The summer practice period in West Virginia always gets me excited for football and usually leads to the start of my research for the upcoming season. An important part of that is going through the previous season’s All-State teams to see who is (supposed to be) returning.
This summer’s list of returning All-Staters paints a pretty clear picture in Class AAA as to why defending state champion Martinsburg enters 2017 as such a heavy favorite to repeat.
The Bulldogs bring back four first team selections, all on the defensive side:
- Senior lineman Tavis Lee
- Senior lineman Jalen Hesen
- Junior linebacker Dewayne Grantham
- Junior defensive back Zach Tarbett
Senior quarterback Tyson Bagent, a second team All-State pick last year, proved himself as one of the state’s top signal callers in 2016 as a junior. He will be without his best target from last year’s champs, however, with first-team All-State receiver Isaac Brown now at Millbrook High across the state line in Virginia. Martinsburg also gets second team running back Mikey Jackson back.
Even without Brown, the Bulldogs should remain big favorites in AAA.
- Class AAA runner-up Spring Valley should be very good again. The Timberwolves bring back senior quarterback and first team All-State utility player Derek Johnson and first team offensive lineman Doug Nester, a junior. Senior Owen Porter — a second team All-State defensive utility pick and Spring Valley’s first ever wrestling state champion — also returns.
- There are a lot of good quarterbacks poised for big seasons in 2017. In addition to Bagent in Class AAA, Wheeling Park’s Cross Wilkinson (committed to Toledo) is back for his senior season after first-team All-State honors as a junior. George Washington junior Grant Wells was a first team pick as a utility player/punter last season and will push Wilkinson and Bagent for All-State spots this season. Capital’s Kerry Martin Jr. was a special honorable mention selection after helping lead the Cougars to the state semifinals as a sophomore.
- Speaking of quality quarterbacks, Mingo Central’s Jeremy Dillion set the bar for expectations pretty high last season as a junior. All he did was win the Kennedy Award as the state’s top player while leading the Miners to the first football state championship in program history. He’ll have a choice to make this season when it comes to college options — football or basketball.
- Like Class AAA, both first and second team quarterbacks from Class AA last season return in 2017. Dillon was the first team pick with Lincoln’s Kobie Carpenter the second team selection. Winfield quarterback Andrew Huff, now a senior, was a second team offensive utility selection last year.
- I am going to miss Dylan Lucas’ bonkers stat lines for Buffalo each week. That kid was fun to watch for the Bison the last few seasons.