South Charleston quarterback Kentre Grier unleashes a pass against Nitro last year.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Perhaps no high school football player in the state made a splash in his varsity debut the way Kentre Grier did last year.Then a freshman, Grier hardly took the field until South Charleston's fifth game, when he subbed during the second half with the Black Eagles trailing Capital 17-0 at Laidley Field.What he did after that was nothing short of heroic, completing 7 of 11 passes for 148 yards and two touchdowns, hitting Marquel Hampton on a 36-yard scoring toss with 1:07 to play, giving SC a 20-17 comeback victory.He remained the starter after that and, despite playing just 51/2 games, threw for 1,549 yards and 17 TDs against one interception.
Grier's presence under center is one of the big reasons the Black Eagles are expected to challenge for a Class AAA playoff berth after missing out the last two seasons.In SC's first scrimmage against Woodrow Wilson last week, Grier completed 12 of 15 passes for 228 yards and three TDs with no interceptions. In the Black Eagles' scrimmage against Cabell Midland at Laidley Field, Grier hit on 14 of 19 attempts for 296 yards and three scores with no picks."You have to give credit to his dad for a lot of that stuff,'' said Donnie Mays, SC's first-year coach. Grier's father, Ken Grier, started at West Virginia State in 1990-91."He was a heck of a quarterback,'' Mays said of Ken Grier, "so having a quarterback as a father helps. On top of that, we try to make our system as simple as possible. When you're a quarterback, it's a simple progression. He knows where to get his eyes. Don't let the defender play you - you play the defender. Force them one way [with your eyes] and throw the other way. He does a real nice job with it."He got thrown into the fire last year, and I didn't get the time to work with him like I wish I'd had. But I'm sure happy the way it turned out.''Something for Black Eagles fans to look forward to this season is the combination of Grier with junior A.D. Cunningham, SC's top running back who played in just five games last year.In fact, Cunningham suffered a shoulder injury in the first half of the game at Capital and wasn't around when Grier rallied the Black Eagles to the win. Cunningham didn't play again in 2012, so he and Grier never took the field together."It's an exciting thing for us,'' Mays said, "the first time they're in the backfield together. We were hoping they'd get there last year."It's exciting to see those two play together, and one truly complements the other. A.D. sets up the run game, and when people have to focus on A.D., Kentre can throw, and vice-versa. If they try to outnumber us on the pass, we have A.D. to run the ball.''The General ideaWinfield has been a Class AAA school since 2008, but hasn't posted a winning season or captured a playoff berth since that time. The best the Generals have gone is 4-6, which is what they were last year.
They're no longer satisfied just to be considered a possible playoff contender. They want to break down the door to the postseason."Our seniors set a goal,'' said coach Craig Snyder. "They want to make the playoffs. We want to be the first Winfield team to be a triple-A playoff team."With respect to all the great Winfield teams of the past, this is the hardest schedule we've ever had. They played tough schedules at their level [Class AA], but if you look at our schedule, it's the toughest as far as triple-A. We lost Riverside and Logan and replaced them with Woodrow Wilson and South Charleston. I think it's a fair statement to say that if we make the playoffs, it will be well-earned because of the quality of our schedule.''Snyder said he and his coaching staff don't have far to look to determine where they can shore up the program and earn that first postseason spot since 2005."In terms of us being good, it's really simple,'' he said. "We have to be much better up front. When we played teams that weren't great up front, we competed with them, and we won some of those games. But when we played team like Cabell Midland, Spring Valley and Hurricane last year, they beat us up front and we couldn't compete."It wasn't because our guys didn't try. It was a mentality issue. Some of it was a physical ability issue. That's the key. You can have plays that are well-drawn and all kinds of stuff in here [the coaches room], but it doesn't matter. Because if you don't block it, it doesn't matter.''
The Generals figure to be able to move the ball with returning talent like quarterback Toby Show and receiver Chris Turner, both seniors.Show threw for 1,507 yards and 14 TDs last year, with 48 connections going to Turner for 656 yards and six scores."This offense really has no limits,'' said Turner, who hopes to play collegiately. "As long as we execute and continue to work hard, and do what we do and listen to our coaches, we can do anything we want to. But it's going to be hard. It's not going to come easy.''Show likes the fact that Turner isn't the only experienced pass-catcher coming back. John Hathaway grabbed 19 balls for 270 yards and two scores last year, Jacob Lewis had 18 receptions for 178 yards and three TDs and running back Colt Richardson returns from a knee injury that wiped out his 2012 season."We have a lot of people returning,'' Show said. "We have a stronger line than we did last year, most of the skill players are back and a lot of people are rotating. So we should have a lot of fresh people and a lot of people ready to catch balls. The sky's the limit for the team this year.''Huskie workhorseSince Tim Meyer became head coach at Herbert Hoover four years ago, the offense has featured a workhorse running back. But for the first time since Meyer took over, the No. 1 ball-carrier from last year returns.Senior Shaun Dotson, who lugged the ball 151 times last year - 115 more than any other running back - returns for duty."I'm ready for it,'' Dotson said. "I bust my butt in the weight room every day, and I rely on my line a lot. I'll do whatever it takes to go as far as we can.''Other Hoover mainstays in the backfield in recent years have been Josh Mack in 2011 (144 carries, 106 more than the next running back), Robbie Kidd in 2010 (198 carries, next closest had 22) and Storm Robinson in 2009 (184 carries, 132 more than runner-up).Meyer thinks Dotson can handle the load he's asked to tote."You talk about somebody that works his butt off, I'll tell you,'' Meyer said. "He was in the weight room all off-season. He was in the weight room all through baseball. He's been up here and he hasn't missed a single workout since I can't remember - other than a week for his family vacation. He works hard and is a great kid.''Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 email@example.com.