If you predicted prior to the 2020 West Virginia high school football season an eventual clash between Martinsburg and Spring Valley, you probably figured it would come at Wheeling Island Stadium in December.
Instead, thanks to the scramble to fill games due to the West Virginia COVID-19 school reentry map shutting down sports in parts of the state, the four-time defending Class AAA state champion Bulldogs and the Timberwolves are set to meet Friday at Martinsburg’s Cobourn Field.
It has been a long time since anybody has beaten the Bulldogs, and even longer — much longer, actually — since a team from West Virginia went to Martinsburg and came away with a win. The last time Martinsburg lost a high school football game was to Capital during the 2015 state playoffs in Charleston. That puts the current win streak at 57 games. To find the last time someone from the Mountain State beat the Bulldogs at Cobourn Field, you have to go back nearly 13 years to 2007 when Eastern Panhandle rival Jefferson got them at home.
During that time, however, perhaps no in-state team the caliber of this Spring Valley team has made the trip to the Eastern Panhandle to take on the Bulldogs — almost certainly not for a regular-season game. The Timberwolves were off in Week 2 — a casualty of Wayne County’s status last week on school reentry map — but did get to start their season in impressive fashion the previous week when they blasted visiting Parkersburg 42-7.
You want some star power? This game has it.
Spring Valley’s offensive line is becoming a thing of legend, with WVU commit Wyatt Milum (ranked the No. 6 offensive tackle in the country by 247Sports) and Bryce Biggs (a 247Sports three-star recruit with offers from Marshall, Western Kentucky, Southern Miss, Akron, Arkansas State, Kent State and Eastern Michigan, among others) anchoring the group. SV junior tight end Corbin Page has impressed college coaches to the tune of offers from Oregon, Louisville, Virginia Tech, Marshall, Cincinnati and Central Michigan in hand so far. The Timberwolves have a new quarterback in senior Jack Roy — a 6-foot-5 transfer from nearby Fairview High in Kentucky — who was very good in his Mountain State debut against Parkersburg two weeks ago.
Martinsburg, meanwhile, features perhaps the state’s best one-two punch at running back with Naieem Kearny and Kevon Warren. Senior Anthony Smith is one of the state’s top receivers and defensive backs — he went for 205 receiving yards and three touchdowns in last week’s win against Musselman — and quarterback Peyton Curry looked more than capable in leading the Bulldog offense last week in their season-debut.
There are several other big games around the state set for this weekend. Let’s take a look at some of the best.
WEEK 3’s OTHER TOP GAMES
- Bridgeport (1-0) at Fairmont Senior (1-0): Bridgeport is in Class AAA now, but this is a meeting of the last two Class AA champions — and there is no love lost between the Indians and Polar Bears. Separated by a short stretch of Interstate 79 in the north-central region of the state, these two programs know each other very well. Bridgeport has won its last 11 games, while Fairmont Senior is 27-1 in its last 28 games. These two could put on a show at East-West Stadium.
- Ritchie County (2-0) at St. Marys (2-0): Two of Class A contenders — and rivals — clash in Pleasants County. Storyline to watch here: St. Marys running back Tre Moss was a standout last season — at Ritchie County.
- John Marshall (2-0) at Oak Glen (2-0): Oak Glen has established itself as one of the teams to beat in Class AA this season, while JM is trying to build itself into a playoff contender in Class AAA. OG’s Hunter Patterson is one of the state’s top players — a big challenge for the Monarchs will be stopping him.
- Wayne (1-0) at Tolsia (1-0): Another meeting of local rivals from different classes. You want to talk about underrated rivalries around the state? These guys get after each other. Tolsia could be among the contenders in Class A this season, and a win against the county-rival Pioneers would be a big confidence boost for the Rebels. Wayne, meanwhile, is on its way back up after falling from its perch atop Class AA half a decade ago.
- Wheeling Park (1-1) at Huntington (2-0): The Highlanders desperately need a win, and it will not be easy with Wheeling Park making the long trip to Bob Sang Stadium. These are two top-shelf Class AAA programs from different parts of the state that do not get to play often. The Highlanders and Patriots have two of the best coaches in Class AAA in Huntington’s Billy Seals and Park’s Chris Daugherty. I expect Huntington to throw everything they have at this one in an attempt to get its first win of the season, but will it work?
- Independence (2-0) at Shady Spring (1-1): This was one to circle on the schedule prior to the season with the Patriots and Tigers each possessing one of the state’s top playmakers in Independence’s Atticus Goodson and Shady’s Isaiah Valentine, but Valentine is out for the season and the injuries are piling up. Goodson has been very good so far in 2020, to put it mildly.
- Lewis County (1-1) at Ripley (2-0): This game sneaks on the list because 3-0 Ripley is a very real possibility that perhaps not many (including this writer) saw coming. We’ve seen teams with as few as four wins qualify for the Class AAA playoffs in recent seasons — if the Vikings want to be among that field of 16 teams this season then a win Friday against the Class AA Minutemen would help that cause.