Prep football notebook: First-year players crossing over from other sports

Photo courtesy of GREG ISAACS
John Fenwick (24), a senior who led George Washington’s lacrosse team in scoring last season, has come out for football for the first time and could start for the Patriots at safety.

George Washington and St. Albans are getting a little outside help for their programs this season.

Both the Patriots and Red Dragons have had their defensive secondaries bolstered by the addition of first-year senior players emigrating from other sports.

John Fenwick, a lacrosse standout for state power GW, is being ticketed to start at safety. Meanwhile, Garrett Albert, a soccer player at St. Albans, is vying for playing time in the Red Dragons’ secondary.

Fenwick, at 5-foot-10 and 170 pounds, led George Washington lacrosse in scoring last spring with 56 goals and 25 assists for 81 points. The Patriots went 14-4 and advanced to the Division I championship game in Fairmont before losing to University 10-5.

“We’ve been after him for four years to come out,’’ said GW football coach Steve Edwards Jr., “and we’re tickled that he did come out. He had a real good middle school career, and we’re glad he decided to play.

“We’re looking for him to be a big help [in the secondary]. He’s had a really good summer and has worked out hard. He’s pretty solid, too. He’s an athlete who can run and catch, and he’s super smart.’’

But while Fenwick is still expected to play his other sport — lacrosse — as a senior, since the seasons don’t overlap, Albert was a surprise show at St. Albans preseason football practice on July 31. Football and soccer seasons run almost concurrently in West Virginia.

Albert was a special mention on the All-Mountain State Athletic Conference boys soccer team last season.

“He was not with us during the three-week session [in June],’’ said SA coach Scott Tinsley, “but he came out, and I think he’s really going to contribute in the defensive secondary — maybe at an outside linebacker or free safety.

“I think he said he was kind of burned out on soccer and wanted to try something else before he graduated. Right now, I’m sure glad he did. He’s been a big help to us. Now of course we didn’t have the pads on when practice started, so you don’t know for sure. But he sure looks the part.’’

Football teams around West Virginia were allowed to start having live contact drills for the first time on Tuesday.

Cardinal Grid set

Four Class AA playoff teams from last year, including state champion Mingo Central, are set to participate in the Cardinal Conference Grid-o-rama on Saturday, Aug. 19 on the artificial turf at Scott High in Madison.

All 10 league teams will appear in the event, which begins at 10:15 a.m. Gates open at 9 and admission is $7 for students and adults. Concessions will be available.

Mingo Central and Chapmanville begin the scrimmages at 10:15, followed by Herbert Hoover and Poca at approximately 12:30 p.m., Logan and Wayne at 2:45, Winfield and Sissonville at 5 and Scott and Nitro at 7:15.

Hoover, Winfield and Sissonville also made the AA postseason a year ago.

Each workout will be held with a two-hour running clock, and teams are given 15 minutes to warm up for the next scrimmage. Coaches of the opposing teams will determine the exact format for their particular scrimmages, but 10-play drives and down-and-distance work are expected.

Toth vs. alma mater

James Toth, a 1985 Man High graduate, makes his debut as Logan’s head coach on Aug. 25 against — you guessed it — his alma mater.

Toth, who played for the Hillbillies in the 1984 Class AA state championship game, returns to Man for his team’s season opener, spicing up their Logan County rivalry.

“It’s been interesting,’’ Toth said. “It’s a county rivalry situation for us, and I’ve been called a traitor and things like that — mainly in jest. But I still teach at Man High School, so it’s been interesting.

“I think everybody understands you go where the job is and where the situation takes you, and I’m excited to be here at Logan.’’

Toth spent 20-plus years as an assistant coach in Mason County on the staffs at Wahama and Point Pleasant and also spent time as an assistant at Man. He worked the two previous seasons as defensive coordinator at Logan, but moved up to head coach when Gary Mullins stepped down after 13 seasons leading the Wildcats.

What’s my line?

From one vantage point, it seems like Spring Valley might be hard-pressed to match last year’s output for its ground game, which churned out an average of 353 yards, simply because it lost four of five starters along the offensive line, including Tennessee recruit Riley Locklear.

Of course, the one returning starter this year is a good one — junior Doug Nester just committed to Ohio State. But last year’s backups and junior varsity players also hold promise, according to Timberwolves coach Brad Dingess.

“We were fortunate enough to have a [comfortable] lead in some games last year,’’ Dingess said, “and kids who are going to play this year got some varsity time, so they’re not going into it blindly.

“Take [Damion Wilson]. He was Locklear’s backup last year, and he got a lot of playing time, especially early when it was warm. We’re more of a cold-weather team than a hot-weather team, anyway.’’

Wilson, a 6-3, 255-pound junior, thus begins the season with plenty of snaps to his credit.

“I know that JV is JV,’’ Dingess said, “but our JV kids didn’t lose a ballgame last year, and they didn’t give up a whole lot of points. They’re aggressive kids and we’re anxious to see what they can do. They put in a lot of work and they deserve to play. There’s talent there.

“The other kids who played before them were three-year starters, so they were names people knew. So these are just some new names, but they’re pretty good football players in there.’’

No platoon here

While some schools in the Mountain State Athletic Conference like Cabell Midland platoon their players — using 11 different athletes on offense and defense — others can’t afford it.

Take South Charleston, which expects to have five two-way starters this season.

“We try to keep the number as low as possible,’’ said SC coach Donnie Mays, “but we don’t have the luxury of the bigger schools like Cabell Midland.

“You can even look at some of those double-A schools that have 85 kids coming out. We’re a small triple-A school.’’

At the SSAC’s most recent reclassification, SC was the third-smallest school in Class AAA with 968 students, less than half of No. 1 Midland’s 1,965.

Contact Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or rickryan@wvgazettemail.com. Follow him on Twitter @RickRyanWV.

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