CHAPMANVILLE — Chapmanville Regional High School’s football team is turning into a perennial playoff team.
The Tigers reached their fifth straight trip to the Class AA playoffs last season and advanced further than they ever have eventually falling 33-13 at Point Pleasant in the state semifinals.
Chapmanville was just one win away from advancing to the state championship game in Wheeling.
The Tigers, which finished 9-4, also knocked off Lincoln (26-7) and Braxon County (20-14) in a pair of road playoff games as the No. 9 seed.
Chapmanville’s program has indeed taken the next step.
But to take another step it all begins on June 11 as the Tigers are scheduled to begin voluntary workouts in their three-week June summer practice period.
Tigers’ coach George Barker will be busy that week as he is set to be the head coach of the South Cardinals in the annual North-South All-Star Classic, which is scheduled for Saturday, June 16 at Charleston’s Laidley Field.
Since Barker and his Chapmanville assistants Rob Dial and Bo Berry will be working with the South team during practices that week at West Virginia State in Institute, he had an idea.
Invite Chapmanville’s players to come and work out.
And that’s exactly what Barker plans on doing.
“That first week we’re going to bus our kids over to Charleston where we are,” Barker said. “They’re going to go down and work a little bit on Wednesday the 13th of June. Then they are going to come back on Monday the 18th and we’re going to have a 7-on-7 here at Chapmanville.”
Official practices for the upcoming season don’t begin until Monday, July 30, so Barker said he doesn’t want to see his players burn out in the summer heat.
“From there (after the 7-on-7), we’re going to take a look at it and see if the kids are still having fun and we’ll maybe get some more into it,” Barker said. “I think that you have to be careful not to do too much. If they want to do something we’ll help them.”
Barker said it’s always hard to get all his players together for the June workouts since it’s summer vacation
“A lot of times, it’s hard for me to get parents to cooperate because they want to schedule vacation. The three-week period is for them. It’s not for me. I want it to be fun. I want to kids to have a good time and learn in the process,” he said.
The Tigers will be challenged with another difficult schedule.
As a member of the Cardinal Conference, it always seems to be that way.
The Tigers are set to open the 2012 season on Aug. 24 at Sissonville in a Cardinal Conference game, then host league foe Herbert Hoover on Aug. 31 in the home opener. Last season, Chapmanville ripped Sissonville 47-7 in the opener, then went to Hoover and won 27-7 over the Huskies.
Week three has Chapmanville playing at Scott on Sept. 7 in another Cardinal Conference game which will be played at Scott High School’s FieldTurfed stadium. The Tigers beat the rival Skyhawks 20-16 last season at home.
Then on Sept. 14, the Tigers host the Poca Dots in their fourth straight league contest to open the season. Chapmanville won 37-13 over the Dots last year.
The mid-point of the season is then Sept. 21 at Class AAA county rival Logan in a non-conference affair. The Tigers lost a 22-21 heartbreaker to Logan last season at home.
Then on Sept. 28, Chapmanville is set to play at James Monroe in another non-league game before hosting Class A county rival Man on Oct. 5. The Tigers beat the JMHS Mavericks 21-14 last season and scored a 61-14 blowout win over the Hillbillies at Man.
Chapmanville has its bye week on Oct. 12 and then has two straight Cardinal Conference home games against Tolsia on Oct. 19 and Wayne on Oct. 26. The Tigers rolled over the Tolsia Rebels last season, 49-14, but were ambushed by the state powerhouse and eventual Class AA state champion Wayne Pioneers, 52-26.
Wayne led Chapmanville 46-0 at the half and went on to beat Point Pleasant 34-7 in an all-Cardinal Conference state championship game at Wheeling Island Stadium. Wayne’s victory over the Black Knights avenged a controversial 16-14 loss to Point during the regular season.
The Tigers end the season on Nov. 2 at Point Pleasant — a team which enters the Class AAA ranks this fall after reclassification. The Black Knights were also a former member of the conference. Point beat the Tigers 41-18 in last year’s regular season finale before the two teams met later on in the Class AA playoffs on Point Pleasant’s carpet.
“From top to bottom we’ve got a really good schedule,” Barker said. “And now, you have two Triple-A’s with Point Pleasant and Logan. It’s just going to be tough but our kids know what it’s like. They’ve faced it the whole time that they have been in school. They’ll be ready to play on Friday nights. We’re expected to show up to play. That’s what we’re used to. We’ll strap the hemets on and the gear on and take everyone on.”
Barker said the Cardinal Conference, although shrunken to just seven teams for the 2012 season, will be very tough again this fall.
“I look for the conference to be good again from top to bottom,” Barker said. “In high school football every game is a playoff game. That’s the way that we have to approach it.”
Chapmanville lost several starters due to graduation, including tailback Tyler Cox and linemen Joe Woody and John Toler, who will be traveling to the Charleston area this week to play under Barker one more time in the North-South All-Star Classic.
Also lost to graduation are: Brandon Farley, Tyler Killen; Dylan Wiley; Jake Compton; Chase Queen; Swedish foreign exchange student and starting defensive back Eric Siljeholm; Tyler Goble; Mark Lawson; Thomas Belcher; Jeff Oxley; Michael Watts; Caleb Belcher; and Brandon Killen.
Lineman and foreign exchange student Simon Anderson, a resident of Copenhagen, Denmark, came on strong for the Tigers at the end of last season and gave Chapmanville added depth in the trenches but it’s unclear if he will be allowed by rule to come back this fall to play again for the Orange and Black.
The Tigers, though, return starting quarterback/safety Brandon White, running backs Dustin Smith, Devin Wiley and DeShawn Alexander, tight end Brady Cox and a host of others.
Last season, White passed for around 1,000 yards and fired 12 touchdowns. Smith rushed for 727 yards on 116 carries and scored nine touchdowns during the regular season.
Alexander transferred to Chapmanville from St. Albans at the midpoint of the season and finished with 201 yards on 21 carries.
Wiley had 251 yards on the ground on just 23 carries — an average of 10.9 yards per tote.
Brady Cox had 12 catches for 219 yards.
Chapmanville also returns DB Trevor Payne (24 tackles) and punter Dustin Conley, who averaged 35 yards per kick last season.
Smith, also a two-way player in Chapmanville’s secondary, led the team last season with four interceptions.
“Brandon White is back at quarterback. He’s a four-year starter on defense, too,” Barker said. “We’re looking for big things out of him. We just hope that we don’t lose any to grades but you just never know. In this day and age with high school athletes sometimes you are not sure what you are going to get and not sure who shows up on the first day of practice. We’re hoping that we get them all.”