CHAPMANVILLE – The kickoff, if you will, to the 2013 season for the Chapmanville Regional High School football team got off to a somewhat rocky start back in June.
It had nothing to do with the team.
It was the grass at Tiger Stadium.
After the field was sprayed the vast majority of the grass turned to yellow and died.
What was left was a dead, ugly, dirt-patched playing surface – something you typically see in late October and early November after a field has seen heavy use after two months of football.
Chapmanville had a home 7-on-7 scrimmage scheduled in mid-June and ended up playing on the field anyway.
But after two months of ample summer rain and cooler than normal temperatures, the Tiger Stadium grass is thick and green and ready to go for another season of Chapmanville Tigers’ high school football.
It looks good.
If you wouldn’t have known any better you might have thought the grass at Tiger Stadium was a playing surface at a major college or even the NFL.
The only thing left to do is stripe the field.
For the Chapmanville Tigers, the team is hoping to look as good as its grass this season.
Chapmanville slumped to a 4-6 record last year and suffered its first losing season since 2005. Also broken was the Tigers’ string of five straight Class AA state playoff appearances.
Chapmanville is hoping to bounce back this fall and so far, the signs are good.
“We’ve got in the neighborhood of 50 players. I’ll accept that number. That’s a pretty good number for a Double-A school,” Chapmanville 10th-year coach George Barker said last week. “Anytime you can get 50 kids out for a Double-A program you’ve got to be happy. That’s a pretty good turnout. I don’t know of any football coach who says he has too many.”
Barker said his team had a productive June during the three-week summer practice period and so far regular practices have been going smoothly since the first Monday in August.
The Tigers are set to open the regular season on Aug. 30 at home against Sissonville in a Cardinal Conference contest.
“We had a good June and we had a good turnout and we had most of these kids that we have now,” Barker said. “We had a 7-on-7 at Concord and we had one here. We did a few things different because we have a new offensive coordinator (James Barker) and a new line coach (Ron Jones). I felt like that it was important that they establish themselves in June. We put in a lot of the offense and a lot of the defense, so as far as scheme goes, we think that we’re way ahead of things.”
The Tigers, though, have question marks at quarterback.
Max Spradlin, who was Chapmanville primary starter last season and also played some under center during the 2011 campaign, did not come out for football this season.
To fill the void, the Tigers are looking to sophomore Alex Berry, junior Nate Ramey and senior Jordan Toler to be the quarterback. Early indications have Berry as the Tigers’ projected starter but nothing yet is set in stone.
“He elected not to play,” Barker said of Spradlin. “But I’m real pleased with the quarterbacks that we have. Alex Berry quarterbacked our JV team last year. He was here with us in June and so was Nate Ramey. Those two are experienced with the offense. We’ve also got a newcomer in Jordan Toler and he looks super. Those three kids are doing a great job for us. I’m real pleased with what I’ve seen from our quarterbacks so far. But until you start playing you just don’t know what you are going to be. We’ll just see what happens but I’m real pleased with where we are.”
The Tigers also return a lot of starters and veterans from last year’s team.
Running back Devin Wiley, a junior, looks to be the feature back. Wiley, also a member of the Chapmanville track team, finished among the fastest sprinters in the state in the coveted 100-meter dash last May at the state track and field meet in Charleston.
Wiley is the last of the Wiley brothers. His older brothers David and Dylan were also star players for the Tiger football squad.
Chapmanville also has a couple of prime time targets at wide receiver in junior Zac Casto and senior Brady Cox. Three starting linemen – Christopher Brewster, Gabe Maynard and Rodney Workman – are also back.
Chapmanville is scheduled to see its first preseason action on Friday, Aug. 17 against the Poca Dots in the first ever Cardinal Conference Gridorama at Mingo Central’s Buck Harless Stadium. Game time is 3:30 p.m.
The Chapmanville-Poca scrimmage will be the first of four games between league teams. Barker said he’s never been on top of the mountain at Mingo Central but is looking forward to seeing the 5,000-seat stadium, which has played host the last two years to the Hatfield-McCoy Senior Bowl.
“The conference set this up with Mingo Central being the new kid on the block,” Barker said. “There’s a lot of people like me that have never been up there before. Everyone will get to meet up there and take a look at their facility. It’s on Field Turf so we don’t have to worry about tearing up somebody’s field if the weather is a little bit bad. It’s also a way for the conference to make a little bit of money. We’re kind of excited about it. We’re all in the same boat. Everyone plays everybody. It’s no advantage or disadvantage to anybody. We’ll play Poca in Week 4 but a lot of times in Week 4 that’s a totally different team on both sides of the field.”
Chapmanville has a second preseason game set for Friday, Aug. 23 against Class AAA Lincoln County at Hamlin. Game time is 7 p.m.
The Tigers then open the regular season the following Friday at home against the Sissonville Indians.
New to Chapmanville’s schedule this season is Mingo Central, which replaces Point Pleasant. The Miners joined the Cardinal Conference last year and replaced the Big Blacks, which are now a Triple-A school.
Chapmanville is scheduled to host the Miners on Oct. 18 in the first ever meeting between the two schools on the gridiron.
After the opener with the Indians, CRHS then plays Sept. 6 at Herbert Hoover, Sept. 13 at home against rival Scott and Sept. 20 at Poca before hosting Class AAA county rival Logan on Sept. 27 in a non-conference game. The Tigers follow that with an Oct. 4 home game against James Monroe in another non-league affair before going to Class A county rival Man on Oct. 11 in another non-conference game.
After taking on the Hillbillies, Chapmanville hosts Mingo Central and closes out with a pair of conference road games in Wayne County on Oct. 25 at Tolsia and Nov. 1 at the Class AA two-time defending state champion Wayne Pioneers.
Chapmanville’s annual Hall of Fame Game is the game against Logan on Sept. 27. The homecoming game is against James Monroe on Oct. 4. Senior Night is the Mingo Central game.
Since Chapmanville plays 10 games in 10 weeks there is no open date for the Tigers this season.
Chapmanville has a new offensive coordinator this year – James Barker – Coach George Barker’s son. The younger Barker had been the head coach at Chapmanville Middle School the last two seasons. He replaces former offensive coordinator Rob Dial, who has taken an administrative job with the school. The new coach at CMS is Dwight Dingess.
James Barker said he’s thrilled about the new job.
“It’s always been a dream of mine to coach with my father,” James Barker said. “This is really the first true year that we’ve been able to coach together. I’ve helped him out in the past and done what I could but being with him on the practice field the whole time and everything is real special. It’s something that I will always look back on no matter what happens.”
The new role will be a challenge, he said.
“It’s about making the best with what you have personnel-wise,” James Barker said.
The younger Barker is the third generation in the family to be a high school football coach.
George Barker’s father, the legendary Fletcher “Shag” Barker, was a former head coach of the Chapmanville Tigers.
James Barker made history the last couple of seasons when he coached the CMS Tigers in their game against the Man Middle School Pioneers, which are led by Man’s legendary coach Tootie Carter. James Barker became the third generation of the Barker family to coach against Carter in a testament to the Man coach’s longevity.
Chapmanville’s new line coach is Ron Jones, a former Virginia Tech player, who played for Coach Frank Beamer. Jones was one of James Barker’s assistants last season at CMS.
Coach George Barker’s
Year-by-Year Record at Chapmanville
2011: 9-4 (Lost 33-13 to Point Pleasant in Class AA state semifinals)
2010: 8-4 (Lost 56-14 to Magnolia in Class AA state quarterfinals)
2009: 6-5 (Lost 48-41 at Sherman in Class AA playoffs)
2008: 8-3 (Lost 33-0 to James Monroe in Class AA playoffs)
2007: 8-4 (Lost 41-18 to Bluefield in Class AA playoffs)
TOTAL: 54-45 (9 years)