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ALBRIGHT: Groundwork is set for LKC’s 75th birthday to be a memorable one

Give me as much Little Kanawha Conference athletic activity as possible!

Give me more of the coaches, teams and everything else that makes the league great!

Give me more of the heart-pounding, nerve-wracking action that rocks the Mid-Ohio Valley starting in late August to late May from Upper Glade all the way to Parkersburg and from Kidwell to Clay!

Give me more of the games, meets and matches that mean more because they mean everything!

And fill the eyeballs of everyone in the MOV with as much of all of it as possible for the LKC’s 75th birthday.

Football? Undoubtedly.

Basketball? You bet.

Baseball? Yup.

Track and Field? No doubt.

All sports? Bring it on.

As for a normal LKC season? Well, we can return to our regularly-scheduled, albeit still thrilling year of league sports, in 2022. Right now, it is about celebrating perhaps the best small school conference in any state as best we can – in style.

And that means getting one of the most competitive years ever seen in the history of the league playing out all across three seasons. No diamond jubilee would be complete without a big celebration, after all.

Fortunately, it appears the actions going to be scintillating. Simply taking a look at the fall lineup shows just how soon the fun can begin.

St. Marys goes for a third straight state golf team title. Parkersburg Catholic’s Blake Lewis is shooting for back-to-back individual titles in golf. Volleyball looks to keep its domination of the state tournament going strong with a tenth title in 11 seasons. Plus, there’s no point in forgetting cross country in all of this. Williamstown, Ritchie County and Doddridge County all have the firepower capable of keeping the boys and girls state titles in the league.

“It’s such an outstanding conference in every sport,” Doddridge County football and boys track and field head coach Bobby Burnside said. No doubt.

Oh yeah, and then there’s the pigskin athletes.

Oh man, where does one go when starting to talk about the gridiron sport. “You really kind of know what to expect but at the same time it is always a diverse thing,” Gilmer County quarterback Ean Hamric said of the league. “You never know who is going to surprise you.

“You always have the Doddridge’s and Williamstown’s at the top, but then there are some surprise teams.”

Exactly.

In fact, the Titans, who scored the program’s first winning season since 2016 last year, are on the rise. High rise, that is. Thomas Cogar’s group possesses a first-team quarterback, Hamric, plenty of skill around him, a seasoned offensive line and a defensive that has always been sure against the pass. But especially got better against the run in the offseason, so they are looking to make waves.

And Hamric and company aren’t alone. Blessed with plethora of returning talent, Wirt County’s staring at a chance the team hasn’t seen in quite some time – a return trip to the playoffs. Tyler Consolidated’s going to be much improved. South Harrison’s breaking in a new coach at a school with a strong football tradition. Roane County quite possibly owns one of the deadliest groups of skill position players in Class AA. Quite frankly, it is exciting all around.

Which goes double for the powerhouse programs like St. Marys and Ritchie County, along with Williamstown and Doddridge County. Heck, all four of those programs have state championship aspirations every year so when any combination of the four of them get together, it is going to be something special to watch.

That says nothing of the fact that when any LKC game takes place, there could be some unexpected excitement. Again, that is something special.

And that’s just all the celebrating and partying that can play out on the fall stage. Once we hit winter, things are going to go up yet another notch. To a place where many probably didn’t think possible after the excitement of two teams playing for state titles last year.

But that is certainly the case.

Refreshed with one of the most talented freshman classes in recent memory, Williamstown’s boys basketball team hops right into defending its state championship. Hopefully, Scott Sauro and company are keeping an eye on St. Marys in the process. The time certainly is now for Mark Barnhart and the Blue Devils. Everything’s in place with first-team Grant Barnhart back along with a wonderful supporting cast.

That’s just the boys.

Gilmer County’s sure not about to dwell on an unfortunate late season collapse. But the Titans need to keep a look out in their rear-view mirror for Webster and Calhoun County clubs ready to make return trips to Charleston. The Red Devils and Highlanders lost little and bring back their big guns. How could we leave out Parkersburg Catholic girls basketball? Marty Vierheller and Leslie Huffman aren’t going to settle for two championship game appearances in three years and no title.

Maybe this is a stretch, but that certainly sounds like a lot of excitement to keep the cold months plenty toasty around LKC country.

Then as perhaps the topper to a crazy first two seasons of the year, spring certainly can bring the last remaining gifts to the celebration. Big, shiny and gold, just like last year.

Wahama’s almost a slam dunk to repeat as state champions in Class A softball. Track and field teams beat each other up in season. “Many years the LKC Championship is more difficult than the state meet and that is crazy,” Burnside, who happens to also be the Bulldogs boys’ track and field coach, said. He’s not wrong. And that goes for both the boys’ and girls’ teams.

So, let’s get this LKC season started with a bang. One that is loud, proud and strong. The stage couldn’t be set any better, and everyone certainly appears ready to get this celebration underway.

Contact Joe Albright at jalbright@newsandsentinel.com.

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