NEW MARTINSVILLE — An unexpected infusion of youth has brought a renewed energy to New Martinsville as veteran head coach Dave Chapman is back for another season leading the Blue Eagles.
Chapman received a nice surprise for the 2022 season with 22 freshmen coming out for the team, boosting the squad’s numbers to 36 players. Even with a disproportionately young roster and coming off of a 3-6 mark in 2021, the expectations for Magnolia football remain high in New Martinsville.
“The bar is always high here, it’s Magnolia football,” Chapman said. “We’ve had a couple of tough years here but we’ve got an infusion of a bunch of young kids and that’s been a plus. Every year is different in high school football. You lose guys and gain a new group the following year.”
Chapman said success this fall will depend on how quickly he and his coaching staff can develop the youngster and get them comfortable playing under the lights on Friday nights.
Coach Dave Chapman discusses the upcoming campaign
“Everybody says ‘wow coach, can you imagine in a couple of years?’. I’m not worried about a couple of years (from now), we have a couple of seniors out there and it’s ther last go-around,” Chapman said. “We always talk about ‘why not now?’ We’ve played freshmen here before. We’ll coach these guys up and see how it goes. It’s all about how quick they develop and how quick they process what we’re trying to get to them.”
One of the team’s two seniors will man one of the most important positions with Brayden Vargo taking the reins at quarterback.
“The thing about Vargo is, he’s a really cerebral kid and really, really intelligent,” Chapman said.
“For what he may lack in size and stature, he makes up for it with a really high football IQ.
“He knows the offense like I do, he’s kind of like a coach on the field with the young guys.
“There’s not a coach I’ve ever talked to that wouldn’t want a guy like that.”
The Blue Eagles will also feature a new primary tailback with the graduation of Marcus Barnes giving way for sophomore Matthew Anderson.
“Matthew Anerson, as a freshman, started and played a lot of varsity minutes for us, but all on defense,” Chapman explained. “This year, Matthew’s come in and he’s a totally different looking kid. He’s probably put on 25 pounds.
“He’s an example of what hard work can do. He’s been a big time leader for us in the summer. He’s not a rah-rah guy — doesn’t say a whole lot — but he leads by example.”
Chapman described Anderson as a bell-cow running back, someone who will handle a big workload rushing the ball but will also line up in different spots as a receiving threat.
Other targets for Vargo to throw to include juniors Conner Dyer and Gage Scott and freshmen Finn Loy, Hayden Leasure and Preston Beverlin.
Up front, the Blue Eagles have the unenviable task of replacing four seniors from last season’s offensive line. Junior Jaydin Lynch will anchor the line at left tackle while classmate Hunter Goddard will start at center. Senior Caleb Lawrence and sophomore Eden Harlin will play at the two guard spots with right tackle as an open competition throughout camp.
On defense, Chapman and his staff plan to keep things relatively simple, although with as much aggression as usual.
“We’ve always played an aggressive, attacking defense and even moreso this year,” Chapman said. “Kind of a bend-don’t-break defense where we just let the guys go play. It’s alignment and it’s assignment and then after that, you just go and play.”
Lynch, Lawrance and junior Andrew Yeager will play along the defensive line. Goddard, Anderson and Harlin will play at linebacker. Dyer, Loy and Beverlin will play cornerback with Bargo and Lipscomb at safety.
Sophomore Isaac Voorhis, and freshmen Hunter Cooley and Brandon Moore will also be featured on defense.
“Looking at these guys now, a lot of them helped us out last year whether it was on offense or defense,” Chapman said. “I think just that experience on Friday night helps coming into the following year.”
Camron Wade rounds out the junior class with Dominic Harper, Sean Stapel and Landon Streets as the remaining sophomores. Joey Beito, Griffith Briggs, Conner Carpenter, Eli Eddy, Tristin Ford, Jackson Fortney, Brayden Grimes, Anthony Lancaster, Esevian Long, Brayden Maisey, Jacob Mayfield, Ethan Moyers, Justin Quinn, Drew Rodriguez, Porter Werkau and Ryder Wilson make up the large crow of freshmen.
Getting off to a good start to the season is important any year, but Chapman thinks a good start will be even more beneficial for a young team.
“It’s paramount (with a young team),” he said. “Success breeds success, especially with young guys. With young kids, a lot of it is feeling like you belong out there on a Friday, whether you’ve had experience or not.”
Magnolia has a peculiar schedule, with just one home gamebefore October, a Sept. 2 matchup with Wirt County.
Magnolia opens the season on the road at Ravenswood on Aug. 26 and will play four straight road games at River, Cameron, Monroe Central and Wahama before returning home to play Frontier on Oct. 7
A strong start will also help prepare the Blue Eagles for a three-game gauntlet they will face to end the season against St. Marys (6-4 in 2021), Tyler Consolidated (6-4) and Williamstown (11-3). All three expected to be among the top 10 teams in Class A.
No matter what happens this season, spirits are high in New Martinsville with the injection of youth also bringing an abundance of enthusiasm.
“It’s been a real good summer just with the enthusiasm and the energy that these young kids have brought,” Chapman said. “We had good participation in the weight room this summer and these kids want to play.”
Chapman is assisted by Eric McKeever, Brian Hostetler and Eric Conner.