INSTITUTE -Of the seven area players in the annual West Virginia North-South Football Classic -set for 7 p.m. Saturday at Laidley Field in Charleston, are two from Parkersburg High in Kyle Foster and Aaron Roberts for the North.
The 6-1, 180-pound Foster, the first-team all-state Class AAA punter last fall, was as of Tuesday at North-South camp at West Virginia State University "doing kickoffs and punting."
Foster explained that there is a wide receiver, Hunter Colbert, from Jefferson on the North roster who was a first-team all-state kicker last year.
Photo by Steve Hemmelgarn
Parkersburg High’s representatives in Saturday night’s North-South Football Classic in Charleston are Kyle Foster, left, and Aaron Roberts
"So I think he's probably going to kick extra points and field goals using me as a holder, and I'll do the punting and kickoffs."
Foster started out as a ball boy for the Big Reds "back a few years ago when they were winning back-to-back state championships in 2006 and 2007 with Zach Nolan and Josh Jenkins. So I've grown up being pretty good friends with them. I know Zach (now a PHS assistant coach) came down here and played in this game, and I actually talked to him about the game before we came down."
The North-South game "is just something you always thought you might get an opportunity to play in," said Foster. "So when (North head) coach (Bill) Haddox (of East Fairmont) called me to see if I wanted to play, there was no doubt I was coming."
Last season, Foster averaged 39.7 yards on his 42 punts. He had a long of 59 yards, and 11 punts inside opponents' 20.
So far, "we've practiced hard and it's been pretty hot, but worth it." said Foster. "I've met a lot of new kids down here, all-staters and others going on to play in college too" _ more he added, on his own North team "because we (the Big Reds) play more teams from the south, being in the MSAC. So I knew a bunch of guys on the South team already. And so far, there's been a lot of good memories."
On going to the University of Akron to punt and/or kick, Foster said, "Really it came down to having a couple of different opportunities -Kansas State, Arizona State, Marshall and then Akron. I really wanted to stay connected with West Virginia in some way, and that was the connection (head) coach (Terry) Bowden has with this state. Talk about a program that's going in the right direction, coach Bowden has really tried to build the program up, so I'm excited to be be going there."
Foster, going into sports management in college, will this fall at Akron be behind an all-MAC first-team punter who will be a senior and another returnee is the kicker, only a sophomore.
"They're definitely looking at using me as a holder this year, and then probably me stepping into the punting probably my sophomore year," said Foster.
"But I'm looking forward to working behind both of them for a year, trying to learn some things."
The 6-0, 200-pound Roberts, the Big Reds starting quarterback last fall, said that "there is one other QB (on the North roster) they use to throw (the ball). But there's a kid from Keyser (Cody Eversole) that just runs the ball -he's like a wildcat-type QB -and then they're going to use me for both."
To which, Roberts added, "Everything just depends on the situation, but since I can throw and run, I might end up playing a little more."
And Roberts is anticipating getting the ball out to "some quick guys for us" at wide receiver. "There's a bunch of talent out there."
On his prep grid career, "I had a great time at PHS," said Roberts. "But I just wish we could have done a little better -not for us particularly, but for the community. We did our best, we did what we could, but sometimes that just happens."
Last season, Roberts connected on 52 of 118 pass attempts for 10 touchdowns with eight interceptions, and rushed for 355 yards (a 4.1 ypc average) on 87 carries for seven TDs.
Roberts moved to Parkersburg from Virginia and was on the PHS team from his sophomore season on. "And I've been wanting to play in the North-South game ever since I've heard about it," said Roberts. "Zach Nolan told me it was one of the best times he's ever had as a high school player."
This fall, Roberts is headed to Glenville State to play football for the Pioneers, "because I just kind of clicked with the coach and the program. I feel like I fit in well with their offense, and I like the facilities. And where it's located, I'm kind of close to home, but far enough away where I don't feel like I'm still at home. I feel like I'll get that away-at-college feeling."
Roberts too is glad to have Foster with him at North-South camp. "I definitely think it makes it easier to have somebody down here that you know, that you can kind of relate with if you don't feel like being social," said Roberts.
On the game itself, "we're all here for a reason," said Roberts, "Everybody's talented on both teams. It's going to be fun come Saturday night."