NEWTOWN — The West Virginia All-Star football team seems to have no apparent weakness.
That’s a good thing as the squad prepares for Saturday night’s Hatfield-McCoy Senior Bowl at Mingo Central’s James H. Buck Harless Stadium in Newtown.
Last year, the Kentucky All-Stars took advantage of poor offensive line play by West Virginia and the result was a 30-14 win.
Kentucky’s victory last year ended a seven-game winning streak by West Virginia in the annual high school all-star football clash and closed the all-time series gap to 10-6.
This year could be a different outcome.
West Virginia hopes to get back into the win column in the first-ever Senior Bowl to be played at the new Mingo Central field.
It all starts at the quarterback position and West Virginia All-Star coach Joey Fields said he has a couple of good ones in Ashton Cline and Jacob Staton, both of the homestanding Mingo Central Miners. Cline, also a punter, played last month in the North-South Game at Charleston.
“Ashton Cline will be the quarterback and Jacob Staton will also see some time in a few packages at quarterback,” said Fields, who is a Mingo Central assistant coach under Yogi Kinder, the Hatfield-McCoy Bowl Game Director. “It makes it easier when you have your quarterback that you had in the season. They know your terminology.”
Leading the way in the West Virginia backfield is the bruising Joe Street of Logan High School, another North-South player. Street, who ran for more than 1,200 yards for playoff-bound Logan last fall, was the MVP of the North-South All-Star Classic in Charleston as he ran for two touchdowns.
Street hooked up with Logan’s David Toney in the South backfield. Toney, who is headed to play at West Virginia State, was reportedly invited to play in the Hatfield-McCoy Bowl but turned down the offer. Street is a University of Charleston signee.
“We’ve got Joe and we also have John Bailey from River View and Thomas Forren from Westside in the backfield. Those are all good backs and they gave us a lot of problems this year,” Fields said. “It’s nice to have these guys on your team. You don’t have to prepare for them every week. It makes it a lot easier.”
LeShon Benton of River View and Man’s Shane Browning could be a pair of go-to wide receivers for the Mountain State team. Browning also played in Man’s secondary and was a quarterback in his prep career with the Hillbillies.
West Virginia looks to be strong along the offensive line. The West Virginia All-Stars had major issues there last year and didn’t have a true center. That spelled disaster as West Virginia tried to run out of the shotgun.
Many of the linemen are from Logan County including: Chapmanville Regional High School’s Caleb Belcher, Thomas Belcher, John Toler and Michael Watts; and Logan’s Matt Southers, Tyler Nelson and Marc Morris.
“It was rough last year but we don’t have a problem this year,” Fields said of his line. “I talked to G from River View (last year’s W.Va. coach Gehrig Justice) and he gave me some advice about this year’s team. He said, ‘Make sure you get a center.’ I’ve picked up two centers. The line is looking really good. As far as the line goes we are nine or 10 deep. These guys can play. Those are big, tough guys. I don’t think we’ll have any problem running the ball.”
On defense, Allen Bryant of Wayne and Mingo Central’s Austin Reed look to lead the way from their linebacker posts.
“Allen Bryant and Austin Reed will be key. Reed only got to play two or three games last year due to injury but was one of our best players,” Fields said.
On the defensive line, Toler and Benton of River View look to be the main specialists.
Corey Daniels (Mingo Central) will play cornerback, along with Forren.
Fields said his team should also be sound in the special teams as well.
“I have both the South punter and the South kicker,” Fields said. “Benton will be doing the kicking. He’s really good. Ashton Cline will be doing the punting. Those are two first-team all-staters who will be doing the kicking for you.”
Also from Class AA state champion Wayne are Clay Haddix and Paden Thompson.
“Those are tough guys,” Fields said of the Wayne players.