CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- It's not exactly on the level of prematurely projecting the 2016 presidential election, but the 2013 Kennedy Award race is well underway before any team has even played three games.
The jockeying for position began by the time the sun rose on Saturday, Aug. 31, the morning after Meadow Bridge senior running back Jake Parker ran for 447 yards in the Wildcats' opening-week win over Van.
By Sept. 4, the Register-Herald named Parker its Player of the Week. Its online announcement of the award win included subtext asking the question, "Could the 2013 Kennedy Award go to a player from a small Class A-Coalfield Conference team?"
In truth, the answer is, "Not likely."
Parker threatened the state single-season record for rushing attempts as a junior and will likely do the same in 2013. Provided he stays free from injury he'll probably finish with well more than 2,000 rushing yards and land on the Class A All-State team like he did a year ago.
There hasn't been a Class A player to win the award since Jeff Swisher from Sistersville in 1986, the same season he crashed the pages of Sports Illustrated following an obnoxiously impressive performance against New Matamoras Frontier, Ohio, when he scored nine touchdowns and 62 total points in a 76-8 win.
Does 27 years of small-school Kennedy futility rule out Parker from contention? Of course not, but the modern Class A is not what it was in the mid-1980s. There are fewer schools, smaller rosters, fewer players and less talent overall across the state. The schedule Meadow Bridge faces is a detractor to his candidacy as well. Parker has 648 yards and nine touchdowns on 53 carries in the Wildcats' 2-0 start.
Another Class A player - Madonna's do-it-all quarterback Ross Comis - might stand a better shot at a Kennedy win, but his chances are only slightly better than Parker's. The Blue Dons (2-0), ranked second in this week's Daily Mail Class A Poll and the 2012 state runners-up, play host to No. 1 Wheeling Central (2-0) on Saturday night in Weirton, a game that will have more attention paid to it by sportswriters across the state than any Parker will play in during the regular season.
Most often it's as much about eyes as it is about stats when it comes to the Kennedy, which is why - after just two weeks - it's another Beckley-area player that might be the early frontrunner.
Oak Hill senior Jalen Jones has had standout performances in the Red Devils' two wins and has already run for 504 yards and seven TDs. Perhaps more importantly he's done it on the road and a good bit away from Fayette County, at Elkins and at Musselman, to be exact. Both of those opponents were playoff teams a year ago.
This means that Jones - a 2012 All-State player who ran for 2,194 yards and 27 TDs a year ago - is a household name in the sport, and has taken his show on the road into two separate regions of the state and impressed that area's voting members of the West Virginia Sports Writers Association, the same people who vote for the Kennedy Award in November.