Cabell Midland had trouble keeping healthy running backs on the field last season, but not nearly as much trouble as opponents did keeping the Knights out of the end zone.
Even with three key backs missing a total of 30 games, Midland was still able to win its first 13 games last year and advance to the Super Six state finals, falling to four-time defending champion Martinsburg in the Class AAA title contest.
Several of those ball-carriers are back this season, led by senior fullback Jakob Caudill (5-foot-9, 213 pounds), who led the Knights with 1,924 yards on the ground and 15 touchdowns.
He’ll be joined in the backfield by seniors Jaydyn Johnson (6-2, 190) and Isaiah Vaughn (5-10, 165), each of whom sat out 10 games with ankle injuries in 2019. Junior quarterback Chandler Schmidt (6-1, 195) also returns after his season was short-circuited by a broken ankle.
Junior Jackson Fetty (6-0, 185), a mainstay on defense, ran for 344 yards and eight touchdowns a year ago as one of the emergency fill-ins in the backfield.
The Knights lost three All-State defensive players, but return one of their top two-way linemen in junior Nemo Roberts (6-0, 240).
Cabell Midland, the Mountain State Athletic Conference champion last season, was one of nine league teams to qualify for the AAA playoffs. Four MSAC teams made it to the quarterfinals, two advanced to the semifinals and the Knights played in the Super Six for the second time since 2012.
Here are the top returnees for other MSAC teams (rundowns of Capital, George Washington, Hurricane, Riverside, South Charleston and St. Albans are included elsewhere in this edition):
n Spring Valley (11-2): The Timberwolves, who reached the playoff semifinals last season before losing to Midland, saw most of their top skill-position players graduate, but they did pick up two transfers of note from Kentucky.
Senior quarterback Jack Roy (6-5, 215) comes in from Fairview after throwing for 1,339 yards and seven TDs last season. Senior offensive tackle Bryce Biggs (6-6, 275) transfers in from Boyd County, where he earned some Division I scholarship offers.
The Wolves’ top lineman is senior Wyatt Milum (6-7, 265), who has received nearly 20 D-1 offers. Other leading returnees on defense include senior safety Brody Brumfield (5-9, 160), junior end Corbin Page (6-5, 245) and senior linebacker Cole Diamond (5-10, 175), who tied for the team lead in tackles during the regular season.
n Huntington (5-6): The Highlanders return several proven veteran players, including senior defensive back Devin Jackson (6-0, 175), who may also be called upon to carry the ball. Jackson rushed for 344 yards and two TDs in eight games as a running back last season.
Senior tight end-defensive lineman Eli Archer (6-4, 220) is another top-notch prospect, with junior lineman Max Wentz (6-3, 265) providing help on offense and defense.
One of the Highlanders’ leading receivers is also back in junior Noah Waynick (6-3, 170), who caught 18 passes for 373 yards and three scores last fall.
Curtis Jones (6-0, 180), a promising freshman running back who has been clocked at 4.5 seconds in the 40-yard dash, also figures into the offense. His father, Curtis Jones, is a former receiving standout at Marshall.
n Parkersburg (5-6): The Big Reds lost all four of the athletes who made the All-MSAC first or second team last season, but bring back some talent on either side of the ball.
Junior Bryson Singer (6-3, 172) and senior Michael Owen (5-11, 170) both return at quarterback, with Singer coming off a season in which he ran for 1,342 yards and seven touchdowns and threw for 1,311 yards and 16 TDs. Junior Carter King (5-10, 160) had long scoring receptions against Hurricane and Musselman.
Three of Parkersburg’s top five tacklers also return in senior linebacker Casey Mahoney (6-2, 220, 73 tackles), senior defensive end Justin Waybright (6-2, 215, 72 tackles) and junior linebacker Xadrian Snodgrass (5-11, 200, 70 tackles).