Key Seniors Will Lead Youthful University
By CODY TOMER
MORGANTOWN–The 2017 season will go down in the history books for head coach John Kelley and the University football program.
The Hawks completed a perfect regular season and were toward the top of the high school rankings all year, before falling in the second round of the postseason to finish with a final record of 11-1.
Kelley is entering his 32nd season with the program but he will be without 21 seniors from last year’s squad.
“We had a tremendous season last year,” Kelley said. “We were undefeated, ranked third in the state and had high hopes of winning it all. We had great lines, a great quarterback and the auxiliary guys. We had all the parts for a great season.
“We graduated 21 seniors from that team and that is not easily replaced. It’s a hole you just can’t fill. Skill-wise, we are right on par with last year, maybe even better but we are only returning two offensive linemen.
“A couple of the linemen we lost are going to West Virginia, so that shows what kind of talent we lost.
“Nobody pays attention to the line at times but that’s what you have to have to be a good team. We are going to be undersized on the line so our season will depend on how fast they come along.”
Dalton McDaniels and Josh Ritchie both played key roles on the offensive and defensive lines a year ago and are both playing at the next level with West Virginia University.
Hayden Starcher, a defensive end, second team all-stater and OVAC All-Star is another graduate who left his mark, compiling 170 tackles and 14 sacks a year ago.
Also gone from last year’s line is second-team all-state offensive lineman Will Curtis.
One player who will be returning to the field for University this year is first team all-state wide receiver and linebacker, Amir Richardson.
Richardson recently verbally committed to West Virginia University.
As a junior, Richardson dazzled the fans with 48 receptions for 714 yards and 15 touchdowns.
On defense, the 6-2, 200-pounder recorded 42 tackles, three pass breakups, two interceptions and three sacks.
“Amir is our go-to guy,” Kelley said. “He has done exactly what we wanted him to do. Everyone has to know where he is on the field at all times.”
As great as Richardson has been, teammate and fellow senior receiver Even Parow has been just as good, if not better.
Parow earned an all-state honorable mention a year ago.
“Evan had almost 800 yards,” Kelley said. “He is an under-the-radar guy who nobody knows about. He might even be a Division I receiver before it’s over.”
The Hawks have plenty of depth at the wide receiver position as senior Hunter Cottrell looks to add another weapon to the offense.
“Hunter is spectacular,” Kelley said. “He is 6-2 and he is fast.
“Our depth at receiver is definitely the strength of the team. If you try to take away Richardson, you are going to get burnt by another one of our guys.”
The quarterback slinging the ball to these top notch receivers will be different, as well.
Last year, quarterback Clay Bailey was named the captain of the all-state second team after turning in 4,486 passing yards and 48 touchdowns. The six-foot gunslinger also rushed for 925 yards and 13 scores.
In his place this year will be the son of West Virginia University head coach Dana Holgorsen, Logan Holgorsen, who played at Morgantown as a junior and is already committed to Bowling Green.
At running back, junior Logan Raber should get the majority of the carries.
Raber strung together a solid sophomore campaign with 56 rushes for 227 yards and three touchdowns.
Senior Ben Gribble will be expected to make an impact as one of the returning lineman in what could be a breakout season.
“Ben is a Division I type of football player,” Kelley said. “He played defensive end last year and will be moving to nose this year. He is the strongest kid on the team and a pretty talented individual.”
Other seniors who will be looked at to make an impact on the field and in leadership roles are Brice Bennett (WR/OLB), Jonah Phares (PK/WR/S/P), Jackson Summers (RB/DL/LB), Chase Miller (WR/C), Steven Busch (WR/C), Chase Neal (WR/DB), Christian Evans (C/LB), Thomas Sherlock (OL/DL), Clayton Murray (OL/DE), Liam Scardina-Fowler (OL./DL) and Derek Richardson (TE/DE).
Despite having 56 players coming out for the team this fall, the majority of Kelley’s roster is young and inexperienced.
There are eight juniors, 13 sophomores and 21 freshmen out for Kelley’s team this year.
The juniors consist of Anthony Williams (RB/DB/KR), Jacob Spearen (WR/C), Joseph Williams (WR/OLB/C), Clay Maholic (RB/LB), Joshua Sanders (OL/LB), Aiden Loop (OL/DL) and Evan Mellett (WR/DB).
The 10th graders putting on the Hawks uniforms this season include Drew Burton (WR/C), JT Brown (QB/S), Andrew Myers (WR/C), Max Parow (WR/QB/C), Joseph McBee (WR/OLB), Miguel Garcia (PK), Seth Coombs (TE/DE), David Barbabella (HB/LB), Max Robertson (OL/LB), Justin Denjen (C/DL), William Miller (OL/DE), Sheldon Scotchel (OL/DL) and Tracy Brooks (WR/DB).
The future looks bright at University with a freshman class of Jackson Smith (WR/C), Donald Brandel (WR/OLB), Jackson Shaver (WR/C), Colton Guthrie (WR/C), Daminn Cunningham (RB/Slot/C), Colin McBee (RB/LB), Kolton Burns (RB/LB), Zeke Bailey (OL/DL), Daniel Henderson (OL/DL), Joseph Oliverio (OL/DL), Zachary Brooks (OL/DL), Trevor Pickenpaugh (OL/DL), Brekken Swafford (OL/LB), Patrick Grasher (OL/LB), Daniel Rodgers (OL/LB), Matt Evans (C/DL), Henry Shriver (OL/DL), Gage Vest (OL/DL), Corbin Turney (OL/DL), Christopher Ayers (OL/DL) and Chantz Brockett (WR/DB).
“We are mostly a freshman and sophomore group,” Kelley said. “It will be a process. They are not ready for Class AAA action yet.
“I’m glad we have guys like Richardson, Gribble, Parow and Holgorsen. They are more patient than I am for bringing young kids along.
They can look up to them and emulate them.”
The Hawks open on the road at John Marshall, a playoff team a year ago and will take on Wheeling Park at home in the fourth week of the campaign.
“We have a tough schedule and everyone wants to beat us,” Kelley said. “We need a decent start in the first half of the season because we will be much better in the second half.
“Our goal is to make the playoffs again.”
Joining Kelley on the sidelines are defensive coordinator Eric Snyder, offensive coordinator Shane Ziats, Brad Conport, Mark Holvanik, Jason White, Jeremy Zeiders, Tony Avery Richardson and Tony Richardson.
Aug. 24: at John Marshall 7 p.m.
Aug. 31: at Parkersburg South 7 p.m.
Sept. 7: Brooke 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 14: Wheeling Park 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 21: at Fairmont Senior 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 28: St. Albans 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 5: at Mountain Ridge 7 p.m.
Oct. 12: Buckhannon-Upshur 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 19: Preston 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 26: at Morgantown 7 p.m.
Win 8, Lose 2
Brice Bennett, Steven Busch, Hunter Cottrell, Christian Evans, Ben Gribble, Logan Holgorsen, Chase Miller, Clayton Murray, Chase Neal, Evan Parow, Jonah Phares, Liam Scardina-Fowler, Thomas Sherlock, Jackson Summers, Amir Richardson, Derek Richardson
Aiden Loop, Clay Maholic, Evan Mellett, Logan Raber, Joshua Sanders, Jacob Spearen, Anthony Williams, Joseph Williams
David Barbabella, JT. Brown, Drew Burton, Seth Coombs, Justin Denjen, Miguel Garcia, Joseph McBee, William Miller, Andrew Myers, Max Parow, Max Robertson, Sheldon Scotchel, Tracy Brooks
Jackson Smith, Donald Brandel, Jackson Shaver, Colton Guthrie, Daminn Cunningham, Colin McBee, Kolton Burns, Zeke Bailey, Daniel Henderson, Joseph Oliverio, Zachary Brooks, Trevor Pickenpaugh, Brekken Swafford, , Patrick Grasher, Daniel Rodgers, Matt Evans, Henry Shriver, Gage Vest, Corbin Turney, Christopher Ayers, Chantz Brockett