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Prep football: Coaches Walker, Vincent linked

PARKERSBURG -- There is a touch of legacy to Martinsburg's quest for a third consecutive Class AAA football state championship.

"It's really kind of neat. I never thought of it until after last season," Bulldogs Coach Dave Walker said Sunday of the connection between his current team and the Charleston High School teams of 1968, '69 and '70 that were the only Class AAA teams to win three consecutive state titles.

Those Mountain Lion teams were coached by Frank Vincent, who later coached Walker at Glenville State College (1983-86).

"Me and Coach Vincent were pretty close," Walker said.

"We talked pretty regularly up until when he passed away. He was very proud of that accomplishment.

"To be in a position to be there with him (as the only coaches to win three straight championships) is kind of neat, but we're still a long way from that. There's been some other teams that have had the chance. It's not easy."

The Bulldogs (9-1) have the second seed for the 2012 postseason, and play host to No. 15 seed Beckley (6-4) at 1:30 p.m. Saturday in the first round. It is the second consecutive year the teams have met in the first round, with Martinsburg earning a 49-13 win in 2011.

"We're playing some pretty good football," said Walker, whose team features Ohio University commitment Cedric Brown (6-foot-3, 180 pounds) at wide receiver, Charlotte commit Eugene German (6-5, 260) at tackle and defensive tackle, and the athletic Justin "Cookie" Clinton (5-11, 175) at quarterback and kick returner.

"It's going to be a long road for us. We'll see," Walker said of his team's chances of winning a third straight title.

The last 10 years of Class AAA football have shown that Vincent had reason to be proud. There have been only four schools to win big-school titles since 2004, and each won in back-to-back years. Morgantown won championships in 2004 and '05, Parkersburg in 2006 and '07 and South Charleston in 2008 and '09.

A member of the Glenville State College Hall of Fame and the West Virginia Sports Writers Association Hall of Fame, Vincent died Nov. 26, 2010.

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WHILE NO. 7 seed Capital (7-3) has raised eyebrows in recent weeks by its ability to run away with wins against No. 3 George Washington (8-2), Beckley and No. 4 Huntington (8-2), there is another team that has also used a heavy dose of young players to earn a home game in the first round.

"Next year will be the best University team since I've been here," Hawks Coach John Kelley said. "We're primarily a junior-laden team. I've got 12 seniors, but probably five or six are major contributors ... Everywhere we look on the offense and defense we've got kids coming back."

University has the sixth-seed this year, and plays 11th-seeded Lewis County (8-2) on Friday night. University beat the Minutemen 35-7 in a mutual season opener on Aug. 24 in Morgantown.

Kelley and the Hawks have numerous feathers in their collective cap, as a number of different players have shown the ability to run the team's offense with success this season. Although the team took a 20-14 loss at Class AA No. 3 seed Bridgeport on Oct. 5, junior receiver Jack Armstrong (6-0, 160) filled in at quarterback for injured junior starter Travis Renner (5-9, 179) in that game.

"I've said throughout the year that I've never seen as much depth at a position for us as we have at quarterback right now. I've got three guys who I think would start for most triple-A teams," Kelley said.

Sophomore Jeremy Eckels (5-10, 177) is the Hawks' third option under center.

"I don't know if they're ahead of schedule, really, because those two classes (the sophomores and juniors) had two undefeated freshman seasons back-to-back, and I think it's more just a continuation of growth and strength," Kelley said.

Tight end Tony Richardson (6-2, 2000) and sophomore cornerback Jace Neville (5-7, 155) are other underclassmen that could prove to pivotal for the Hawks' chances not only this year but in the future.

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SPRING VALLEY, the No. 8 seed, will host No. 9 seed Wheeling Park on Friday while still looking for the school's first playoff victory.

Although the Timberwolves (7-3) enter the postseason on a roll with seven wins in their last eight games, Coach Brad Dingess is leery of being paired against the Patriots (7-3).

"I feel good about how we're playing, but I'm not too crazy about the opponent," Dingess said. "They've got a lot of athleticism and speed, and that has shown to cause us some problems."

In four games against winning teams whose success is built on speed and athleticism, the Timberwolves have lost to Huntington (17-0) and George Washington (42-7), but defeated South Charleston (37-36) and Beckley (41-12).

Dingess, whose team runs the wing-T offense, said Park's ability to stretch the field will force more changes within his offense than his defense.

"Ball control becomes even more important," he said. "We've got to be able to take some time off the clock and keep their offense off the field."



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