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ALBRIGHT: Who’s got two thumbs and is ready for some football?

Counting down to the high school football season upon the conclusion of the state baseball tournament lessens in length the more years I log as one of two associate sports editors.

Increased familiarity with an ever growing number of athletes and their summer activities provides our sports staff access to additional stories.

Excitment in the office increases not only for our ever expanding roster of solid pieces, but tonight roars up upon us faster than a Bugatti Veyron going from zero to 60 in three seconds.

Football is back in the Mid-Ohio Valley!

Convienently, our football tab hit newstands this morning.

Following the journeys of the three running backs on our front cover (Doddridge County’s Hunter America, Tyler Consolidated’s Mark Rucker and Parkersburg Catholic’s Jeb Boice) stands as a fraction of the action.

Though funny is America’s disdain for attention to himself, he and his fellow rushers have proven quite adept at the generation of said attention during their grid careers.

America cuts and jukes like few in the state. Rucker bulldozing through the opposition with the attitude of being the best back in the state suits him well. And Boice’s speedy approach provides limited options for opposing defenses.

Two-for-one deals may not get more enticing then the Tyler-Doddridge matchup Sept. 6 in Kidwell, either.

Last year’s version of the matchup was epic, a 63-42 win for Doddridge County. America ran for a school-record 454 yards and Rucker pounded out 194 stripes with a combined 12 touchdowns.

But of course, there are 21 other clubs partaking in the August-December journey.

We have teams rebuilding or reloading.

We have teams with a trip to Wheeling Island Stadium featured as a legitmate main course.

We have teams looking to build on surprise runs to the playoffs from last season.

We have teams introducing new coaches and schemes to their respective programs.

PHS replacing 26 seniors stands as one of the biggest tests head coach Mike Byus faces in his tenure at the helm.

It might be one of the most daunting in the area.

Gone are Byus’ No. 1 running back, quarterback, wide receiver and offensive lineman, 85 percent of the team’s offensive production, and the majority of the defense.

Doddridge County similarly graduated its two-year starting quarterback and a defensive lineman. Remaining however are the pieces to put the Bulldogs in an envious position. Hype stands high in West Union as 20 starters return to the field.

I also could feel the sense of brotherhood engulfing the current winners of 10 straight regular-season games on my visit for the Pigskin Preview to West Union.

Full steam ahead to Wheeling?

Williamstown’s defense brings similiar synergy as Doddridge’s entire team. Linebacker Eric Brown commands a critical unit for head coach Terry Smith as he breaks in offensive newcomers at running back and quarterback.

The 2018 state runner-up Yellowjackets’ opening opponent and Class A favorite Wheeling Central tests them right away. The Maroon Knights’ offense is commanded by Kennedy Award consideree Curtis McGhee III.

Smith knows, I know, everyone knows the Jackets will need to play a perfect game to grab the W. Even in a loss, the Yellowjackets grab vital information. Smith’s group learned lessons and adjusted after last year’s opener against the Knights, then advanced to Wheeling.

Could Williamstown fans be in for the same ride as last season?

Ritchie County, who would have faced Williamstown in the second-round of the playoffs last season, hopes to continue the wild ride taken under first-year head coach Rick Haught in 2018. Conversations with Haught earlier this off-season revealed the Rebels are well ahead of last year’s pace. He also feels the group can build on the turnaround from year one.

New South coach Nate Tanner’s preparation for the extension of the Patriots’ current postseason run to two years adds excitement to the 2011 Concord graduate’s debut season on southside.

The fun starts at 7 p.m. tonight on the campus of Wheeling University.

Contact Joe Albright at jalbright@newsandsentinel.com.

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