MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- A few days before Martinsburg won its historic third consecutive Class AAA football state championship, Phil Ratliff watched the Bulldogs practice.
Dressed in a green-and-gold University of Charlotte warmup suit and wearing a ball cap, Ratliff watched the Bulldogs go through their paces leading up to the 38-14 victory over Cabell Midland on Dec. 1 in Wheeling.
While Ratliff watched everything during the practice, his eyes really were focused on lineman Eugene German, who committed last summer to the new Division I program at Charlotte. The 49ers will play their first game in August.
Ratliff, the Miners' offensive line coach, knows something about talent. He was an All-American at Marshall.
He just wants to make sure German remains in the fold, as does the whole Charlotte program. 49ers Coach Brad Lambert visited with German and his family last week.
"I like when they come up to see me," German said, "that they care and are excited for me to join them."
When he signs his letter-of-intent, German will be part of the new football program at Charlotte, where he thinks he'll get a strong opportunity to step onto the field next fall.
For now, German will enjoy being the winner of the Hunt Award as the state's top high school lineman.
He is honored today by the West Virginia Sports Writers Association, and is Martinsburg's second winner of the award. Steve Roach won it in 2001.
"I think there is no question he was the best lineman in the state," Martinsburg Coach Dave Walker said. "He definitely played like it through the playoffs. He had dominant performances in the playoffs, blocking people 15 yards downfield, pancaking them, driving people into the ground."
German, a self-described "Army brat" who even lived in Germany, anchored the line at tackle for an offense that averaged 51.6 points per game and a hearty 47.5 in the Bulldogs' four playoff victories.
Martinsburg, which graduated its quarterback and running backs from a season earlier, succeeded on the ground and through the air during a 13-1 season, part of a 42-1 run during their title spree.
German didn't even play on the first of the Bulldogs' three straight championship teams that equaled the state record of three titles in a row won by Charleston between 1968-70.