By Cam Huffman
Greenbrier West High School had a season to remember on the gridiron, finishing 9-1 in the regular season and winning convincingly over Meadow Bridge in the opening round of the Class A playoffs, before eventually bowing out on the road against eventual Class A champion Wahama 21-12 in one of the toughest tests the 14-0 Falcons faced all season.
The Cavaliers were rewarded for that run by members of the West Virginia Sports Writers Association, who placed a pair of West athletes on the Class A all-state first team.
Senior Zack Johnson, a 6-foot-3, 265-pound senior, was named to the first-team offensive line after leading the way for a Cavs ground attack that averaged 357 yards per game.
“He did a great job for us,” said head coach Lewis McClung. “He was a four-year starter, and I can’t think of anybody who played any more games than he did in his career. We made the playoffs every year but one, and I’d say he played 40 or 45 games. He’s a real experienced guy and a hard worker.”
Junior Malik Boatwright also made the team as a utility defensive player. Playing both quarterback and running back on offense, as well as defensive back, Boatwright finished the year with 416 passing yards and four touchdowns, tossing just one interception along the way. He rushed for 1,650 yards and 18 touchdowns on 194 carries, and he even caught a 16-yard pass.
Defensively, Boatwright had an interception, a pair of fumble recoveries and 45 total tackles.
Making him a true utility player, Boatwright also handled punt returns (8 for 176 yards), kickoff returns (10 for 298 yards) and kickoffs (26 for 1,130 yards).
“Honestly, I think he’s a tailback,” said McClung, admitting that he could put Boatwright just about anywhere and find success. “He’s a solid 160 pounds, and he’s hard to find behind the line of scrimmage. He runs through a lot of tackles.
“We used him at quarterback quite a bit, because he provided an extra dimension. And he throws the ball pretty well. He was a threat on punt returns, and a lot of people wouldn’t punt or kick off to us because of him. That made a difference in field position.”
Defensively, McClung said the junior was a sure tackler, especially as a cornerback in cover 2 situations.
Meadow Bridge also had a great season, winning eight out of 10 games before running into the Cavaliers in the opening round of the playoffs and finishing 8-3.
Leading the way for the Wildcats was junior running back Jake Parker, one of three running backs on the Class A first team. The 6-foot, 188-pound back rushed for more than 300 yards in three games this season and had four others where he topped 200, including the loss to Greenbrier West.
Parker crossed the century mark in every game, and he ended the year with 2,415 rushing yards and 29 touchdowns.
“We really built our offense around him,” said Meadow Bridge head coach Larry McClintic. “He was a workhorse for us. He stepped over and played defense, and he moved from safety to linebacker and made an impact there.
“He’s well deserving. He worked for it. He didn’t beat his chest and say look what I did. He just kept working and led our football team by example. After practice, sometimes we’d have to tell him it was time to go home. He wouldn’t leave the weight room.”
The final area representative on the Class A first team was Midland Trail’s Jake Grimmett.
After rushing for 1,245 yards and 15 touchdowns, and throwing for 536 more yards and eight more scores, helping turn Midland Trail from a 2-8 finish in 2011 to a 6-4 season in 2012 and a near playoff berth, Grimmett was sure to gain some recognition, but he actually made the team as a punter, after averaging 40.4 yards per punt. He had a long of 60 yards.
“He’s a very deserving young man,” said Patriot head coach Joe Dean. “He did a wonderful job.”
It’s ironic, Dean said, that Grimmett was selected as a punter, considering that’s an area of his game that was often overlooked with everything else he contributed.
“He averaged over 40 yards a punt,” said Dean. “He could flip the field for us, and that took a lot of pressure off our defense.”
Although it’s an individual award, Dean said landing a player on the first team is also a salute to the turnaround of his entire team.
“I’m very proud of this group of seniors,” he explained. “It started last year. They wanted to turn things around. This group of seniors pulled together and got us back to being a winning program.”
The captain of this year’s Class A squad is Magnolia wide receiver Stephen Rogalski, who caught 62 passes for 898 yards and six touchdowns.
Other members of the first-team offense are quarterback Ross Comis (Madonna), running back Drew Keller (Magnolia), running back Kane Roush (Wahama), offensive lineman Zach Killingsworth (Wahama), offensive lineman Scott Lowe (Wirt County), offensive lineman Tyler Menas (Clay-Battelle), offensive lineman Allen Pratt (St. Mary’s), wide receiver Josh Parker (East Hardy), utility player C.J. Burch (Wheeling Central) and kicker Garret Butler (Williamstown).
Landing on the first-team defense were defensive linemen Nate Guio (Madonna), Braxton Nolte (Wheeling Centeral) and Isaac Parsley (Tug Valley); linebackers Mike Adkins (Tucker County), Derek Barnhart (St. Mary’s), Kage Rohde (Magnolia) and Zach Wamsley (Wahama); defensive backs Levi Jordan (Buffalo), Hunter LeMasters (Tyler Consolidated), Derek Nestor (Tucker County) and Daniel Plaugher (Doddridge County).
Wamsley captained the defense after making 91 tackles and 4 1/2 sacks. He also had a pair of interceptions.
The area also has a second-team representative in offensive lineman Slayton Beard of Valley, a senior who helped lead the Greyhounds to the playoffs.
Special honorable mention picks from the area are Richwood’s Zach Bennett, Greenbrier West’s Josh Martin and Tyler Parker, Meadow Bridge’s Dustin Richmond, and Valley’s Cody Winter.
Honorable mention picks are Marcus Bailey (Montcalm), Ethan Barker (Midland Trail), Raeshawn Breckenridge (Valley), Cory Chambers (Richwood), Jason Grose (Montcalm), Kyle Killen (Meadow Bridge), Casey Stewart (Valley) and Cody White (Meadow Bridge).