Just like the Hatfield-McCoy Bowl the last couple of years, the inaugural East-West All-Star Classic will feature players from the Kanawha Valley.
West All-Star coach Gary Mullins of Logan High School has brought in 11 players from Charleston way to play for his team in this year’s clash with the East on Saturday night at Mingo Central’s Buck Harless Stadium.
The roster is full of talent from the Valley, dotted by names such as lineman James Walton of Capital High School, last year’s Hunt Award winner.
Walton’s Capital teammate, lineman Jaisson Dyer, is also on the West All-Star team, along with Edumond Harvey and James Richmond, a pair of talented Capital defensive backs.
Throw in fullback Jonathan Pittman (Capital), fullback/linebacker Eric McDaniel and wide receiver Taylor Clark of St. Albans, George Washington’s Jon Alexander (QB), Adam Huffman (OL/DL) and Austin Giacomo (WR/DB) and Capital’s Clifton Pratt (WR), and the West is loaded right there.
Logan’s County’s contingency in the game, made up of nine Logan players, a Chapmanville player and four from Man, are thrilled to be able to team up with the Charleston area footballers.
“We get to play with a lot of the players from the Charleston area,” said Logan’s Worm Street, a running back and safety with the West All-Stars. “They play in the tough MSAC (Mountain State Athletic Conference) and they know how to play football and how to play it the right way. It’s a good experience to get to play with these other kids.”
Alexander, who will likely start at QB for the West, has been impressive this week at practice.
“The quarterback from GW, Alexander, has got a cannon,” Street said. “It’s going to be an exciting game to watch and everyone needs to come on up and check it out. It’s going to be an experience to see.”
Man High School’s Jeremiah Beavers, a lineman, said it’s good to see all of the Charleston-area talent.
“It feels good to come out here and play with these people in the upper echelon of high school football,” Beavers said. “It’s a really great feeling to be a part of this team. I’m looking forward to the game on Saturday.”
Tracy Jones, a wide receiver from Man, said he’s happy to be able to start a new tradition with the East-West, which replaces the annual all-star game, the Hatfield-McCoy Bowl, which was played from 1996-2013.
“It’s an experience to be a part of the first-ever East-West game,” Jones said. “There’s a lot of talent and I hope to be able to get some playing time. I’ll try to do my best.”
West lineman Ty Yeager of Logan said team chemisty is the key to winning in an all-star game.
“It’s looking pretty good and we’re all working together,” he said. “We’re coming together as a unit. Everyone is working together and we’ve got good team chemistry. It’s an all-star game and we’re starting out something new. We want to set the bar and try to get a win out of it. We’ll see how it goes.”
Lineman Jody Butcher, also from Logan, said the skilled position players from Charleston should bolster the West team for sure.
“It’s going really good and we’ve got a bunch of good players from all over the state,” Butcher said. “We haven’t seen as much talent as that around here. They are pretty good and I’m excited to play with them.”
Jacob Vance, still another lineman from Logan, said the West has a good shot on Saturday night.
“To be honest, I think the team is looking pretty stout and I think that we can put up a good fight,” he said. “We have good skilled position players and good lineman. That’s a good combination and it’s something that I’m not really used to. We usually have one good or the other.”
Man’s Cayce Mullins, who could see some time at QB in the game, agreed in assessing the West’s balance of talent.
“It’s awesome to be able to get one more football game in,” Mullins said. “Of course, I love baseball but I love football, too. It’s going to be great to play one more. We have a lot of skilled guys both offensively and defensively. We’re pretty athletic.”
Logan’s Tyler Workman, a member of the West secondary, said it’s an honor to be picked to play in the first-ever game.
“Ever since I was 12-years-old I’ve been going over and watching the Hatfield-McCoy Bowl game and now it’s switched to the East-West this year,” Workman said. “It’s a dream come true to be out there on the field. This means a lot to me.”
Josh Rein of Logan, who led the Wildcats’ in receiving yards last season, said practices have been going smoothly this week.
“It’s looking pretty good. We’ve got all-stars all around the team,” Rein said. “Getting to play with each other is an experience.”
Logan’s Clayton Marcum, a West All-Star defensive back, said the team is full of good athletes from the Charleston area.
“I’m loving this and I’m happy to be able to play with my Logan teammates one more time,” Marcum said. “We have some good skilled position players from Capital. Honestly, what we are lacking in is our linemen but we’re not worried about that. Other than that it’s looking good. It’s all coming together. We’re all getting along and we want it to be a really good game. With the talent that we’ve got we hope he can get a few highlights.”
Kicker/punter Daniel Hanks of Logan came to the area only last year from Virginia. He said he’s thrilled to be a part of the East-West.
“It’s a different change for me because I’m from a different state,” Hanks said. “It’s one great thing to be in and I’m proud to be a part of it. I thank God every day. These boys are real good boys to play with. I’ve been working out some.”
Fullback/linebacker Tyler Vernatter of Logan said the West has a good blend of talent from the Kanawha Valley and in the southern Coalfields.
“The roster looks real good,” Vernatter said. “We have a bunch of skilled guys from Capital. They are real good and real fast and the quarterback from GW (Jon Alexander) is real good. We have a couple of real good linemen from Wayne. They are real big. We have a lot of speed from the players from Capital.”
Matt Chapman, a linebacker and fullback from Chapmanville, said he hopes the East-West game will be entertaining for the fans.
“It’s been a blessing,” Chapman said. “We have a wide variety of skill. We hope that we can put on a show this Saturday night.”
Man lineman Thomas Holt, picked to play in the game very late on Sunday, said he can’t wait for kickoff.
“There’s a lot of guys coming from up north from Capital and GW and they are very good,” Holt said. “It should be a good game and I can’t wait to see how both teams will do.”
Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. this Saturday night.