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When John H. Lilly took the Independence prep football coaching job four years ago, he promised his current group of upperclassmen that if they worked hard and stuck with him he’d take them to Wheeling.

He made good on that promise, guiding the Patriots to three playoff wins last month and with it a spot in the Class AA championship game.

That hard work was also recognized by the West Virginia Sports Writers Association, which named seven Patriots to the Class AA All-State first team.

“I think the biggest thing that stands out is consistency and how hard they worked in the offseason,” Lilly said. “It’s very rewarding for a coach to be able to tell the kids that if they work hard that they can be rewarded and it actually happen. I think that’s the biggest thing. Now we can grow on it and the younger kids now see that if they work that hard, they can do that too. I think the most I’ve ever had on a team is three [All-State first-teamers] so that’s pretty unbelievable.”

Leading the way is Indy’s top weapon on offense, running back Atticus Goodson, who closed out his career with first-team captain honors on the offensive side of the ball. Playing only three years, the senior running back accumulated over 5,000 career rushing yards, finishing the 2021 season with 1,896 yards and 29 touchdowns on the ground with 772 of those yards coming in the playoffs. It’s the second first-team selection for Goodson, who was the second-team captain his sophomore year.

“He’s probably the best recruiting job in my career,” Lilly said. “He didn’t play his freshman year because I don’t think his mom wanted him to play and he kind of didn’t want to play. We talked him into playing and honestly he almost didn’t start his first game. We didn’t know what he could do. We knew he was a great athlete but to watch him grow each year, it was really fun. Talking him and his mom into playing football was probably my best recruiting job.”

Earning captain status on the defensive side of the All-State team is Herbert Hoover defensive back Devin Hatfield. The senior intercepted nine passes and returned five of them for touchdowns. He also returned four punts for scores and a kickoff for a touchdown for the Huskies, who were undefeated in the regular season, earning the No. 1 seed in the playoffs.

Joining Goodson on the first team are Independence teammates Logan Isom (offensive line), Judah Price (offensive utility), Brady Grimmett (defensive line), Jordan Harvey (linebacker), younger brother Cyrus Goodson (defensive back) and Trey Bowers (defensive utility).

Isom was a standout on a line that helped Independence lead the state in scoring (50.7 points per game) while Price accumulated over 800 yards rushing, 200 yards receiving and returned two punts for touchdowns.

Grimmett, Harvey (52.5 tackles in the regular season), Cyrus Goodson (four interceptions) and Bowers (seven interceptions) round out a Patriot defense that was second in Class AA in fewest points allowed per game (12.6), yielding no more than 21 in any game.

Bluefield’s Jacorian Green and North Marion’s Tariq Miller occupy the first-team wide receiver spots.

Green caught 35 passes for 625 yards and seven touchdowns as the Beavers made an improbable run to the state semifinals as the No. 14 seed. Miller caught 42 passes for 745 yards and nine touchdowns, picking up 188 yards and three more scores on the ground.

Joining Isom on the offensive line are Eric Smith of two-time defending state champion Fairmont Senior, Roane County’s Toby Copen, Poca’s Gabe Keech and Sissonville’s Seth Patton. Joining Goodson at running back are Amir Hairston (Bluefield), Jeremiah King (Robert C. Byrd) and Gavin Jeffers (Point Pleasant).

Hairston ran for over 1,100 yards, picking up at least 100 in each of the Beavers’ three playoff games, while King capped a career that saw him rush for over 6,000 yards with 1,960 yards and 22 touchdowns this past season.

The first-team quarterback is Berkeley Springs’ Gavin Barkley. He threw for 2,702 yards and 36 scores, rushing for six more touchdowns.

Rounding out the first-team offense are Hoover kicker Levi Paxton and Poca utility man Toby Payne. Payne was primarily a receiver with 972 yards through the air, but saw time in the backfield, picking up 413 yards rushing.

Joining Grimmett on the defense line are Isaiah Chapman (Herbert Hoover), Gabe Ryan (Keyser) and Jacob Morton (Clay County). Morton recorded 40 tackles for a loss.

Ryker Brown (Bluefield), Bryson Pinardo (Shady Spring) and Evan Warne (Robert C. Byrd) join Harvey as the first-team linebackers.

Pinardo recorded 191 tackles and Brown had 55 to go along with three interceptions.

Joining Goodson and Hatfield in the secondary is Frankfort’s Luke Robinette.

Rounding out the defense in the utility spots are Will Sarsfield (East Fairmont) and Kolton Goldie (Logan). Goldie had 87 tackles and forced and recovered two fumbles.

The final member of the first team is Liberty (Raleigh) punter/utility man Logan Dodrill, who averaged 36.2 yards per punt, recorded 16 tackles and ran for over 1,200 yards on offense.

The second-team captains are Roane County’s Briar Begler (offense) and Fairmont Senior’s Dylan Ours (defense).