Another key to Kennedy winning is team performance. Every Kennedy winner has reached the playoff quarterfinals since 1989, when Morgantown's David Mayfield won without his team reaching the postseason. That was two years before the SSAC expanded the playoff field from eight to 16 teams. More recently, two winners - Fairmont Senior's Kyle Allard in 2006 and Scott's Jordan Roberts the following year - essentially clinched their Kennedy awards with impressive out-of-area road performances in the quarterfinals, at Nitro and Berkeley Springs, respectively.
There have been six Kennedy Award winners from schools in Southern West Virginia in the past eight years. While there are more voters in Charleston than anywhere else, that doesn't mean that a Southern West Virginia voting bias exists. On the contrary, there are fewer voters in the Southern half of the state because there are fewer news outlets.
The North has daily newspapers and sports staffs in Wheeling, Parkersburg, Morgantown, Fairmont, Clarksburg, Martinsburg and Elkins. Each of those publications employs at least three writers that are WVSWA members and thus have a stake in Kennedy voting.
The South, on the other hand, has two daily papers in Charleston and individual papers in Huntington, Beckley and Bluefield. The Williamson Daily News' sports department is a one-man operation, and the Logan Banner does not belong to the WVSWA.
The actual North-to-South ratio of voting members is 39-31 in favor of the North, so - once and for all - there is no Southern/Charleston bias when it comes to choosing Kennedy Award winners.
The early jump at position in the Kennedy race - George Washington faithful commented to me in the preseason that senior running back Draven Riffe could be a dark-horse candidate - might be a result of the wide-open field for the award this season. In each of the past two seasons GW's Ryan Switzer entered the season as the prohibitive favorite, and he ran away with the Kennedy both times in landslide results.
In 2010, South Charleston's Tyler Harris entered the season as the favorite since he had won it the year before as a junior. Harris did not win his senior year, in no small part because many voters left them off their ballots entirely in the fallout to SC's brawl with Hurricane at the end of their Class AAA playoff quarterfinal. Harris actually had more first-place votes than Magnolia's Justin Fox, who ended up winning the Kennedy.
There hasn't been this big of a guessing game regarding the Kennedy since Harris' winning season of 2009. That's a lifetime when it comes to prep sports, as no one even playing on Friday nights this season was even in high school at that time.
There's a long, long way to go before this is sorted out. From the early indicators, however, this year's Kennedy Award race could turn into one of the most interesting prep football debates the state has seen in years.
Contact Preps Editor Derek Taylor at derek.tay...@dailymail.com or 304-348-5170. Follow him on Twitter @ItsreallyDT.