By Paul Adkins
NEWTOWN – The Cardinal Conference took center stage on Saturday at Mingo Central’s Buck Harless Stadium as all eight league teams participated in the inaugural Cardinal Conference Gridorama at Newtown.
Chapmanville Regional High School got things kicked off at 3 p.m. as the Tigers took on the Poca Dots in the first of four preseason scrimmages.
Sissonville then played Tolsia, Class AA two-time defending state champion Wayne squared off with Scott and host Mingo Central played Herbert Hoover in the finale.
Coach Tom Harmon’s Wayne Pioneers powered their way to last year’s 2A state championship by blanking Keyser 35-0 in the state championship game at Wheeling Island Stadium. The Pioneers also won over Clay County (63-24), Nicholas County (47-0) and Robert C. Byrd (18-0) in the playoffs.
Wayne, which rolled up 84 points in a 2012 regular season game against Ravenswood, appear to be strong again this fall and are the favorites to win the Cardinal Conference title once again.
“You always start with Wayne,” Chapmanville coach George Barker said. “They have 80 kids out. I think that Scott thinks that they are going to be good. Sissonville thinks they are going to be good. Tolsia has been improved but sometimes you never know what you are going to get from them. Mingo Central also thinks that they are going to be good and so is Herbert Hoover.”
Scott has high hopes for 2013 after coming off last year’s 8-4 season. The Skyhawks beat Wyoming East 46-16 at home in a Class AA first-round playoff game but lost 53-8 to Keyser in the second round.
Mingo Central joined the Cardinal Conference last year taking the place of Point Pleasant and closed out 5-6. The Miners made it to the Class AA playoffs for the first time in their two-year existence but lost 61-14 on the road to the Keyser Golden Tornado in the opening round of the post-season.
Sissonville finished 5-5 and are looking for improvement, as are the Chapmanville Tigers, which were 4-6 in 2012 and saw its string of five straight appearances in the playoffs snapped.
The Tolsia Rebels are also looking for a playoff run in 2013. Last year, the Rebels were 5-5 after downing Chapmanville (40-32) and Poca (32-14) in their last two games.
The Poca Dots – Chapmanville’s preseason foe on Saturday at Mingo Central – went just 2-8 last year. The Dots beat Class AAA rival Nitro (48-34) in the opener and also scored a Week 3 victory over Buffalo (20-7). Poca then lost its final seven games. One of those defeats was a 34-33 setback at Chapmanville.
Herbert Hoover finished last in the league in 2012 with a 1-9 mark. The Huskies’ lone win was a 19-16 victory over Poca.
Barker said he thinks the Cardinal will be tough again from top to bottom.
“The thing about playing in the Cardinal Conference is that you had better strap it up because you are going to have to play some football,” Barker said. “We played Poca last year and we beat them in overtime. They had played a Triple-A school and beat them. Then I don’t know if Poca won a conference game after that. Once you get into your conference schedule it’s tough.”
Chapmanville has another challenging schedule this fall.
In addition to playing its seven conference games, the Tigers also take on Class AA James Monroe, always-tough Class A county rival Man and Class AAA county rival Logan. Chapmanville beat Man 20-0 last year and lost to the Wildcats by the same score.
Chapmanville also scrimmages another 3A team next week when the Tigers travel to Hamlin to take on the Lincoln County Panthers.
“That’s tough,” Barker said of the schedule. “We scrimmage a Triple-A school, we play a Triple-A school and then we play James Monroe and we play Man which is as good a program that there is in the state. And then we play in the Cardinal Conference.”
Cardinal Conference: How
They fared in 2012:
Wayne 14-0 (won Class AA state championship with 35-0 victory over Keyser)
Scott 8-4 (lost 53-8 to Keyser in Class AA second-round playoff)
Mingo Central 5-6 (lost 61-14 to Keyser in Class AA first-round playoff)
Herbert Hoover 1-9