When the Class A state championship was on the line in Wheeling recently, its outcome came down to two multi-talented football players.
On one hand, there was Williamstown senior quarterback/defensive back/linebacker Dakota Watson, who returned from a fourth-quarter knee injury to lead the Yellowjackets to their second state title and their first since 2008. Watson tied the game with a 1-yard touchdown run then, in triple overtime, hit Hunter Neely with a touchdown pass that was the team’s final touchdown.
On the other side was St. Marys senior running back/defensive back Jeremy Pratt, who helped stake the Blue Devils to a 20-0 lead early in the game then fought off Williamstown’s comeback that resulted in the game being knotted 20-20 at the end of regulation. It was Pratt whom St. Marys coach Jodi Mote called in the game’s final play, a two-point conversion attempt that was stopped short, giving Williamstown a 33-32 win in a classic.
The central figures of the title game were somewhat predictable, as both excelled throughout the season in getting their teams to Wheeling Island Stadium. As a result, Watson and Pratt were named as captains of the Class A All-State Team, as selected by the West Virginia Sports Writers Association.
“Dakota’s so good. He’s just so good,” Williamstown coach Terry Smith said. “I think, pound-for-pound, he’s obviously the best player in the state.
“I didn’t see the other guys (in Class AA and Class AAA) but he’s only 5-8, 5-9,” Smith said. “But whatever, he’s got a lot of guts. A lot of guts.”
Watson was named as the defensive captain and is listed as a utility player on the team. He capped his season with a Super Six-record 41 carries on offense, but also returned a fumble 67 yards to set up his own tying score early in the fourth quarter. While he rushed for more than 2,000 yards in 14 games, his defensive production was equally impressive. Watson had 115 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, two quarterback sacks and five interceptions. He returned two of those pickoffs for touchdowns.
Pratt captained the offense after rushing for 1,332 yards and 23 touchdowns in the regular season. Though he and St. Marys came up short in their quest for a first state championship in the sport, Pratt had a stellar season.
Players from Williamstown and St. Marys pepper the team, with the Yellowjackets landing four players on the first team and the Blue Devils being represented by three players.
Joining Watson on the team from Williamstown were senior offensive lineman D.J. Kerns, senior kicker Kade Kiselica and sophomore defensive lineman Trevor Hoosier.
St. Marys senior offensive lineman Bernie Northrop and senior linebacker Corey Stewart also made the list.
Clay-Battelle, which fell to St. Marys in the playoff semifinals, tied Williamstown with placing the most players on the team. The Cee-Bees finished 11-2, and were represented by offensive utility player Jarret Hockenberry, a senior, and senior wide receiver Tanner Bragg. The first team defense includes defensive back Cannon Brummage and senior punter Jacoby Steele.
Bishop Donahue also had four first-teamers, including repeat selection Jesse Padlow, a senior quarterback. Senior wide receiver Brett Moore also made the list as did senior linebacker Matt Vucelik and senior defensive lineman C.J. Huff.
Padlow threw for 2,280 yards and 23 touchdowns while rushing for 581 yards and eight scores. Moore caught 42 of Padlow’s passes and scored nine times via the pass.
Other repeat honorees included Buffalo senior running back Jordan Tucker, Greenbrier West senior defensive lineman Marquis Frazier and Moorefield junior linebacker Wil Schoonover. Tucker led Buffalo’s turnaround from an 0-10 season in 2013 to a 9-3 finish and quarterfinal appearance in the playoffs. He ran for 1,894 yards and 29 touchdowns and reached the end zone a total of 36 times.
Frazier led the Cavaliers defense with 96 tackles, including 21 tackles for loss, five sacks and two interceptions.
The remainder of the offense includes Notre Dame senior running back Santino Cava and linemen Chad Burns of Pocahontas County, Dustin Mills of Tug Valley and Ted Cassell of East Hardy. Cava, the career rushing leader in Harrison County history, finished the season with 2,051 yards and 26 touchdowns.
The defense is filled out by Doddridge County senior linebacker Wyatt Ford, Tug Valley freshman linebacker Jeremy Dillon, Meadow Bridge senior defensive back Ryan Church and Wahama senior defensive back Jared Nutter.
Dillon had a breakout year leading the Panthers to the playoff semifinals. He had 111 tackles, 18 TFLs, five sacks, two interceptions, five forced fumbles and six fumble recoveries. He also finished the year as the team’s leading rusher, receiver and scorer.
Church led the Wildcats to a 9-2 record and a postseason playoff bid. He rushed for 1,696 yards and 26 touchdowns to power the MB offense. Defensively, he registered 47 total tackles and three interceptions.
Gilmer County senior Austin Ratliff was named captain of the second-team offense, while Tug Valley’s Tyler Conley captained the defense. Ratliff ran for 2,286 yards and 29 touchdowns. He threw for 1,133 yards and 12 TDs.
Local members of the second team were Valley junior Henry Barron-Houchins, on offense, and Meadow Bridge junior Shane Harless, on defense.
Special mention picks included Valley's Tracy Conliffe and Meadow Bridge's Peyton Richmond.
Honorable mention choices included Valley's Seth Harmon and Fayetteville's Troy Farrell.