NEWTOWN – The West Virginia All-Stars have a good blend of talent for this year’s Hatfield-McCoy Bowl.
Players from both locally, regionally and from out of the area give West Virginia a good mix.
The boys from the Mountain State hope it’s the winning formula as West Virginia looks to make it two in a row over the Kentucky All-Stars.
This year’s clash is set for Saturday at 8 p.m. at Mingo Central’s Buck Harless Stadium.
Mingo Central assistant coach Joey Fields is back to lead the West Virginia All-Stars for the second straight year. He coached West Virginia to a 37-12 victory in last year’s game. West Virginia leads Kentucky 11-6 in the all-time series dating back to 1996.
Fields said he’s excited to put on the headsets once again.
“I’ve heard people say, ‘In the Coalfields, they come out. They take their football seriously,’” Fields said. “Football and sports is what it is all about around here. It’s a good place to hold this game. Cliffs Natural Resources has also done a great job in sponsoring this game. The good thing about having them is that they are excited about being the sponsor. They want to do other things, too. They will be holding a cookout for both teams. It’s good for the kids and good for the game.”
With only five days to practice it’s difficult each year to put in an offense with players coming from a dozen or more different schools.
West Virginia found that out two years ago when it did not have a very strong offensive line and no true center but yet tried to run out of the shotgun.
Coach Fields and the West Virginia team will try to keep it simple and vanilla and will rely on its athleticism and running game.
It all starts at the quarterback position and West Virginia has a good one in Andrew Johnson of Beckley Woodrow Wilson High School.
The duel-threat QB and converted wide receiver, can throw it and can tuck and run – just the kind of modern-day quarterback that seems to be the norm nowadays.
In the 2011 season, Johnson passed for a Beckley season-record 1,439 yards and helped the Flying Eagles into the Class AAA playoffs. Johnson also rushed for 800 yards and was the only player in southern West Virginia to score a touchdown both rushing and passing, kick a field goal and an extra point and also throw for a two-point conversion.
Also a good player on the defensive side of the ball, Johnson was a Class AAA first-team all-state defensive back in 2012.
“Our quarterback will be Andrew Johnson from Beckley,” Fields said. “He’ll also see some time defensively at times of the game. He’s a great athlete. He’s done a lot of what we want to do on the offensive side, so he’s very familiar with it.”
West Virginia’s other quarterback is Logan High School’s Chris Marcum, who started in parts of three seasons for the Wildcats. Marcum, also a leading tackler at Logan, will most likely see action at safety in the Senior Bowl.
“Marcum will see some time at quarterback but he’ll mostly see time on defense,” Fields said.
West Virginia will be led in the backfield by Wayne’s Brandon Spurlock, the captain of this year’s Class AA all-state team. Spurlock led Wayne to a 14-0 record and second straight state title and rushed for 2,003 yards and 28 touchdowns.
Mingo Central’s Joe May could also get some carries, along with Beckley’s Ramon Edwards and a few others. Edwards is a scat back at 5-6, 150 pounds but is very quick. He ran for 758 yards on just 65 carries – an average of a hefty 11.7 yards per tote during the 2012 season. Edwards also scored four touchdowns and had another 245 yards receiving on 27 catches. In a 70-34 loss to Cabell Midland last season, Edwards rushed for 271 yards on just six carries, scoring a touchdown from 85 yards out.
“Spurlock will be our running back and Joe May will see some time,” Fields said. “We also have Ramon Edwards from Beckley.”
At wide receiver, West Virginia will look to South Charleston’s Travond Reece and Austin Pyles of Wayne. Khaleel Reynolds, a versatile player from Logan, could also be deployed out wide if needed.
“At wide receiver we have Travond Reece from South Charleston,” Fields said. “Another wide receiver will be Austin Pyles from Wayne. Our tight end will be Brandon Thomas from River View. He’s a tough kid and he was one of our North-South players. We played against him and he can definitely do the job.”
Along the offensive line, West Virginia will look to South Charleston all-stater Dominic Orcutt. The 6-3, 285-pounder was named to the Class AAA second team last year. Class AA special honorable mention all-stater Garth Simpkins and Logan’s 300-pounder Teddy Nelson also give West Virginia some size along the O-line.
“We have Dominic Orcutt from South Charleston and we also have Garth Simpkins, who was one of our football players,” Fields said. “He was one of the smartest football players that I have ever coached.”
Along the defensive line, West Virginia will look to first-team all-stater Anthony Bryant (6-1, 275) from Wayne, Tug Valley’s Isaac Parsley and Westside’s John Thornsbury, Fields said.
“Anthony Bryant from Wayne will see some time at defensive line,” Fields said. “He’s a tough kid. I coached his brother, Allen Bryant, last year and he was the defensive MVP in the game. We also have John Thornsbury from Westside and Isaac Parsley from Tug Valley. He’s going to West Virginia Wesleyan.”
At linebacker, George Washington’s Trevon Johnson and Chapmanville Regional High School’s Austin Watts are likely to see ample playing time.
“At linebacker, we have Trevon Johnson from GW,” Fields said. “We also have Austin Watts from Chapmanville. He will also be our deep snapper. He’ll do both of that.”
In the secondary, Logan’s Marcum and Reynolds, MC’s May and Davon Tyson of Capital, a Class AAA first-team defensive back from last season, look to be the key players for West Virginia.
“In the secondary we have Davon Tyson and Khaleel Reynolds along with Chris Marcum,” Fields said. “Joe May could also see some time, along with Andrew Johnson.”
On special teams, Logan’s Brian Craft looks to handle all of the kicking duties.
“On special teams, we should be loaded with the speed that we have,” Fields said. “I’m excited about that. Brian Craft will be our punter and kicker. He’s going to do it all. We put him on the roster on Sunday.”
West Virginia will also be represented by Man High School’s Marcus Murrell and Logan’s Brant Williams.
Mingo Central’s Israel Reynolds, Joe Hall and Joe Jackson are also on the roster as well as Aaron Muncy from Tug Valley.
Wayne’s James Egnor is also on the roster as well as Cabell Midland’s Gage Gould, a Class AAA first-team all-state defensive lineman.
Coach Fields said he knows Kentucky will be a tough team to beat with Coach David Jones again leading the Bluegrass State squad.
“He’s a great guy,” Fields said of Jones. “He’s great with the players. He’ll have them ready. They have a great staff from the coaches at Belfry. They win. They know what they are doing. They have 12 Belfry players and we have five Mingo Central players. Last year, it was nine Belfry guys and 10 Mingo Central players. Getting them all on the field … people just don’t get to see that. That’s the same thing with the Logan players going up against the Belfry players. This is why I enjoy this game, especially for our area.”
There are special rules in the Hatfield-McCoy Bowl, making the game more fan-friendly.
“You have to pass 15 times in this game,” Fields said. “You can’t blitz unless a team is going inside the 10-yard line. There is also agreed upon defenses.”
The Senior Bowl Game Director and founder is Mingo Central head football coach Yogi Kinder, who brought the game to Matewan in 1996. The Hatfield-McCoy Bowl has its roots back to the 1950s with the Kiwanis Bowl, which was played at Williamson.
“This is the 18th year and Coach Kinder has done a great job, along with all of his supporting staff over the years,” Fields said. “It means a lot to us. The kids love to play in this.”