CLARKSBURG, W.Va. — Robert C. Byrd averaged 35 points per game in 2017 as the Eagles finished the high school football regular season with a 6-4 record, good enough for the final playoff spot in Class AA.

“We were extremely young,” said Robert C. Byrd coach Josh Gorrell. “But I thought we grew week-in and week-out. I’m very proud of how we finished.

“We went down to Mingo Central (in the playoffs) and competed – we gained some valuable experience and extra practice time for our kids,” he continued. “I think we grew and that’s carried into the offseason. I think we’re ready to step up and be a contender.”

The challenge, though, with RCB’s young team a year ago came defensively as the Eagles surrendered 32 points per contest, including a 76-40 opening round playoff loss to top-seed Mingo Central.

“We have to learn to tackle people, let’s just be honest, if we can do that, that is what will separate us from being an average ball club to a great ball club,” Gorrell said. “We have to be able to fit the run correctly, get our coverages fixed and have kids step up, understanding down-and-distance, field positioning and what we’re facing. If we do that, we’re going to be fine.”

With 18 starters returning overall, the outlook is much brighter on that side of the ball heading into 2018 as those defensive fundamentals will be critical in the preseason.

“We were poor at tackling a lot of times and a lot of times we just blew coverages that we shouldn’t have,” Gorrell said. “We had guys running wide open. But, we’ve worked hard to get that fixed and corrected – the young guys have responded and I think we’re far ahead.”

Garrett Cullen,

Robert C. Byrd senior running back Ghovan Davidson rushed for 1,730 yards and 22 touchdowns in a first team all-state season.

All five starters return along the offensive line, the entire backfield is back and the Eagles lost just one receiver.

“Our strength is up front,” Gorrell said. “That has to be the base of what we do on both sides of the ball. Offensively, we’re we’re going to play to that strength, come out and run the football and get into some play-action. But those five guys up front are going to make a lot of noise.”

Senior leaders Robert Arnold and Jaden Marino are a couple of those standouts up front, while running back Ghovan Davidson, 6-foot-2, 220 pounds, will get a lot of the focus out of the backfield after being named first team all-state in 2017.

Davidson last year rushed for 1,730 yards and 22 touchdowns as a junior.

Sophomore quarterback Xavier Lopez also returns after throwing for 1,575 yards and 13 touchdowns as a freshman in 2017.

Senior Andrew Sponaugle is one of the leading receivers back in the mix as well.

“That’s a really good base of guys coming back,” Gorrell said. “We’re very comfortable with where we’re at with returning guys. We also have another excellent incoming freshman group with potentially 17 or 18 kids. We’re happy with how our guys have progressed. Overall, I think we have a very talented ball club.”

RCB opens up the 2018 campaign against last year’s state runner-up Fairmont Senior. The annual matchup with rival Bridgeport is set for Week 5 on September 21, along with an intriguing road game at Keyser in Week 3.

“We have some big games, including Bridgeport and Keyser,” Gorrell said. “But let me tell you something, Fairmont Senior is still loaded with all of those guys back. We have a big one in Week 1.

“We also have a much improved Philip Barbour team on there, Liberty (H) is growing and coming around,” he continued. “We have three really big ball games and the rest we have to come prepared and ready to play.”

2018 Football Schedule

2 08/31/187:30PMA – LINCOLN  
3 09/07/187:30PMA – KEYSER  
4 09/14/187:30PMH – PRESTON HIGH SCHOOL  
6 09/28/187:30PMH – LEWIS COUNTY  
7 10/05/187:30PMH – ELKINS  
8 10/12/18OPEN  
9 10/19/187:30PMA – LIBERTY (HARRISON)  
10 10/26/187:30PMA – NORTH MARION  
 wins: 0   lost: 0   ties: 0