High school football: Crouser, Wellman to settle debate
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Tastes great!
It's an ongoing debate - taking place with varying degrees of civility - that has been a hot topic among Class AAA high school football fans for the better part of two years.
Who is better, George Washington's Dustin Crouser or Spring Valley's Elijah Wellman?
Both are listed at 6-foot-3 and between 225 (Crouser) and 232 (Wellman) pounds.
Both play linebacker and fullback. Both have accepted scholarship offers to NCAA Division I programs.
Both are in pursuit of the Huff Award, given each year to the state's top defensive player and - more importantly to tonight - in pursuit of favorable positioning in the race for a Class AAA playoff spot.
"They're the two best linebackers in the state, in my opinion," Spring Valley Coach Brad Dingess said Thursday.
"The thing is they're so much alike that they could trade uniforms and go back out there, and it'd take people a few minutes to figure out which is which.
"They resemble each other and the play the game in very similar fashion."
Crouser finished runner-up to 2011 Huff Award winner Logan Jenkins from Martinsburg, while Wellman was not a finalist for the award.
Instead, Huntington-area defenders Allen Bryant from Wayne and Ryan Reidel from Cabell Midland were nominated for the award by Huntington media.
It has mattered little in 2012.
Wellman has already accepted a scholarship offer to play at West Virginia, where he is expected to play fullback.
"He's a hard-nosed player who can hurt you on either side of the ball," George Washington Coach Steve Edwards Jr. said of Wellman. "On offense, he's a tough, straight-ahead runner who's hard to bring down. On defense, you'd better make sure you get a hat on him or he's going to cause all sorts of problems. He's the kind of guy his team rallies around, and those kinds of guys are dangerous."
Edwards acknowledged that his words of praise could be equally applied to his own player, who will play college football at Charlotte.
"I'd hope other people would say so. I think he - both of them, really - are among the best the state has to offer."
Spring Valley (3-2) enters tonight's 7:30 p.m. game against the Patriots (4-1) at Steve Edwards Sr. Field riding a three-game win streak that followed consecutive losses to Cabell Midland (6-0) and Huntington (4-1) to open the season. Dingess said much of the blame for those early losses could be placed on his shoulders.
"The first game, we had a lot of guys who were returning starters but we had them in new positions," he said. "The second week, I got the bright idea to put Wellman at tailback, and that didn't work out too well, either."
Since then, the Timberwolves have reverted to their traditional wing-T offense with eye-popping results. They have averaged 42 points per game in wins over South Charleston, Beckley and Greenbrier East. Wellman has been the biggest beneficiary of the offensive switch. After a slow start to the season - Spring Valley scored 13 points against Midland and was shut out by Huntington - Wellman leads the team with 734 yards on 82 carries with six touchdowns.
"We've got to come out sharp, and I don't know how much rust we're going to have on us or how beneficial the rest will prove to be. It remains to be seen," said Edwards, whose team is coming off a rare mid-season bye week. The open date on Sept. 26 was created when GW dropped Lincoln County from its schedule and picked up a home game against Columbus St. Francis DeSales (Ohio) that is scheduled for Oct. 26.
The matchup between Crouser and Wellman that serves as the marquee showdown for the game relegates GW senior Ryan Switzer to a role he's not experienced since his sophomore year: that of the 'X' factor.
"Their big-play capability is my biggest concern. We don't have anybody who can duplicate Switzer's speed in practice, and it's one of those things you don't know until you see it in how to deal with it," Dingess said. "It helps us that they're not throwing the ball as much as they have in the past couple years, but (GW quarterback Trevor) Bell is the one who really hurt us last year, and they've got big-play capability all over the place."
Switzer, the 2011 Kennedy Award winner as the state's top player, leads the Patriots with 881 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns on 59 carries. Crouser, who shouldered much of the offensive burden for GW when Switzer missed nearly two games with a concussion early this season, has 374 yards on 51 carries.
Bell has completed 24 of 47 passes for 345 yards, 3 touchdowns and an interception.
The Patriots are ranked third in the Daily Mail Class AAA poll. Spring Valley is seventh.