CHAPMANVILLE — Just a few years ago the Chapmanville football team only hoped to win.
Now, the Tigers expect to win.
It’s been an amazing six-year run for the Chapmanville Regional High School gridders.
The Tigers have had six straight winning seasons, five Class AA playoff appearances and three post-season victories.
Last year, was a watershed season for Chapmanville football as the Tigers won two playoffs games — 26-7 at Lincoln and 20-14 at Braxton County before falling 33-13 at Point Pleasant in the state semifinals.
The Tigers might have lost to Point but Chapmanville had made their point.
Chapmanville was just one win away from reaching Wheeling’s Super Six and the Tigers had advanced further in the playoffs than any year in its history.
The Orange and Black hope to keep their winning ways going in 2012.
With plenty of talent back from last year’s 9-4 squad another trip to the playoffs seems likely for the Tigers. Chapmanville ninth-year head coach George Barker said his program hopes to keep up the momentum this fall. CRHS is scheduled to open the season on Friday, Aug. 24 at Sissonville in a Cardinal Conference contest.
“The kids see it in a situation to where they know that they can win,” Barker said. “A lot of times we had gone into games guessing but you’ve got to have that good, positive attitude before you go into any contest. I think all of this has changed our mindset. They expect to win.”
Chapmanville looks to be solid all-around but have lost several key linemen, including Joe Woody, John Toler and the Belchers — Caleb and Thomas. Toler, Woody and Belcher played in the North-South All-Star Classic in June.
“We have to take advantage of what assets that we have,” Barker said. “We’ve got a lot of kids back in the defensive secondary and we have to make that an asset defensively. Offensively, we’ve got the quarterback back and the tailback back. We’ve got a couple of other backs who did a good job at the JV level. We have to take advantage of what we do but we do need to rebuild up front. We just have to find out what this team does well and find our identity. Each team is going to be different and last year’s team is last year’s team. We just have to make this transition.”
Chapmanville returns its starting quarterback in senior Brandon White, who completed 51-of-109 passes last season for 880 yards and 13 touchdowns. He also is a threat to run the ball.
“He led us last year to the state semifinals,” Barker said of White. “That has to be a confidence builder. He’s more mature and he understands the mental part of the game a little bit better. He’s taken on a leadership role and he will do bigger and better things. Last year, we were trying to make him make plays. This year, he’s got to step up and make the plays.”
Backing up White is junior Max Spradlin. Also at quarterback, the Tigers have Nate Ramey and Alex Berry.
“We have a senior, a junior, a sophomore and a freshman,” Barker said of his quarterbacks.
At running back, the Tigers lose top rusher Tyler Cox (1,020 yards, 22 TDs) to graduation but return senior Dustin Smith, who had 739 yards on the ground last season on 124 attempts and nine touchdowns.
“Smitty was one of the conference’s leading rushers last year,” Barker said. “He’s Mr. Everything and can play anywhere.”
Also returning to the Chapmanville backfield is the speedy Devin Wiley. He’s the third and last of the Harts-area Wiley brothers as David and Dylan preceded him. Dylan Wiley, Chapmanville’s top wide receiver last year, has also been lost to graduation.
Trevor Payne, who primarily played in the defensive secondary last year, is also expected to get some carries this season for the Tigers.
“He’s a great athlete and we’ve got to get the ball into his hands,” Barker said.
Matt Chapman and Tyler Workman give Chapmanville a couple of bigger running back options.
“We’re expecting big things out of them,” Barker said. “They bring a whole new dimension to our offense with those two.”
The Tigers also hope to have running back DeShawn Alexander, who was ineligible to play as of early August when practices began. Alexander transferred to Chapmanville late in the 2011 season and played six games for the Tigers, rushing for 391 yards on 44 carries. He scored a 60-yard TD run in the Braxton County game and sparked the Tigers with 125 yards rushing on just 11 totes.
Chapmanville has a good receiving corp, led by 6-4 Brady Cox, who can play either tight end or wideout. Zac Casto is another top target.
“They are both 6-3 or 6-4,” Barker said of Cox and Casto. “They both have great hands and they are both great athletes. Both play basketball and they are good targets.”
Two freshmen receivers — Jacob Dingess and Ethan Thompson — also figure into Chapmanville’s plans as well as Austin Watts, Drew Browning, Tanner Dillon and Andrew Thompson.
“We’re really high on those two kids,” Barker said of Dingess and Ethan Thompson. “They played in our middle school system last year and we hope they can step right in there and do a good job. We’re expecting big things out of these two freshmen.”
Chapmanville’s offensive line has been hit by graduation but returning starter Gabe Maynard is back.
“We’re moving Gabe to center. That was his natural position,” Barker said.
Rodney Workman, a sophomore, also expects to start on the Tigers’ O-line at guard along with Waylon Dingess, a senior. Tyler Brewster and Dustin White are newcomers at the tackle position.
“We’ve got real good size — maybe not as big as last year — but I think that they will be more than adequate at the Double-A level,” Barker said.
Matt Dingess is another lineman pressing for playing time, along with Frankie Thompson, Zach Pridemore and Dakota Sowers.
“A good thing about this group is that I think that we can go two deep,” Barker said about his offensive linemen. “The kids have played in our system a couple of years now. It’s their turn to play.”
On the defensive line, Chapmanville loses Woody to graduation. He led the Tigers in tackles last season with 76 solo stops and 26 assists and also had 12 quarterback sacks, a fumble recovery and a safety. Also gone are Mark Lawson and Toler. Simon Anderson, a foreign exchange student from Denmark, also played a key role along the defensive line last year as a sophomore but has also been lost.
Pridemore, however, hopes to be one of the players to fill the void, along with Sowers and Brent Bigley. Backing them up are Dingess, Maynard, Thompson, Workman, White and Brewster. Dustin Conley may also see action along the defensive line.
“It’s tough to lose all of those kids that we had last year on the defensive line but at least three of those kids saw a lot of playing time last year,” Barker said. “We’re not inexperienced up there.”
At linebacker, Watts and Chapman seem to be the front-runners, according to Barker. Paul Workman, Bigley and Dingess can also play there along with a host of freshmen. Chapmanville lost linebacker Chase Queen to graduation.
In the secondary, the Tigers are strong, although starter Erik Siljeholm, a foreign exchange student from Sweden, has been lost to graduation. He had 64 total tackles last year.
Back for Chapmanville in the defensive backfield are Brandon White and Smith, who reeled in three interceptions last season. Payne, another starter, is also returning to the Chapmanville secondary. Wiley also figures into Chapmanville’s plans.
“Basically our whole secondary is back,” Barker said. “Smith is a four-year starter and so are White and Payne. We’re pretty experienced back there. This should be the strong part of our defense. We’ve got to let the experience pay off early in the year.”
Spradlin is back as Chapmanville’s kicker. Conley returns as the punter.
“Dustin is an asset for us at punter. He had several big punts in big games for us last year,” Barker said. “He made a big difference.”
In the Cardinal Conference, Barker said Wayne should be considered the favorite again to win the league this fall.
That’s for good reason.
The Pioneers are the defending Class AA state champions and are looking to reload this season.
The league has a different look this fall as Point Pleasant has left to join the Class AAA ranks. The Black Knights have been replaced by Mingo Central. The Miners, however, were not able to schedule all Cardinal Conference teams this season, including the Tigers which they will play for the first time in 2013.
“Wayne has just about everybody back from their state championship team last year,” Barker said. “I think Sissonville will be much improved and they will be looking for big things over there. Poca is Poca and they are always good. Tolsia will be better. They were young last year. Then you add Mingo Central into the mix and they are good. They’re in the league but we don’t play them this year. I think that it’s up for grabs but you have to give Wayne the first nod.”
Chapmanville plays six of the seven league foes — Sissonville, Poca, Herbert Hoover, Wayne, Tolsia and Scott. The Tigers’ non-conference games are against county opponents Logan and Man, James Monroe and Point Pleasant.
Aug. 24: at Sissonville, 7:30 p.m.
Aug. 31: Herbert Hoover, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 7: at Scott, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 14: Poca, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 21: at Logan, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 28: at James Monroe, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 5: Man, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 12: Open date
Oct. 19: Tolsia, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 26: Wayne, 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 2: at Point Pleasant, 7:30 p.m.