Perhaps things are looking up for the North-South Football Classic.
For the first time in five years, the summertime all-star game at Laidley Field has secured the services of the Kennedy Award winner.
Running back Kashuan Haley, who helped Capital capture the Class AAA championship last fall, was part of the South roster that was released Wednesday. Haley is headed to Lackawanna Junior College in Scranton, Pennsylvania.
Haley becomes the first Kennedy winner to commit to the North-South game since South Charleston quarterback Tyler Harris, who won the Kennedy as a junior in 2009 and played in the 2011 game.
Prior to that, the last four Kennedy winners had skipped the North-South — Morgantown running back Chazzy Thomas (2013), George Washington running back Ryan Switzer (2011-12) and Magnolia quarterback Justin Fox (2010). In fact, Harris is the only Kennedy recipient since 2006 to agree to play in the game.
But even bigger than just the Kennedy winner, it’s become an all-too-apparent trend over the last decade — the state’s best players opting out of the North-South contest.
Last year, Greenbrier East quarterback Isaiah Kinder (William & Mary) was the only one of the state’s six major college football recruits to compete in the June game at Laidley.
This year, there are 11 such players and again only one — Bluefield tight end-defensive end Corey Coppola (Davidson) — is on the preliminary set of North-South rosters distributed to statewide media this week.
“We’ve always been pleased with the kids who come,’’ said Bob Mullett, North-South game director, “and having these kids this year, I know other people see it as a bonus. You look down the rosters and there are some real good kids in the game this year.
“We invite every major college kid. A couple of them did not accept because they had camps and they needed to be on campus. Kids want to play in the game, but early enrollment summer school and summer practices have hurt us in the past. I can understand that and I can appreciate that.’’
Consider this a personal plea to high school coaches and athletic directors in the greater Kanawha Valley area and all around southern West Virginia: Please contact your local newspaper for tickets to the Victory Awards Dinner, set for May 17 at the WesBanco Arena in Wheeling.
And do so soon. Don’t wait until the last minute (the deadline for ticket sales is May 11).
Every year it seems, the days immediately after the deadline, there’s a mad rush of calls to our office seeking tickets. The familiar cry is, “No one told me about this until today.’’
Well, consider yourself amply forewarned.
Tickets are being sold for $20 each at member newspapers of the West Virginia Sports Writers Association, including the Gazette and Daily Mail. Everyone attending the banquet, including the athletes and coaches being honored, must have a ticket. Checks can be made payable to WVSWA.
Here is a list of honorees for the larger awards from the greater Kanawha Valley area:
Football: Kennedy, Warner Awards — Kashuan Haley, Capital; House Award — Kentre Grier, South Charleston; Hunt Award — Trevor Stacy, Spring Valley;
Other sports: Hardman Award — Rakeem Cato, Marshall; Evans Award — TBA; Baseball player of year — Seth Kinker, Cabell Midland; Softball player/Taylor Award — Allison Rager, Herbert Hoover; Dutton Award/wrestling — Logan Grass, Huntington;
Championship coaches: Football — Jon Carpenter, Capital; Boys basketball — Allen Osborne, Poca; Ron Hess, Huntington; Girls basketball — Rich Skeen, Sissonville; Shannon Lewis, St. Joseph; Boys soccer — Dom Cipollone, Charleston Catholic; Girls soccer — Marshall Hoff, Winfield; Amy Mullen, Charleston Catholic; Baseball — Brian Sutphin, Hurricane; Golf — Bill Gillispie, Charleston Catholic; Boys tennis — Chris Luckett, George Washington; Girls tennis — Joan Poole, Huntington; Girls track — Shelly Young, Hurricane; Softball — Missy Smith, Herbert Hoover; Darrell Moore, Buffalo; Rod Hoover, Lincoln County; Boys/girls swimming — Kaycee McCormick, George Washington.
Anyone coming to the Gazette offices to purchase tickets is asked to call 304-348-1749 to ensure someone is in the sports department.
Finally, I’ll take a self-serving bow for my boys basketball state tournament predictions.
I correctly predicted championships for Huntington (Class AAA) and Poca (AA), and I’m going to give myself half-credit in Class A.
I said defending champion and No. 1 seed Wheeling Central would not win, and the team I picked (Greater Beckley Christian) lost in the semifinals to the team that did take the title (Magnolia).
Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @RickRyanWV.