Team Chemistry Strong as Magnolia Eyes Playoffs
By CODY TOMER
NEW MARTINSVILLE–As Magnolia football coach Dave Chapman watches his team practice in the early going of the 2018 season, he notices three things.
Team chemistry, speed and a group of seniors itching to finish their careers the way they started–with a state championship.
Following a 4-6 showing last year, Chapman and the Blue Eagles’ ultimate goal is to reach the postseason.
“There are always short-term and long-term goals in a season,” Chapman said. “Our long-term goal around here is to be playing on that second Friday in November.
“We missed the playoffs the last couple of years but we have a solid group of guys and we are excited about this year.”
One aspect of the team that has stuck out to Chapman this year is the “togetherness” of the players.
“The boys talk about togetherness and finishing what they started,” Chapman said. “The locker room is a laboratory and you need chemistry. In just nine days of practice, I have seen how these kids have come together.
“These freshmen have come in and worked their tails off. They have found their way because the older kids have made it accessible for them. We have a group of guys with a common goal and that’s the way it has to be. I like the unity of the team.”
Seven seniors lead the Eagles into action this year and are hoping to repeat the 2015 state championship season.
“We talked to the team and they have they all have the same kind of goals,” Chapman said. “2015 wasn’t very long ago when we won the state championship here. These seniors were a part of that. They remember that locker room and running out on that field the night we won it. They want to finish what they started.”
Taking the snaps under center is senior quarterback Pat Mirandy.
“You are only as good as your senior leadership and we have good senior leadership on this team,” Chapman said. “Mirandy is off the charts on his work habits and how he approaches practice. The quarterback has to be the ultimate leader and Pat has earned the respect of the kids.
“We have been able to add some things this year with Pat. He is so versatile throwing and running the ball. His football IQ is off the charts. He is such an athlete. We could do the wildcat every play with him at QB and he’ll have his hands on the ball a lot, whether it’s dispersing it or making a play when things might not be there. He is bigger, faster and stronger this year and he is driving the bus for us.”
Mirandy will be looked to for all kicking duties, as well.
Chapman is also excited about the rest of his senior nucleus in Sebastian Stickler, Matthew Gaiser, Dakota Litton, Teran Malone, Gage Adams and Cameron Stillwagoner.
“We’ll have Stickler at wide receiver and Gaiser can move into the tight end spot,” Chapman said. “They’ll go split and we can put Stickler in the back and run him in motion.
“All of our seniors are great leaders not only by example but by what they say, as well.”
Magnolia suffered from losing six seniors to graduation, including skill players such as Leo Herrick, Hunter Partridge and Brooks Parsons, who is currently on the Marshall University roster.
Despite the loss of those talents, several players are expected to rise to the occasion.
“You don’t replace guys like Brooks and Hunter,” Chapman said. “They were a big part of what we did here, Parsons in particular. He was a big gun on our state championship team as a sophomore but he is taking his talents to Marshall.
“I feel good about our run game, though. We’ll look to guys like Jason Beisel (sophomore), James Stillwagoner (junior), Adams, Stickler and Mirandy and they are up for the challenge.
“We have kids who can flat out run and when you put speed on the field, it’s hard to combat that.
“Beisel and Adams are both tough kids and they each have great vision and cutting ability.
“Beisel actually reminds me of a faster Chase Street. They are clones of each other. He is a small back and is tough to see behind a big line like we have. We won’t start a guy under 215 pounds up front.”
The junior class is led by a strong trio of returning starters in twin brothers Jakob and Jared Barrows, along with Mike Hamrick. All three have been starting on the line since they were freshmen.
“I like what we have up front,” Chapman said. “When we have been good around here, we have been pretty good up front. Offensively and defensively, these guys play both ways.
“It’s nice having three-year starters come back as juniors. That doesn’t happen very often.”
Those same three pace the defense, which should be an aggressive unit in the upcoming campaign.
“We play an attacking, come after you style defense,” Chapman said. “We’ll have the Barrows brothers on the ends, Hamrick and Cameron Stillwagoner at tackles and play Mirandy at cornerback.
“Our other corner will be Beisel with Litton seeing time in the secondary. He will also play wide receiver. We will mix and match some guys to put a lot of speed on the field.”
Rounding out the junior class are Trenton Mitchell and Trenton Scheibelhood.
Along with Beisel, there are 11 other sophomores on the roster that includes Caden Cisar, Logan Beegle, Levi Beegle, Allen Collins, Gage Bidwell, Jayson West, Samuel Zombotti. Gavin Postlethwait, Charlie Powell, Issac Keller and Silas McKeever.
“Silas will come on and play H-back,” Chapman said. “He is a hybrid tight, a key position on the field. He is smart and picked up on all the motions we do. He is a good athlete and will play a vital part of the team.”
The freshman class is made up of 11 newcomers looking to be a part of a special season. The class consists of Dakota Leek, Brendan Mirandy, Marcus Barnes, Austin Stillwagoner, Damien Gatian, Tony Fiber, Kolbee Cecil, Dawson Joseph, Kaleb Starkey, Joe Hubbard and Austin Steele.
The coaching staff consists of co-defensive coordinators Craig and Eric Mason, quarterbacks coach Aaron Cisar, wide receiver and secondary coach Eric McKeever and defensive line coach Eric Conner.
Also playing a key role on the staff is a mentor for Chapman in his coaching career, Bob Ripley.
“Coach Ripley is a great guy to have around,” Chapman said. “When you think of Magnolia football, you think of Bob Ripley. He is a great addition to the team and a great confidant to me.”