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MSAC Notebook: Huntington No. 1 in preseason poll; Spring Valley’s Shy earns praise

SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Coming off a 13-1 season in which it finished Class AAA runner-up, Huntington is a narrow preseason favorite to finish atop the Mountain State Athletic Conference in 2022.

The preseason poll for the 10-team league was released Thursday as the conference conducted its annual media day at Little Creek Golf Course, and with 93 points and five of 10 first-place votes, the Highlanders edged Cabell Midland as the No. 1 team.

“We’re excited to get to work, but potential is what you make of it,” Huntington coach Billy Seals said. “Anytime that you have a collection of guys that have worked really hard since January in the weight room, you have an opportunity to be good.”

The Knights advanced to a Class AAA semifinal in 2021, before bowing out to Huntington — which handed CMHS both of its losses in an 11-2 campaign.

Spring Valley and George Washington, both of which reached the quarterfinal round of the Class AAA playoffs in 2021, follow at No. 3 and No. 4, respectively.

Hurricane, a 2021 playoff qualifier now being led by former South Charleston coach Donnie Mays, was chosen fifth.

Parkersburg, which is also being led by a new head coach in Matt Kimes, comes in at No. 6, directly in front of Riverside.

South Charleston is projected No. 8 under first-year head coach Carl Lee. The Black Eagles qualified for the postseason last year, but lost a number of standouts from the 2021 roster.

The poll is rounded out by No. 9 Capital and No. 10 St. Albans.

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Nine of the league’s 10 head coaches were on hand for media day. The exception was Spring Valley’s Brad Dingess, who had a prior commitment.

Representing the Timberwolves instead was athletic director Tim George, who was previously a longtime assistant coach for the football program, but will now squarely focus on operating the athletic department as a whole.

“I coached for 14 years and it’s going to be a little bit of a change for me to just focus on the AD position,” George said. “Trying to coach, be the AD, have a family and do everything I want to do has been more than a challenge. Once we got into all this COVID stuff, there were weeks we were working 100 hours and that’s too much.

“I look forward to still being involved and around the kids and enjoying that, but it’s going to be a little different role for me.”

Spring Valley’s Cody Shy (32) stiff-arms Martinsburg’s Murphy Clement (2) during a first down run. (Photo by Marcus Constantino)

With a strong knowledge of a program that has developed into one of the state’s best over the last decade, George sang the praises of fullback/linebacker Cody Shy.

Shy is a senior who has been pivotal to what the Timberwolves do on both sides of the ball in the past. He’ll likely assume an even more extensive role in 2022.

“When you think about Spring Valley football, we always have a guy like that,” George said. “He’s that guy for us. He never says a word. Great kid, but he is a very physical football player. He’s hard-nosed. When you think about Wayne County football, that’s Cody Shy — and we’re proud of that.”

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Willie Washington takes over at St. Albans after Nick Watts stepped down following his fourth season guiding the Red Dragons.

Washington said the Red Dragons will “have a very young team,” but expressed excitement over a large freshmen class that he hopes pays dividends down the line for St. Albans.

St. Albans coach Willie Washington speaks during MSAC media day. Photo by Greg Carey/

In the meantime, the head coach stressed his desire for more community support toward a program he hopes can show improvement despite annually facing a challenging schedule.

“You have to have community support and the administration has been very supportive,” Washington said. “Right now, we’re trying to get the community behind us and that’s one of the toughest jobs as a coach. When you have losing seasons, you don’t sell tickets. We have to get into the minds of the people in the community that regardless of what these kids are going through or facing at the time, we have to have your support to be successful.”

Having been selected to finish last in the MSAC in the upcoming season, Washington is eager to get started when not much is expected of the Red Dragons.

“I look forward to having a decent season,” he said. “I’m glad we are where we’re at in this poll, because I have no high expectations. All we have to do is pin our ears back and let them play football. I told my kids when I watched their film they were like a milking cow. They produce a good bucket of milk, then they turn around and kick it over. That’s one thing we have to fix — don’t kick the bucket over.”

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