The 2017 high school football season began on Thursday night, August 24th and on that very warm, late summer/early autumn weekend, 116 teams were set to go, all even and all with the dream of playing on a very late autumn /early winter weekend in December on the Island in Wheeling! And now, as that December weekend is just a few short days away, only 6 of that initial 116 have survived and when this weekend ends, that 6 will be 3!
This weekend the 2017 high school football season will end with 3 competitive games scheduled to be played on the artificial surface of Wheeling Island Stadium. The Class AA game will start the festivities this Friday night with a scheduled kick off of 7pm. The Class AAA game will follow at high noon on Saturday and the Class A game will close the weekend of football fun on Saturday night with that game kicking at 7pm!
Let’s look ahead to the teams still alive in each class and we’ll begin with the Class AA game set for Friday night! Making a return visit from last year are the 4th seeded Polar Bears of Fairmont Senior as they take on the 2nd seeded Beavers of Bluefield. On their way back to Wheeling for the 2nd straight year, the Polar Bears defeated #13 Keyser 34-12 in the 1st round, knocked off #5 Wayne in the quarter-finals 43-8 and then last Saturday afternoon in the semi-finals the young men from Marion County went on the road to take on the top seeded Miners of Mingo Central. The game was a rematch of last year’s AA title game that saw Mingo Central knock off Fairmont Senior 32-7, but this time around the Polar Bears pulled a major upset, winning 35-6! This year has been a fun ride for the Polar Bears and it started with the hiring of a new head coach as Nick Bartic took over for J. L. Abbott! Fairmont Senior will enter this Friday nights title game with an 12-1 record and that only defeat came in week #5 as the Polar Bears dropped a 29-27 game to Class AAA University. As mentioned, the Polar Bears opponent this week will be the 2nd seeded Beavers of Bluefield. Head Coach Freddy Simon and his crew is riding an undefeated season at 13-0 and they are back in Wheeling for the first time in 8 years! The last trip to the Island for Bluefield came in 2009 when the Beavers defeated Wayne 27-7 to capture their 10th state football championship (6 in Class AAA, 4 in Class AA)! For Bluefield, their playoff ride to Wheeling came rather easy as they outscored their 3 opponents 132-45 (#15 Braxton County 46-14, #7 Point Pleasant 49-17 and #3 Bridgeport 37-14)!
The Class AAA game will kickoff Saturday afternoon at Noon and this game will be a rematch of last year’s title tilt as #2 Martinsburg (13-0) will take on #4 Spring Valley (11-2). After defeating Spring Valley in last year’s Class AAA championship 49-7, the Bulldogs went into the off season knowing they would be a heavy favorite to repeat this year because a lot of players from that title winning team last year were all returning! Included in that mix was last year’s Bulldog quarterback, Tyson Bagent who, in last year’s win completed 15 of 19 passes for 220 yards and 2 touchdowns. Also returning for Martinsburg was leading rusher Mikey Jackson who ran for 134 yards and 2 more scores! This season, Tyson Bagent has completed 73% of his passes for just under 3,000 yards and has passed for 39 touchdowns. Add to that, the Bulldogs two best runners, Dewayne Grantham and Mikey Jackson have combined for over 1900 yards and 37 more scores and it is easy to see why Martinsburg is undefeated and back in the title game. Through the first three rounds of the playoffs, Martinsburg has outscored their opponents 164-28 (#15 Morgantown 61-0, #10 John Marshall 54-0 and #6 Capital 49-28)! As mentioned, it is a return visit to Wheeling for the Timber Wolves of Spring Valley and the boys from Huntington deserve to be on the Island this weekend just as much as Martinsburg! Unlike Bulldogs Head Coach Dave Walker, Spring Valley’s Head Coach Brad Dinguess had to replace almost all of his key players from last year and it took a while for the new additions to adjust! Spring Valley opened the season with a 14-0 loss to Huntington, but turned that around last Friday night as they went on the road and knocked #1 and previously unbeaten Huntington out of the playoffs winning a hard fought battle 10-7! The Timber Wolves had also taken out two other playoff opponents as they defeated #13 George Washington 31-0 and #12 Cabell Midland 15-0! It’s anyone’s guess as to what the score between these two teams will be this weekend, but one thing is for certain, they know each other well!
The final game of the weekend in Wheeling will be the Class A Championship game scheduled to kickoff Saturday night at 7 and that game will find #5 St. Marys looking to repeat as state champs as they battle #10 Wheeling Central. The Blue Devils come into the title game playing their best football of the season and they will need to continue that great play because Wheeling Central is not your typical #10 seed! For Jodi Mote and the Blue Devils, they have outscored their first three playoff opponents 118-35 (#12 Doddridge County 44-14, #4 Tug Valley 47-0 and #1 East Hardy 27-21)! The Blue Devils will be looking to grab their 2nd high school football championship while their opponent will be seeking championship #10! The Maroon Knights of Wheeling Central are 8-4 on the season and that regular season was as tough as any in the state! Head Coach Mike Young knows the game this weekend against St. Marys won’t be easy but he feels his team, because of that tough regular season, is as tournament tested as it can possibly be!
Look for all three games to be entertaining and a reminder, you can listen to all three championship games live from Wheeling Island Stadium on many great radio stations around the state and on line at wvmetronews.com!
We’ll talk with you this Friday night at 6:45!