick off the season at home in week one.”
The Timberwolves will be led by offensive linemen Trevor “Shaq” Stacy and Alex Locklear, who are headed to Charlotte and Marshall once their playing days are over at Spring Valley.
Meanwhile, St. Albans will be looking to improve on a 2013 campaign that ended with a 2-8 record.
“They have some kids back,” Dingess said. “Their coach is great and they have another year in his system.”
Class AAA No. 7 Point Pleasant at Lincoln County
Last season proved to be one of the best for Point Pleasant at the Class AAA level as the Big Blacks finished the regular season undefeated and advanced to the quarterfinals of the playoffs.
This year’s team could be even better with quarterback Aden Yates, running back Cody Mitchell and all five offensive lineman returning to a team that scored 40.3 points per game.
Big Blacks head coach David Darst is looking for bigger things from the likes of wide receiver Jon Peterson and running back Cody Marcum.
“We are expecting guys like that to excel all year long and be the leaders of our team,’ Darst said. “We’re blessed with a lot of kids that can make plays offensively.”
Even though Point Pleasant coasted by Lincoln County 70-14 last season, Darst will have his team’s attention on Friday.
“We’ve had some hiccups on the road early,” he said. “A couple of years ago we went down to Tolsia when we had a pretty good football and lost to a team that wasn’t very good. We have a tendency, when we play on grass, to not be ready to play.”
A rivalry game with Ripley looms for Point Pleasant in week two.
“Our captains have done a good job of keeping everyone focused on our goals,” Darst said. “We don’t look ahead. Even as a coaching staff, we rarely look at anyone beyond the opponent we have coming up.”
Chapmanville at Sissonville
Hannan at Eastern, Ohio
Mingo Central at Wyoming East
Herbert Hoover at Scott
Tug Valley at Sherman
Meadow Bridge at Van