OAK HILL — With their numbers pared from five to three, Fayette County football teams commenced practice Monday for the 2019 high school season.
Class AA Oak Hill welcomed 50 players to Monday morning practice, while Class A squads Midland Trail (47) and Meadow Bridge (25) also took their first steps of the 2019 preseason.
The Red Devils, who finished 7-4 a year ago after a lopsided first-round playoff loss to Bluefield, will open the regular season with a 7 p.m. home game against Class AA foe Nicholas County, a frequent playoff qualifier, on Aug. 30. They'll do so, however, minus two huge weapons in their arsenal.
"We lost (seniors) Abraham (Farrow) and Khori (Bass), which is 4,000 yards of offense, so we've got to replace the quarterback spot and ... we lost a couple receivers," said Oak Hill head coach Jason Blankenship.
The Red Devils have three returning starting linemen (Marcos Ovalle, Lucas Goff and Nathan Bloomfield) and two starting receivers (Brandon Wisen and Braxton Hall) back to lead the way. Blankenship said upcoming practices will allow them and other returnees to mix with "a lot of new faces."
That will include 10 players from nearby Fayetteville High, which closed this past spring. Running back Eli Sedlock and running back/quarterback Logan Frantz are among the former Pirates who have made an early impact for their new team. While Oak Hill's roster features 10 Pirates, there were no Valley Greyhounds who came in to the OHHS football fold after Valley closed last year, too.
Of the Fayetteville additions, Blankenship said, "Most of the guys that are here have been working out with us in the offseason program. They've been here a few months now. They seem like they're enjoying it. Most of 'em got to wear some red and black at the seven-on-sevens, so they got that out of their system." Admittedly, though, "a couple green shirts" can still be seen, he added with a laugh.
Oak Hill will scrimmage twice at John P. Duda Stadium in the preseason: Saturday, Aug. 17 versus Summers County at 10 a.m., and Saturday, Aug. 24 against Man at 1 p.m.
"The scrimmages are going to tell us a lot," said Blankenship.
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In Hico Monday, Class A Midland Trail began the season looking to repeat or better last year's showing.
That will be no small task, as the eventual No. 2-rated Patriots started the 2018 campaign 12-0 before finally losing convincingly, a 56-8 setback to Williamstown, in the single-A semifinal round at Greenbrier East High School.
According to head coach Frank Isaacs, 47 players participated in drills Monday.
Three offensive starters return from last year, and four starters are back on the defense.
For the Patriots, two potential players from Valley are awaiting eligibility status. A ninth-grader from Fayetteville is also in the mix.
Isaacs said the Patriots have worked hard to prepare for the coming year. "We had lots of guys working out this offseason," he said. Many "new faces" are on hand in 2019.
Of Monday, he said, "The guys were very impressive today. We ran them a lot, but they seemed to be in pretty good shape, which is great news. I’m excited about this team and the opportunity these guys have to make a name for themselves. They’ve watched the class before them lay the foundation, and now they are determined to make names for themselves."
Midland Trail will scrimmage Gilmer County at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 17 at Hico. On Saturday, Aug. 24, the Patriots will host their annual grid-o-rama beginning at 10 a.m. Schools joining the Patriots will be Shady Spring, Webster County, Pocahontas County, Clay County, Lincoln County and Sherman.
Trail is slated to host rival Independence at 7:30 p.m. on Aug. 30 to start the regular season.
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Meadow Bridge head coach Dwayne Reichard and his staff greeted 25 players at Monday's practice.
Reichard said there "may be two more bodies out there" who could show up for later practices.
Last year's Wildcat squad went 5-5, winning its final three games. Reichard says five starters return on offense and six on defense as Meadow Bridge tackles 2019.
Solid participation in the summer three-week period and flex days have made things run more smoothly for Meadow Bridge, Reichard said. "We got quite a bit of work done," he said. "We're ahead of (where they normally are)."
"We had a pretty good first day," Reichard added. The attitudes are "real good" and players were "pretty high-spirited."
Meadow Bridge scrimmages visiting Sherman at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 17. The Wildcats will then play in a grid-o-rama at Independence on Friday, Aug. 23 at 6 p.m. before opening the regular season at home versus Van on Friday, Aug. 30 at 7:30 p.m.
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