The North has pulled out all the stops in an attempt to move the ball in Saturday’s game. Thus, the South should be satisfied with getting some stops.
There’s a definite Fairmont Senior flavor — the taste of offense — for the WCHS-TV 8/Fox 11 North-South All-Star Football Classic, which kicks off at 12:06 p.m. at South Charleston High School.
WCHS will televise the 66th installment of the game live. Tickets are priced at $8 each.
Fairmont Senior captured the Class AA championship last fall behind a dynamic offense led by Kennedy Award-winning quarterback Connor Neal, who threw for 3,620 yards and 46 touchdowns. The Polar Bears went a perfect 14-0 and racked up a shade under 50 points per game.
The North coaching staff, led by Liberty Harrison’s AJ Harman, wanted to channel some of that offensive might when it went about selecting its roster. So not only was Neal lured to play — becoming just the third Kennedy winner since 2006 to participate — but so were Polar Bears offensive coordinator Mark Sampson and two of Neal’s offensive buddies in wideout Exavier Posey and versatile runner-receiver Rhett Heston.
They also landed Robert C. Byrd running back Ghovan Davidson, a 215-pound hammer who ran for 2,104 yards and 26 TDs last season.
“I think everybody’s bought in,’’ Harman said. “We don’t have anybody who’s selfish. We’re all here and we understand we’re on the same page. We want to win the game and have a great week while we’re doing it.’’
The North trails in the all-time series 40-22-3, but comes into Saturday’s game having won three straight, including 42-20 last year, and seeks to match its longest winning streak of four in a row, established from 1999-2002.
North-South rules dictate that every player be on at least one starting unit, but Harman expects most players on his roster to participate on both offense and defense, along with special-teams work.
“Really, all of them are talented enough to play on both sides of the ball,’’ Harman said, “and there are some we’re going to have to use both ways. Really, none of them are in shape, so I’d say there’s a good chance all of them have to play both sides at some point or another, and special teams also, just to make sure we’re fresh. They’re all going to play and contribute. That’s why they’re here.’’
Neal figures to get a good deal of time under center, but Harman also anticipates using Tre Beard (Musselman) and Jacob Hartman (Petersburg) at quarterback.
“Tre brings some different things to the table with his legs,’’ Harman said. “He’s a tremendous athlete and had a ton of success at Musselman. We’re really excited to have him and Connor both. Jake Hartman is the sleeper with the things he was able to accomplish at Petersburg and kind of put those guys on the map. He’s playing more linebacker for us this week, but I’d see playing him a little bit at quarterback as well.’’
The South also sports three QBs on its roster — Will Adkins (Class AAA Spring Valley), Will Hackney (Class AA Sissonville) and J.T. Hensley (Class A Sherman). All had productive senior seasons, either throwing or rushing for well over 1,000 yards.
However, one of the big keys for the South will be establishing some sort of reliable running game. Not only would that help keep Neal and the North offense on the sideline, but also generate better field position.
In the last two North-South games, the ground game has been a no-show for the South — it gained only 12 yards on 25 carries last year and 18 yards on 28 carries in 2017.
Two of the running backs listed on the South roster are Spring Valley’s Owen Chafin (1,401 yards, 12 touchdowns last fall) and Greenbrier East’s Jaylon Battaile (1,085 yards, nine TDs). Both check in at 205 pounds.
South coach David Moneypenny of Fayetteville hopes to keep things simple and let his players’ talents take over.
“They all come from different backgrounds,’’ Moneypenny said, “and the one good thing about it — they’re all good football players. I’ve told myself over and over that I’m not going to overcoach these guys. They’re proven. They proved themselves on the field.
“We don’t need to go in there and change a whole lot with what they’re doing. We looked at them a lot on film. We knew a lot about them coming in. The neat thing is now you get to see them in person. So the key is don’t overcoach them. Utilize what they have and keep them united and hope good things will happen for us.’’
The South will run Spring Valley’s offense.