Wheeling Central tops Class A list
WHEELING — Wheeling Central coach Mike Young is a believer that if each player does his job with the team in mind, that individual success is a natural byproduct. Perhaps no team in Young’s 48-year coaching career embodied that premise more than this one.
Because of that attitude, he said, to the victor goes the spoils.
That’s the case today, as six members of the back-to-back champion Maroon Knights landed a spot on the Class A all-state first team, as selected by the West Virginia Sports Writers Association.
“The recognition these kids receive is well-deserving,” Young said Monday. “Yet I never had one kid say ‘I need to run the ball more’ or ‘you need to throw it to me more’.
“What I did hear, was kids saying ‘I will go in and block; give someone else the ball.”
Nobody personified that more than junior Adam Murray. A fullback the previous season, Murray volunteered to plug a hole at guard for the betterment of the team. By the time the state championship game rolled around, he turned in his No. 55 jersey for the familiar No. 6 and returned to the backfield and scored a pair of touchdowns in a 44-15 victory against Williamstown.
“I’ll do anything for my teammates because I love those guys,” Murray said. “I’ll do whatever I have to in order to make sure we have the right ingredients to succeed.”
But Murray has made a name for himself on the defensive side of the football, where he recorded 172 tackles this season, including more than 35 behind the line of scrimmage. All that despite being sometimes double- and triple-teamed while playing with a broken hand and separated shoulder, earned him first-team captain honors. In the last two seasons, Murray has accumulated 326 stops.
The first-team quarterback is teammate Curtis McGhee III, who accumulated 3,199 total yards and accounted for 44 total touchdowns. McGhee was 132 of 201 for 2,357 yards and 33 touchdowns against three interceptions, while also running for 842 yards and 11 scores. This is despite missing three games because of injury.
“His two biggest qualities are his drive and his encouragement of his teammates,” Young said. “It’s contagious and kids feed of that.
“The passion he played with is what makes him the player he is. Curt is so focused on making plays.”
One of the lead blockers — and easily the team’s lightning rod — was senior offensive lineman Luke Duplaga. He helped pave the way for an offense that amassed 5,385 yards this season. Defensively from his nose tackle spot, Duplaga scored three touchdowns.
“He’s a spark, for sure,” Young said. “He gets people going.
“He’s done it game after game and not many people who play his positions get into the end zone like he did this year.”
Bray Price made the team as a utility player, and that suits him perfectly. Whether running the football (93 carries, 669 yards, nine TDs) or catching it (56 catches, 863 yards, 13 touchdowns), Price was the most electrifying player on the field each time he stepped onto one. That doesn’t even account for the damage he did in the return game or defensively, where he returned interceptions for touchdowns from 100-plus yards in back-to-back weeks.
“He took it to a new level because he wanted to,” Young said. “His goal was to be remembered at Wheeling Central.
“Not only has he done that on the field, but also in the classroom where he is a 3.6 student.
“I’m awful proud to say I coached him. He’s got much bigger things ahead.”
Somehow defensive end Vinny Mangino gets lost in the shuffle, but he’s become a four-time, first-team all-stater — twice at Bishop Donahue and now two times at Wheeling Central. Mangino had 62 tackles, five fumble recoveries and three sacks heading into the state title game, where he recorded an interception on the final play of his high school career.
“Vinny is surrounded by so many athletes that he is sometimes an unsung hero for us,” Young said. “When we wanted to shut down someone, we put him and Murray where they (the opponents) run the most.
“I’m sure as heck not running toward them.”
The final Maroon Knights honoree may have been the team’s most outstanding player, according to Young. Senior hybrid linebacker-defensive back Anthony Robbins recorded 75 tackles, six interceptions, 7.5 sacks, four forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. Oh, and offensively Robbins caught 43 passes for 926 yards and 13 touchdowns.
“He grew into a force for us and he was our most important player,” Young said. “When he was stiff-arming people … he single-handily won the Shadyside game for us with one hand.
“His development was so rewarding to me.”
Magnolia senior Sebastian Stickler was a big-play receiver for Coach Dave Chapman’s quarterfinal-qualifying club. Stickler hauled in 70 passes for 855 yards and 10 scores to earn first-team receiver honors along with Pendleton County senior Timothy Thorne.
Teammates joining Stickler on the top squad were defensive lineman Mike Hamrick and defensive utility selection Pat Mirandy. Hamrick had 43 total tackles to go with nine for a loss, three sacks, three forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.
Mirandy was assigned the other team’s top receiver on a weekly basis and did a little bit of everything. He had 2,257 yards of total offense in addition to kicking 30 PATs and a pair of field goals.
Cameron’s offense was centered around senior running back Andrew Ritchea. The Dragons earned a home game in the first round of the playoffs for a third consecutive season, thanks in no small part to Ritchea who had 173 carries, 2,049 yards and 32 touchdowns.
Tyler Consolidated utility man Mark Rucker becomes a two-time honoree. Still just a junior, Rucker ran for 1,503 yards and hauled in 546 yards of passes on 43 receptions. He scored a total of 190 points — 30 touchdowns, five 2-point conversions.
The talk of the state for most of the year was Doddridge County junior Hunter America, who captains the offense of this season’s squad. He rushed for more than 2,000 yards and 40 scores and is joined by Ritchea and Fayetteville’s Jordan Dempsey as the first-team running backs.
Up front along with Duplaga, are Doddridge County’s Cole James, Midland Trail’s Trevor Harrell, Sherman’s Layne Daniel and Williamstown’s Skylar Blatt. All but James (junior) are seniors.
A pair of Williamstown players round out the first offensive unit in seniors Boston Caruthers and utility selection Carter Haynes.
Midland Trail’s Hunter Jones and Mount View’s Ty Powell round out the defensive line along with Mangino and Hamrick. Elijah Barner (Mount View), Eric Brown (Williamstown), Luke Jackson (Ravenswood) and Cole Rapp (Tucker County) join Murray at the linebacker position.
The defensive backs are Sherman’s J.T. Hensley, Doddridge County’s Griffin Devericks and Summers County’s Christian Pack. Doddridge County’s Tanner Lett, who constantly flipped field position for his team, is the first-team punter.
All told, 18 Ohio Valley Athletic Conference players made the first or second teams. The second-teamers are Wheeling Central’s Payton Marling (DB), Cameron’s Hayden Hoge (OL), Tyler Consolidated’s Griffin Phillips (Utility), Magnolia’s Jared Barrows (Magnolia), Cameron’s Colton Dobbs (DL), Travis Mickey (DB) and Trin Scott (Utility).
“He’s a fire waiting to burn,” Young said of Marling, a sophomore. ”He saved us so much yardage on fielding punts and returns and he took away the short passes.
“He went into the backfield when Bray was hurt and ran the ball, but he would be the first one to tell you he enjoyed defense more.”
The second-team captains are Parkersburg running back Ty Sturm and Williamstown defensive lineman Ryan Brown.
Class A All-State Football Team as selected by the West Virginia Sports Writers Association
QB – Curtis McGhee III, Wheeling Central, Jr.
WR – Timothy Thorne, Pendleton County, Sr.
WR – Sebastian Stickler, Magnolia, Sr.
RB – Hunter America, Doddridge County, Jr. (captain)
RB – Andrew Ritchea, Cameron, Sr.
RB – Jordan Dempsey, Fayetteville, Sr.
OL – Luke Duplaga, Wheeling Central, Sr.
OL – Cole James, Doddridge County, Jr.
OL – Trevor Harrell, Midland Trail, Sr.
OL – Layne Daniel, Sherman, Sr.
OL – Skylar Blatt, Williamstown, Sr.
K – Boston Caruthers, Williamstown, Sr.
UTIL – Bray Price, Wheeling Central, Sr.
UTIL – Mark Rucker, Tyler Consolidated, Jr.
UTIL – Carter Haynes, Williamstown, Sr.
DL – Vinny Mangino, Wheeling Central, Sr.
DL – Mike Hamrick, Magnolia, Jr.
DL – Hunter Jones, Midland Trail, Sr.
DL – Ty Powell, Mount View, Sr.
LB – Adam Murray, Wheeling Central, Jr. (captain)
LB – Elijah Barner, Mount View, Sr.
LB – Eric Brown, Williamstown, Jr.
LB – Luke Jackson, Ravenswood, Sr.
LB – Cole Rapp, Tucker County, Sr.
DB – J.T. Hensley, Sherman, Sr.
DB – Griffin Devericks, Doddridge County, Jr.
DB – Christian Pack, Summers County, Sr.
UTIL – Anthony Robbins, Wheeling Central, Sr.
UTIL – Pat Mirandy, Magnolia, Sr.
P – Tanner Lett, Doddridge County, Sr.
QB – Kole Puffenberger, Pendleton County, Sr.
WR – Marcus Ray, Mount View, Jr.
WR – Samuel Wykle, Summers County, Sr.
RB – Ty Sturm, Parkersburg Catholic, Sr. (captain)
RB – Caleb Richmond, Meadow Bridge, Sr.
RB – Donathan Taylor, Williamstown, Jr.
OL – Bailey Riddle, Ritchie County, Sr.
OL – Max Cook, Doddridge County, Sr.
OL – Liam Fultineer, Mount View, Jr.
OL – Hayden Hoge, Cameron, Sr.
OL – Kolton Workman, Pocahontas County, Sr.
K – Atikilt Tamiru, Moorefield, So.
UTIL – Griffin Phillips, Tyler Consolidated, Sr.
UTIL – Austin Isaacs, Midland Trail, Sr.
UTIL – Timmy Persiani, Summers County, Sr.
DL – Ryan Brown, Williamstown, Sr. (captain)
DL – Michael Childers, Doddridge County, Jr.
DL – Jared Barrows, Magnolia, Jr.
DL – Colton Dobbs, Cameron, Sr.
LB – Tommy Harper, Sherman, Sr.
LB – Luke Hardway, Webster County, Sr.
LB – Cordell Lesher, Midland Trail, Sr.
LB – Austin Kelley, Doddridge County, Jr.
DB – Payton Marling, Wheeling Central, So.
DB – Nathan Hanshew, Midland Trail, Sr.
DB – Travis Mickey, Cameron, Sr.
UTIL – Devon Crum, Tolsia, Sr.
UTIL – Trin Scott, Cameron, Sr.
UTIL – Reece Nutter, Webster County, Jr.
P – Ben Callaway, Tucker County, Sr.
Special Honorable Mention
Brent Barnette, South Harrison; Ian Beller, Sherman; Jeb Boice, Parkersburg Catholic; Hunter Brewer, Clay-Battelle; Jalon Brunny, Parkersburg Catholic; Zach Cline, Ritchie County; Kaleb Crisp, Valley Fayette; Ryan Cross, Paden City; Jordan Dancy, Webster County; Gavin Dietrich, Madonna; Morgan Ferris, Midland Trail; Joey Frame, Gilmer County; Aden Funkhouser, East Hardy; Nate Helm, Notre Dame; Max Hilton, Ravenswood; Phillip Hull, Pendleton County; Caleb May, Matthew Jenkins, Moorefield; Tug Valley; Hayden Manns, Wheeling Central; Landon McFadden, South Harrison; Micah McGlaughlin, Mount View; Park Michaels, Buffalo; Dillon Parsons, Tygarts Valley; Owen Poling, Tucker County; Sammy Pullens, Fayetteville; Chad Ramsey, Greenbrier West; Matt Saxon, Paden City; Thomas Sessi, Madonna; Nick Sherman, Wheeling Central; Dillon Shinaberry, Pocahontas County; Pat Snuffer, Notre Dame; David Stewart, Van; James Stillwagoner, Magnolia; Gavin Streets, Valley Wetzel; Nathan Swaniger, Clay-Battelle; Josh Wagoner, Pendleton County; Jordan Waterhouse, Wheeling Central; Anthony Wince, St. Marys; Brennen Williams, Webster County.
Gage Adams, Magnolia; Jason Anderson, Paden City; Hunter Bowling, Sherman; George Brown, Valley Wetzel; Colin Bunting, Doddridge County; Christian Carper, Montcalm; Tyler Chaffin, Tug Valley; Garrett Cook, Madonna; Connor Cunningham, Doddridge County; DJ Devinney, Doddridge County; Blake Dingess, Tug Valley; Colton Dorsey, Greenbrier West; Hunter Emerson, Notre Dame; Jackson England, Buffalo; Logan Frantz, Fayetteville; Hunter Forester, Tyler Consolidated; Daniel Gorbey, Clay-Battelle; Brock Harlow, Notre Dame; Justin Hawkins, Sherman; Sean Hays, Clay-Battelle; Kenley Hickman, Ravenswood; Aidan Lucey, Cameron; Zach Lynch, Wirt County; Tatem McCoy, Ritchie County; Garrett Owen, Ritchie County; Drew Price, Van; Sam Romano, Notre Dame; Jake Rice, Tyler Consolidated; Matthew Ritchea, Cameron; Jesse Rose, Mount View; Keandre Sarver, Summers County; Mike Shreves, Paden City; Jasauni Sizemore, Mount View; Gavin Smith, Van; Wade Smitley, Parkersburg Catholic; Lukas Stephens, Meadow Bridge; Cam Stillwagoner, Magnolia; Joel Stophel, Parkersburg Catholic; Aiden Stotts, Parkersburg Catholic; Dawson Tharp, Webster County; Willie Walder, Tygarts Valley; Trey Waller, South Harrison; Daniel White, Tygarts Valley; Josh Workman, Van; Andrew Zedell, Hundred.