Super Six is here at last

Here we go folks!

One of the most exciting times of the W.Va. prep sports season is here once again!

After 689 games over three classes the last 14 weeks (yes, I counted), we finally have our six competitors for three gridiron state championships today and tomorrow inside Wheeling Island Stadium.

I guess you could call them the Super Six.

And what a collection of squads we have in attendance. With a combined record of 69-8, it isn’t hard to figure out why these teams are the participants.

If records don’t impress you, four of the six made the trek here last year and the other two are no strangers to Wheeling. All but one team has a state championship to their name as well.

Thoughts of a repeat tempt Martinsburg and St Marys too.

Dave Walker’s Bulldogs powered their way to a 13-0 season filled with little adversity outside of a comeback victory against Sherando, Va., 31-28, on Oct. 6. His team graduated a lot of experience, but had plenty of young talent returning for another chance at some hardware.

“Not really no,” said Walker when asked about any special motivation for this week. “We have to go out and practice and put in our game plan and make sure the kids know what they need to do and see for Saturday’s game. Both teams have played in big games before and know what to expect …. It should make for a great matchup.”

Senior quarterback and Kennedy Award candidate Tyson Bagent, along with West Virginia University commit defensive end Tavis Lee are planning on leading the Eastern Panhandle school to a sixth championship in eight seasons.

Standing opposite Walker and his team?

The opponent the Bulldogs beat 49-7 in the state title game last season – Spring Valley (11-2). Timberwolves’ Head Coach Brad Dingess admitted his team may have been a little star struck last season when they got to Wheeling but thinks this trip will be viewed as all business rather than a vacation.

“We fell behind early last year and we aren’t a team built to comeback from big deficits,” said Dingess.

It hasn’t been an easy road for Dingess’ team either. New pieces needed to be fit in and his boys played thirteen straight weeks of football after Week 1 was an open date.

“It has been a grind,” said the head man, who is looking to bring home the school’s first gridiron title. “We lost a lot off last year’s team too. We’ve had to grow a lot and fight through some injuries, but it is a good feeling to be back here again. We had to start a bunch of new kids and they are still underclassmen and I am so tickled to death the way they have grown.”

“We knew they were going to be good with a lot of people coming back,” said Walker on if he was surprised to see the Timberwolves again this season. “It is no big secret they are big and strong and come right at you. It is going to be a challenge for us because once they get those running backs going no one has really been able to stop them all year.”

Game time is noon Saturday.

St. Marys, on the other hand, did have to deal with some adversity. One year after his team was barely touched by the injury bug, Jodi Mote’s group saw key players miss time. Yet, the next man (or men) stepped up and the purple and gold went 11-1.

Pleasants County’s only high school could be a team of destiny after they went to East Hardy and slayed Chad Williams’ Cougars, who owned a three-year home winning streak.

“This is great,” said St. Marys’ running back Jaiden Smith on the 7 p.m. Saturday game in Wheeling. “Words can’t describe the excitement we have. We are ready to go.”

Nine-time state champion Wheeling Central awaits the Blue Devils in what Maroon Knight head coach Mike Young calls “a rewarding season.”

Better words couldn’t have been chosen after the five-time state champion coach was reportedly fired in January only to be rehired days later. A daunting schedule combined with young talent didn’t make for a good start to the season.

An 0-2 beginning mark could have been enough to fracture a young team, but things didn’t quite turn out that way. A 6-2 finish led to a five-game winning streak to send the Knights back to The Island for the eleventh time in school history.

Before either AAA or A get underway, Class AA receives the spotlight first at 7 p.m. Friday night.

Fairmont Senior and first-year Head Coach Nick Bartic are back with a different outcome in mind after Mingo Central took them down 32-7 last year.

But the Polar Bears aren’t concentrating on what happened last year.

“You keep that in mind,” said Bartic. “But our main focus is the opportunity we have to play for a state championship. That is our focus. Our guys like playing on big stages and this is going to be the biggest of the season.

“We have progressively gotten better and more consistent as the season has gone on from week to week. Now we will put it all together on Saturday. We just have to stay the course and are very excited to be here.”

Staying the course is a good thing as the Bears take on an undefeated Bluefield team that has looked to two of the most talented rushers in the state this season. Truck Edwards and Kennedy Award candidate Mookie Collier combined for 3,000 yards and 60 plus touchdowns on the ground.

Fred Simon’s team faces the best defense they have seen all year as the Beavers are back in Wheeling for the first time since 2007.

“You are very fortunate when it happens,” said Simon. “It is a combination of great coaches with me and great players who want to win that has helped us get this far.”

All the fun starts for me tomorrow morning at the all-state football meeting, before the countdown to game time begins around 3 or 4 p.m. I am so excited I probably won’t get a lot of sleep these next couple of days.

I’ll just chalk it up to the “Wheeling Feeling” hard at work once again.

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