Area players earn WV all-state honors
PARKERSBURG — The captains of the 2020 W.Va. Class A All-State football team, as voted on by the West Virginia Sports Writers Association, took very different paths to arrive at their honors. One went on a windy road, while the other traveled on a straight-forward journey.
For utility player Gus Morrison, Ritchie County head coach Rick Haught did not envision the junior as the Rebels’ full-time running back at the beginning of the season. The group from Ellenboro already had a dynamic back in senior Tre Moss. So, it wasn’t a requirement that Morrison line up in the backfield on every down.
“We set some things up for Gus to get him in the right position on some plays because we knew he was going to get more touches.
I really liked lining him up in space and running some wing stuff with Graden McKinney and him. But, no, we never thought he would be a full-time rusher,” Haught said.
Morrison would still be a versatile threat as well as the punter for a Rebels team among the upper crust of Class A. But those duties received an addition after Moss transferred to St. Marys.
Morrison then became the de facto running back. And while it took him a little while to adjust, the junior eventually showed a knack for running the football.
“I think by the end of the year or around the Roane game he was running between the tackles and started to get much more comfortable.
As the year progressed, he grew more and more adept at doing what we needed him to do. He was always an outside threat and very dangerous on the edge,” Haught said.
When everything was said and done, Morrison had racked up 1,104 yards on the ground with a 9.2 yards per carry average and 20 touchdowns on 120 carries.
He added 20 receptions for 483 yards on a 21.9 yard per catch average with 11 touchdowns. Then as the punter, he averaged nearly 40 yards per kick on 27 boots. On top of all of those numbers, at defensive back, he recorded 47 tackles, picked off five passes and broke up three more.
For Drew Clendenin, Buffalo leader Brian Batman faced no problems with where he would line up. The junior Bison standout had already led the team in tackles from his spot in the trenches during his first two season. So, there was little need to entertain the thought of moving him.
It was quite simple in Batman’s eyes.
“He just understands the game and plays with a lot of heart and hustle. He has a great attitude and does a lot of things you don’t have to teach. He has done a great job for us,” Batman said.
Nothing was different about Clendenin’s performance on the field in 2020.
He menaced opposing linemen with “great leverage off his blocks” and “ran down people on the backside.” Many players were unable to escape his grasp as he helped the Bison back to the playoffs. His 58 tackles, including seven for a loss and seven quarterback takedowns, along with one interception gave Batman a player many teams would have a hard time preparing for had Buffalo played in the postseason.
Joining them on the state’s smallest classification’s top unit are 28 other players.
Rounding out the offensive utility slots are a pair of seniors in Wheeling Central’s Jordan Waterhouse and Doddridge County’s Reese Burnside. The Maroon Knight was a deadly part of Mike Young’s offense and defense. Offensively, he ran 130 times for 1,005 yards with 13 touchdowns and six 100-plus yard games. He also caught 19 passes for 291 yards and three scores. Defensively as a defensive back, he picked off a pair of passes, recovered a fumble and had 27 tackles.
In just eight games, Burnside ran 108 times for 948 yards and 10 touchdowns. Alongside his rushing numbers, he caught three passes for 69 yards and two scores. Defensively at linebacker, Burnside recorded 39 tackles (27 solo), a tackle for a loss, a sack, two interceptions, and a pair each of forced fumbles and fumble recoveries.
His classmate DJ Devinney was named the kicker. One of his six (of eight) boots was a 21-yard game-winner against Ritchie County, too. He also punted 18 times for 30.6 yards.
The quarterback is Gilmer County junior Ean Hamric. The Titan received the most votes by far at the position after nearly leading his group back to the playoffs. On the year, he completed 91 of 143 passes for 1,516 yards and 20 touchdowns to six picks. He also rushed for 597 more yards and another eight scores.
Watching Hamric’s back are senior offensive lineman from five different schools in Sherman’s Hunter Bowling, Buffalo’s Park Michaels, Pendleton County’s Josh Alt, Greenbrier West’s Cole McClung, and Wheeling Central’s Andrew Burkle.
The two receiver spots went to Tug Valley senior Caleb May and East Hardy sophomore Dawson Price. Price finished the year with 26 catches for 534 yards and seven touchdowns. May aided the Bulldogs push for the top playoff seed.
Running backs are Greenbrier West senior Noah Brown, St. Marys’ Moss, and Pendleton County senior Dalton Dunkele. All of whom helped their respective teams to appearances in state semifinals
Brown ran 127 times for 971 yards and scored 17 touchdowns. But he wasn’t confined to the backfield as he snared 14 catches for 154 yards and four more scores.
Moss headed a multi-headed rushing attack for the Blue Devils with his 1,075 yards and 16 touchdowns. Meanwhile, Dunkele rushed 144 times for 820 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Joining Clendenin on the defensive line are three more players from playoff qualifiers. Williamstown senior Leewood Molessa, Doddridge County sophomore Adam Burnside, and Ritchie County senior Dakota Wayne help to form a staunch unit.
The Yellowjacket Molessa caused many problems for opposing offensive lines this year. Many opponents simply ran away from the senior. That was probably a good move. When he did get his hands on opposing players, he made sure they went down. Of his 54 tackles in seven games, 16 went for sacks and 16 were for a loss.
Wayne and Burnside were just as valuable as their counterparts. The Rebel senior took down 84 opponents with 18 tackles for a loss and 12 sacks. Meanwhile, 41 of the 59 tackles over eight games for the Bulldog were solo. Nine of them were for a loss, and six were quarterback takedowns.
At linebacker are four seniors who have played a lot of football in Man’s Erick Grimmett, Wheeling Central’s Vinnie High, St. Marys’ Darrien Bortey, and Wirt County’s Logan Powell.
Grimmett helped pilot the Hillbillies defense with his 67 tackles, three for a loss, one sack and one interception.
High aided the defending champions point-stopping unit with his 79 tackles, 13 for a loss, two sacks and two forced fumbles.
The Tigers made a return to the playoffs this year thanks to their defense. And Powell had a lot to say about it with his 135 total tackles, 22 for a loss, and 6.5 sacks.
Bortey was a member of one of the most experienced linebacker corps in the classification. Alongside Moss and Brennan Boron, not many opposing players who reached the second level escaped their grasp. Bortey, alone, recorded 59 stops with three sacks.
A veteran secondary consists of Greenbrier West senior Kaiden Pack, Summers County senior Keandre Sarver, Midland Trail senior Chris Vines and Buffalo senior Jackson England.
Pack recorded 25 tackles, a TFL, broke up six passes, picked off another and forced one fumble for the Cavaliers.
Sarver was in on 40 stops, including five behind the line. He also picked up a pass and deflected two more in just six games and a quarter.
Vines brought down 28 opponents and picked off four passes.
England racked up 65 tackles, along with his six interceptions.
Moorefield senior Atikilt Tamiru is the punter. On the year, he kicked 21 punts for an average of 27 yards with five of those downed inside the 20. His leg also was valuable to the offense as he hit four of seven field goals, including a 49-yard kick.
Filling in the role of defensive utility are Wheeling Central senior Payton Marling and St. Marys’ senior Boron. Marling joined Waterhouse as one of the top threats on both sides of the ball for the Maroon Knights. As a defensive back, he received credit for 55 tackles, including eight for a loss, one sack and a fumble recovery. On offense, he completed 13 of 18 passes for 158 yards and ran 65 times for 563 yards with six touchdowns.
At linebacker, Boron accounted for 49 tackles, three for a loss, a pair of sacks, along with three interceptions, a pair of fumble recoveries and one forced fumble. As the Blue Devils’ quarterback, he completed 44 of 100 passes for 806 yards and 10 touchdowns, and ran 121 times for 721 yards and 18 more scores.
By numbers alone, state tournament qualifiers dominated the top team with 27 of 30 spots. The Little Kanawha Conference was next up on the list with 16 spots.
Returning to the top unit were Molessa, Brown, May, Tamiru, Waterhouse, Clendenin and Alt. All of those spots, minus Clendenin’s slot, will be up for grabs next season, as will all but five other positions.
Williamstown linebacker Brady Ankrom was named captain of the second-team defense, while Pendleton County quarterback Isaiah Gardner commands the offensive unit.