With the three-week June practice period still in doubt over the COVID-19 crisis, the Chapmanville Regional High School football team is looking ahead to this fall.
James Barker, the Tigers’ first-year head coach, is already making contingency plans for all the possibilities.
There could be a delayed three-week period in late July and that could bleed over into regular football practices in August for the 2020 season.
Or there may not be a three-week period and just practices beginning in August.
All of this is in the air as the virus threat begins to peter out.
Barker is ready for all these possibilities, and hopefully, the Tigers will be back on the field and back to normal. He said before the national shutdown in March his players had been working out in the weight room and the participation was strong,.
“Before the Coronavirus outbreak we had 50 guys come through our weight room,” Barker said. “Those included our returning players, eighth graders who were going to be coming up as freshmen and also other kids who expressed interest in playing football. Out of those 52 kids we had about 80 percent attendance. You are talking about 35-40 kids who have been in our weight room. Our kids were doing the right thing early on. We’ve got a really good junior class and we’ve seen them grow over the last three years. They are hard nosed and they are hard workers.”
Barker had recently took part in an on-line coaches clinic on Zoom which was hosted by West Virginia State University.
Former Chapmanville player and assistant coach Andrew Workman, a WVSU assistant coach, ran the clinic.
“He served in the Marine Corps and came back and he wanted to be a football coach,” Barker said of Workman. “When he was in the Marine Corps he would send me text messages and he would ask me about this and ask me about that. He came back and coached for us a year in 2017. Then in 2019 he was a grad assistant at West Virginia State. He’s going into his third year this year.”
The Tigers are looking to build on last year’s 5-5 season.
The regular season is scheduled to begin on August 28 as the Tigers host Sissonville.
Barker, a longtime assistant coach, will be putting on the head coaching headsets for the first time this fall. His previous head coaching job was at Chapmanville Middle School.
Barker said he’s still working on schemes but hopes to continue to keep the Tigers as a multiple formation team on offense to keep defenses guessing.
If you follow CRHS football, that’s what they have done over the years. They could go four-wide in the spread or go to a smashmouth ground game. You just don’t know.
“We’ve done that for a long time,” Barker said. “It’s something that we look at each week on film and see if there is a certain formation that could help us against a certain opponent. We don’t change our base scheme and that doesn’t change from week to week. Very rarely do we ever put in new plays for opponents, just how we use them. We do a lot of what we call window dressing so we can run our base plays.”
Barker is pushing a team concept, a collective first approach for the betterment of the team.
“I don’t think this team will have any true super stars,” he said. “We may have stars but no super stars. I think our guys know that and I think that’s why we like each other so much because there’s not a lot of ego on the team.”
Barker said Chapmanville could be especially strong in the trenches on both sides of the ball as several starters return.
“We bring back three offensive linemen who started for us last year,” he said. “Our center from last year, Chris Sansom, is back. Our entire right side comes back with Evan Plumley and Ben Krause. We also have back three more guys who played on the offensive line last year with junior J.T. Craddock, Nathan Walsh and Colby Collins. We feel like we are going to be pretty solid up front.”
The defensive line should also be strong and deep and the Tigers linebacking corps is looking good as well.
“Our entire D-line comes back from last year as well and out of our front eight on both sides of the ball we have seven turning starters,” Barker said. “One of our inside linebackers, Josh Atwood, is recovering from ACL surgery. He’s doing fantastic by the way. He’s back and he will probably be the captain of that linebacking corp. Out two outside backers are also returning in Jaxson Turner and Caleb Whitt. Whitt was a freshman last year and played very well. Jaxson is an All-American kid. We call him Jack Turner. He’s a smart kid, wrestles and plays baseball. You can’t say enough about him.”
Experience also returns in the Chapmanville secondary.
“We have one corner who returns in David Peluso,” Barker said. “He really came on strong last year. I think that he’s just getting better and better. He’s been in the weight room and he’s done a great job. We will have to replace Waylon Hensley and Alex Freeman, who graduated, out of our secondary. We also have to replace Josh Bumgarner at linebacker. I think a lot of things will start for us on defense this year with all of the guys that we have returning. George Barker and Zach Belcher have worked really hard on our defensive scheme. I’m pretty excited with how we are going to be defensively.”
Brandon Butcher, Brody Dalton and Jaxson Turner will battle for the starting quarterback job.
“At quarterback, we’ve had three guys who have played there who will be on our roster in the fall,” Barker said. “Those guys are Brandon Butcher, who was our JV quarterback last year. We also have Brody Dalton, who took some snaps last year and we our backup quarterback. He played wide receiver last year, so he’s going to get a shot at QB. We also have Jaxson Turner, who played quarterback in his freshman and sophomore years before we moved him to positions where he could get on the field a little quicker to help us. We have some guys who have played at quarterback and have experience. We’ll just see how it goes.
“Before school was shut down Colby Collins said, ‘I think I’ll go out for quarterback as well.” And I said, ‘Not sure if that’s a great idea but you are more than welcome to try out if you want to buddy.’”
Barker, however, reiterates that all positions will be open when practices get under way.
“All of our positions are open,” he said. “Even the guys who are returning have to understand that there will be position battles. We have to have competition in the practices. Just because you were the guy last years doesn’t mean that you are going to be the guy this year. You just do not know for sure.”
Through the whole national shutdown many people have re-evaluated their lives and questioned everything.
For some it’s been a spiritual battle. For others it’s been back to basics.
Many freedom loving Americans have been angered by draconian measures which have been placed upon us, limiting our personal freedoms which are guaranteed by the US Constitution.
The economy definitely took a hit, that’s for sure.
The bounce back could be fast as the nation opens up but that remains to be seen.
Many have called for Americans to support their locally owned businesses, which have suffered greatly during the shutdown, and to buy American products.
Barker said those mom and pop shops must be supported to the fullest by everyday citizens as the economy rolls out again to ensure their survival.
“It’s really important right now to help out your small businesses,” Barker said. “Small businesses are the backbone of our economy in America. We’ve tried to do some things as a football program to help with that right now. We have a few ideas this fall to try to help our small businesses in Chapmanville. We want to support them because they supported us.”