Coming off its first trip to the Super Six state finals, Spring Valley will sit idle the first week when the regular season kicks off later this month.
And that’s a good thing for the Timberwolves, because it allows their starting quarterback the chance to regain his rhythm.
Senior Derek Johnson, a returning first-team all-stater, suffered a minor knee injury in the off-season and thus will be able to take his time recovering from a June medical procedure.
With his team idle the first week of the regular season, Johnson doesn’t have to be fully ready until a Sept. 1 game at Huntington.
“Normally, I hate to be open in Week 1,’’ said Spring Valley coach Brad Dingess, “but it’s really good for us now as far as getting him back.
“When he had the procedure done, he was going to be released before the first game anyway, because it wasn’t serious. Just the meniscus; they cleaned things up. He probably won’t scrimmage or anything; we’ll just keep it light.’’
That means the Wolves may not have Johnson, their leading rusher last year with 1,447 yards, for either of their preseason scrimmages — Aug. 12 at home against Ashland, Kentucky, or Aug. 19 versus Woodrow Wilson during the Mountain State Athletic Conference Grid-o-rama at University of Charleston Stadium.
But by a quirk of fate, the Timberwolves won’t be lacking under center in the preseason.
Junior Will Adkins (6-foot-4, 222 pounds), a backup QB last year at Ashland, has transferred to Spring Valley, as has sophomore Ty Baumgardner from Boyd County, Kentucky. On top of that, promising sophomore Nate Ellis was on the Wolves varsity roster last season. Baumgardner came up through Spring Valley’s youth system but left in the eighth grade before returning this summer.
“We’ve gone from not having a threat in throwing the ball,’’ Dingess said, “to where we feel like we’ve got four guys who can spin the ball around a little bit.
“That three-week [summer practice] period was good for us for doing some things we’re not known to do, like passing the ball. We did more of those [7-on-7s] this year than we usually do. Usually, we do one or two, but we did more this year to work on some things.’’
Johnson, of course, is best known for breaking off a 49-yard scramble for a touchdown in the final minute to give the Wolves a 20-14 win against Capital in last year’s Class AAA playoff semifinals, locking up their first trip to the title game.
Highlanders still kicking
Huntington had a real weapon in controlling field position the past three seasons with Cason Kessinger, a place-kicker and punter who won the Fulton Walker Award last year as the state’s top special-teams player.
The Highlanders, however, may have found a suitable replacement in junior Isaiah Carpenter (6-1, 190).
“We’re real high on him,’’ said Huntington coach Billy Seals. “He’s a lot bigger kid than Cason, and he’s been booming it. I’d come here to the field during the summer and he’s out there at 8 in the morning kicking. The other day, he hit 8 of 10 from 45 yards.
“He’s a kid who’s been underneath Cason for two years, but he’s worked with the best, and now it’s his time.’’
Seals said Kessinger is taking this year off from football to attend a local school, and may try to secure a spot on a Division I program next fall.
Brown giving back
Former Martinsburg all-state receiver Isaac Brown may have left the state, but he’s still giving back to his former community.
Brown, who transferred to nearby Millbrook, Virginia, for his senior season, is donating $11,000 to the Eastern Panhandle Youth Football League, where he began his football career, according to The Journal newspaper in Martinsburg.
Following last season, Brown won the West Virginia Gatorade Player of the Year award for football, which carries a $1,000 grant to donate to a local or national charity. Each state’s player of the year can also write an essay on why he chose that organization, thus becoming eligible for a $10,000 national award. Brown also won that, and decided to donate both grants to the EPYFL.
“I really focused on the essay,’’ Brown told The Journal. “They really helped me a lot growing up [at the EPYFL]. I really just wanted to give back to them. ... I wrote about how they impacted my life, how they kept me out of trouble and gave me something to look forward to through all the school weeks. I’m not really a big fan of school.’’