More than two months before it opened the regular season, Poca suffered its first loss — and it was a big one.
On the final day of the three-week practice period in June, Dots senior tailback and defensive back Owen McClanahan tore an ACL making a cut in the open field and was lost for the season.
The versatile and shifty McClanahan was the No. 2 offensive option last season for Poca, which went 9-2, captured a share of the Cardinal Conference championship and made the Class AA playoffs for the first time since 2010.
He led the team in receiving last season, was second in rushing behind All-Stater Ethan Payne and scored 15 total touchdowns, one on a kickoff return.
Poca coach Seth Ramsey said McClanahan’s injury was a dismal way to end summer drills. Even though the Dots had two months to restructure their offense to make up for his absence, Ramsey still ached for McClanahan, whose career came to a premature close.
“You hate to see that kind of stuff happen,’’ Ramsey said, “but especially for him because he’s one of those kids who’s done a complete 360 with everything since he came down here as a freshman. My gosh, how far he’s come, and how much he matured and has grown up. You just hate that for him.
“He was not just a good player, but really great in the return game and great defensively at cornerback. You usually put him on everybody else’s best guys, and he could handle it. Hopefully, our other guys should be able to pick up things more [minus McClanahan] than they might have in the past because they’re been around for a while.’’
The 5-foot-9, 170-pound McClanahan caught 19 passes for 362 yards and six touchdowns as a junior, averaging a healthy 19.1 yards per reception. He also became the team’s main ball-carrier when Payne suffered a hip injury late in the regular season.
McClanahan ran for 108 yards and a TD against Scott and carried 20 times for 186 yards and two TDs in a 14-9 victory against Herbert Hoover. He finished with 74 rushing attempts for 591 yards and eight TDs.
Flood just a memoryIt’s been three years since the June 2016 floods devastated Herbert Hoover, forcing the closure of the school building, and even though its students are still housed in portable units adjacent to Elkview Middle School, awaiting the construction of a new high school building, those dire days following the flood are becoming a distant memory for the Huskies’ football players.
Coach Tim Meyer said this week there’s been no long-term hangover for his program related to the flooding, which also wiped out much of the school’s athletic equipment.
“No, we’ve started settling into a routine,’’ Meyer said. “There has been a real resiliency and they’ve adapted very well. We don’t feel like there’s anything related to that holding us back. The kids and coaches and community and administration, everybody, we’ve all adapted very well to it.
“It was a terrible thing, but like I said, the kids will surprise you, and they’ve bounced back and do a good job with it.’’
Generals too generousWinfield’s defense last year didn’t perform to the standards it set in 2017 when the Generals went 8-4 and earned their first playoff win since 2000.
Last season, Winfield allowed 283 points — 28.3 per game — as opponents scored fewer than three touchdowns just twice in 10 games. In 2017, the Generals permitted fewer than three TDs seven times.
“We weren’t poor defensively last year,’’ said coach Craig Snyder, “but we had a propensity for giving up big plays. We’d try to whittle our way back in games, then we’d give up a big play, a big pass. Against Wayne, a punt return touchdown broke our momentum a little bit.
“You look at all our games, and it happened in about every game. The Hurricane game was close, the Chapmanville game was close. You have to think if we’d tackled better then we’re not giving up those big plays, and some of those close games that ended up being losses would end up being close wins.’’
Snyder said the 2017 team also had some close games, but it also put up 471 points in the regular season.
“We weren’t as prolific offensively last year,’’ he said, “and teams tried to play catch up with us. Teams competed differently. For me, the magic number — and the sign of a good defense — is not allowing more than something in the teens [in points per game]. It’s probably going to be a tough row to hoe if you can’t have some stops.’’