St. Marys puts four on Class A All-State First Team
PARKERSBURG — Wheeling Central Head Coach Mike Young had a feeling if his team could just get into the playoffs it could make some noise. At the same time, St. Marys’ leader Jodi Mote knew if his squad could get healthy they had a chance to return to Wheeling.
Each head man turned out to be right.
Young’s Maroon Knights and Mote’s Blue Devils were the two teams left standing after the dust settled in the Class A playoffs.
Wheeling Central took the matchup and the school’s tenth title after a 40-21 win over the defending Class A state champions on Saturday night inside Wheeling Island Stadium.
Not surprisingly, both teams were well represented on the Class A All-State First Team as voted on by the West Virginia Sports Writers Association.
Central linebacker Adam Murray, who finished the campaign with 181 tackles (80 solo, 101 assisted), 2 stops behind the line, 5 sacks and 1 fumble recovery, anchored a defense that propelled the Knights to their first title since 2011.
He saved his best for last. The sophomore, who looked unblockable at times, tallied 14 tackles (7 solo and 7 assisted) in the state title game.
Versatile defensive lineman Vinnie Mangino earned one of the four defensive line spots and was named captain of the unit.
Sophomore Timmy McCabe joined his Maroon Knight teammates on the top squad. He was one of the top 5 offensive lineman in the Mountain State’s smallest classification.
Meanwhile, the Blue Devils placed four players on the team.
Running back Jaiden Smith still managed to run for over 1,702 yards on 153 carries and 23 touchdowns, despite the fact he played on an injured ankle he sustained against Williamstown in the fourth game of the year.
This was the second straight year he finished on the first team.
Dylan Gray proved a menace for offenses to prepare for at the defensive end spot all year long. He ended the year as the second leading tackler on his team and added 18 tackles for loss.
Matt Eichhorn was the Blue Devils’ jack-of-all-trades in 2017. His can-do-it-all skill set snagged him a defensive utility spot. The defensive back finished the season with 50 plus tackles, 8 interceptions, 2 fumble recoveries, a forced fumble and 19 passes broken up.
Eichhorn didn’t stop on the defensive side of the ball either. He started at quarterback for two games, ran for 1,053 yards on 82 carries for 15 scores, and was a dynamic return man.
Jeremy Smith helped pave the way for the St. Marys’ powerful rushing attack and was awarded a spot on the offensive line for his contributions.
Williamstown’s Blake Neely, East Hardy’s Nick Miller, and South Harrison’s Nick Rush were the other three named to the o-line.
Rush’s main beneficiary of his blocking was running back Freddy Canary. One year after securing a defensive back slot on the second team, Canary rushed his way to a first-team running back slot after a senior campaign of 2,150 yards on 233 carries with 37 touchdowns.
Tyler Consolidated’s Mark Rucker and playoff qualifier Tug Valley’s Johnathan Blankenship were the two utility players.
Playoff participants in Midland Trail’s Thomas Ferris and Madonna’s Donavan Kirby filled the final two running back slots.
East Hardy maintained its’ stranglehold on the quarterback position. Clay Skovron gave the Cougars a person at the signal-caller spot for the third time in as many years. Skovron, who took over for two-time first-team quarterback Corey McDonald, helped Chad Williams’ team back to the semifinals for the fourth year in a row.
His favorite target Brett Tharp played his way to a wide receiver spot for the third year in a row. Tharp also was named captain of the unit.
Magnolia’s Brooks Parsons secured the other receiving slot.
Kicking duties fall to Ravenswood’s Ryan Cunningham.
Doddridge County’s William Howell, Summers County’s Andrew Richmond and Sherman’s Dylan Richmond joined Mangino and Gray on the defensive line. All three helped lead their teams to the playoffs.
Dylan Richmond finished the year with 88 tackles (28 solo, 60 assisted), 31.5 tackles for a loss, 7 sacks and 1 forced fumble, while Howell recorded 81 tackles (58 solo, 23 assisted), 17 tackles for a loss, 9 sacks, 2 fumble recoveries, 4 forced fumbles and 3 blocked punts.
Ravenswood’s Luke Jackson, South Harrison’s Cam Barnette, and Pocahontas County’s Mark Jordan were the other three linebackers next to Murray.
Jackson was the Red Devils leading tackler for a third straight season with 108 tackles (50 solo, 58 assisted) to go along with 5 forced fumbles, an interception, a fumble recovery, 1 blocked punt and 4 pass break ups.
Summers County’s Tucker Lilly, Clay-Battelle’s Gunnar Brummage and Notre Dame’s Ryan LaAsmar slotted in as the defensive backs.
Cameron’s Trey Scott earned the last defensive utility spot.
Scott’s teammate quarterback Colby Brown booted the ball well and took a utility slot as a signal-caller and punter.