Familiar faces top Daily Mail preseason poll

Wayne's Mason Hodge (3) celebrates after rushing for a touchdown during the Class AA Championship football game against Bridgeport in Wheeling, W.Va., Friday, Dec. 6, 2013. Wayne is the top-ranked team in Class AA in the Daily Mail Preseason Poll.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — With as much surprise as West Virginia being left out of the Associated Press Preseason Top 25, Martinsburg, Wayne and Wheeling Central topped the state’s three divisions in the Daily Mail Preseason Football Poll on Sunday.

Martinsburg (13-1 in 2013) returns a bevy of players from its team that won an unprecedented fourth consecutive Class AAA state championship last season. Running backs Trey Boyd, Eric Brown and WVU commitment Deamonte Lindsay headline the Bulldog offense that will be quarterbacked by junior Carter Walburn when it opens the season Aug. 29 against Washington D.C.-based H.D. Woodson.

While Martinsburg received all nine first-place votes in the preseason poll — the Dominion-Post did not submit a ballot — Capital (11-2) received every second-place vote in the Class AAA poll. The Cougars, who do not open the regular season until a Sept. 5 date at Riverside, return all 11 starters on an offense that led the team to the Class AAA playoff semifinals a year ago, when they lost to Martinsburg.

South Charleston (7-4) is ranked third, and has nine starters returning on offense. The Black Eagles racked up more than 400 yards in two quarters of a preseason scrimmage against Woodrow Wilson on Saturday that was played in game-like conditions.

SC coach Donnie Mays reported that junior quarterback Kentre Grier completed 12 of 20 passes in the scrimmage for 216 yards and three touchdowns, while also leading the team with 106 yards and a score on nine carries.

Morgantown (8-3) was fourth in the preseason poll, with 2013 state runner-up and defending Mountain State Athletic Conference champion Huntington (13-1) coming in at No. 5.

The rest of the poll saw Wheeling Park (11-2) at No. 6, Point Pleasant (11-1) at No. 7, Cabell Midland (9-3) at No. 8, Spring Valley (6-5) ninth and University (10-2) tenth.

In Class AA, Wayne (13-1) edged out defending state champion Bridgeport (13-1) for the top spot after falling to the Indians in the 2013 state title game. The Pioneers finished with 84 total voting points to Bridgeport’s 78, and took five first-place votes to Bridgeport’s two.

Wayne suffered a setback during the Cardinal Conference Grid-O-Rama at Scott High School on Saturday, however. Senior lineman Dale Bryant broke his leg in a scrimmage against Chapmanville and had to be taken away in an ambulance. As of Sunday he had undergone surgery to repair the leg and will miss the season.

After reaching the playoff semifinals in its first two years in Class AA, Robert C. Byrd (9-4) was third in the preseason poll. Last year’s other semifinalst — Bluefield (10-3) — was fourth and Sissonville (10-2) made its top preseason appearance in more than a decade by entering the poll at No. 5.

Preseason polls are traditionally the least accurate representations of teams’ true abilities and most reliant on past performance and known graduation losses. Nowhere is that more evident than in the Class A preseason poll, where a whopping six teams earned first-place votes. In a division that is expected to be as wide open as it has been in years, however, traditional power Wheeling Central (6-5) picked up four of those first-place votes to claim the top spot entering the regular season.

Greenbrier West (12-2), which finished as the 2013 runner-up to Madonna, came in at No. 2, St. Marys (11-1) was third, Williamstown (10-2) fourth and Bishop Donahue (8-4) fifth. The Bishops, which return the state’s passing yardage leader from 2013, junior Jesse Padlow, are the only team in the top that did not receive a first-place vote. Madonna (14-0) and Magnolia (8-5) picked up the the two others.

The regular season begins Aug. 28 with George Washington playing at South Charleston and River View taking on McDowell County rival Mount View at home in Bradshaw.

Contact Preps Editor Derek Taylor at derek.taylor@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-5170. Follow him on Twitter at @ItsreallyDT.

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