Dave Walker isn’t in a hurry to break up a good thing.
Following his Martinsburg team’s seventh Class AAA title in nine years last December, Walker was asked if he was anywhere near ready to walk off into the sunset toward retirement. After all, he’s already the winningest high school football coach ever in West Virginia and also has more playoff wins than anyone.
“That’s a good question,’’ Walker said as the Bulldogs players and coaches mulled around Wheeling Island Stadium, savoring another championship moment. “As long as I’m having fun, I’m going to keep doing it. And as long as the kids are working hard, it’s a great group to be around. It’s a lot of fun.’’
With the way Martinsburg has been churning out wins and titles, who can blame the 54-year-old Walker for sticking around for another decade or so? Here are some of the highlights of his coaching career heading into the 2019 season, his 23rd at Martinsburg and 32nd overall:
n Has state-record 290 career victories in 31 seasons, 22 at Martinsburg and nine at Class A East Hardy (1988-96). He broke the former record of 288 wins held by Larry McClintic, who coached 47 years at Meadow Bridge before stepping down after the 2015 season.
n Owns 47 playoff victories, another state record.
n Currently sports a 42-game winning streak in all games, the longest in West Virginia prep football history. Martinsburg also won 32 in a row from 2010-12.
n Has led Martinsburg to the state finals in Wheeling 11 times since 2001, winning titles in his last seven trips.
n Has taken the Bulldogs to the playoffs 21 straight times, missing only in his first season (1997). He also made the postseason seven times in nine years at East Hardy, giving him 28 playoff berths in 31 seasons overall.
n Finally, his Martinsburg teams have won 58 straight home games at Cobourn Field against West Virginia opponents. That string extends more than 11 years, with the last such home loss coming to Jefferson on Nov. 2, 2007.
Odds are that Walker will become the first state coach to reach 300 wins sometime this season, needing 10 to reach that figure. After all, his Bulldogs have averaged nearly 13 victories over the past nine years, going an incredible 115-7 in that stretch with five 14-0 marks.
Interestingly, Walker has experienced some low moments in his coaching career — namely, those at the beginning. At East Hardy in 1988, his first team went 0-10 and his second team 1-9. Then came seven playoff teams in a row. At Martinsburg in 1997, his initial team started out 0-9 before beating Riverdale Baptist, Maryland to end up 1-9. Now it’s 21 straight playoff squads.
Martinsburg will again be in the mix of the top teams in AAA this season, returning experienced players such as linemen Matt Bednarski, Ty Lucas and Trey Sine, linebacker Anthony Smith, receiver Jarod Bowie, running back Naieem Kearney and quarterback Elijah Banks. Adding to that, All-State receiver Malakai Brown and lineman Michael Turner have transferred in from Hedgesville. Turner was All-State honorable mention in 2017 as a sophomore.
Walker lost three of five starters on the offensive line, but returns three of five on the defensive front. Smith was third on the team in total tackles last year, including seven for lost yardage.
“Our offensive line is going to be a key,’’ Walker said. “Our defensive line is pretty good, and we feel like we’ve got some guys who have the potential to be really good. Linemen don’t get enough credit sometimes, and we feel good about the ones we’ve got.’’
When you grow up with the last name of America — as Doddridge County running back Hunter America has — you take the word play with your name all in fun. He certainly has.
“Ever since I was little,’’ he said, “I got named Captain America. I’ve always been an athlete, and people just kind of gave me that name.’’
The senior could actually serve as a team captain this year, as he’s in the running when the team votes for those honors during the start of preseason practice.
More kickoffs at 7
The trend for more teams using 7 p.m. to kick off all or the majority of their home games keeps advancing this season.
Last year, 63 schools had kickoffs at 7, and 53 started their games at 7:30. This season, it’s gone up to 67 teams beginning at 7, and 48 still at 7:30.
The change in total number of schools playing went up by one, as Fayette County’s Valley and Fayetteville were swallowed up in consolidations, while Trinity Christian added a seven-game varsity schedule.
Upon further review
Buffalo running back Dylan Lucas was credited with 263 points during the 2016 regular season, which would have tied the state record set by Pikeville’s Curt Warner in 1978. However, a recent check revealed that Lucas actually finished the 2016 regular season with 260 points.
Three extra-point kicks in a game against Fayetteville were mistakenly credited to Lucas instead of kicker Drake Fertig, accounting for the discrepancy.