The new season brings new hope for Logan County’s three high school football teams.
The 2015 prep season also ushers in a new era for the Wildcats, Hillbillies and Tigers as all three schools will have Field Turf in place for their respective football seasons.
Optimism and excitement is high for all three teams.
After six straight winning seasons from 2006-11 and five playoff appearances, Chapmanville Regional dipped to 4-6, 5-5 and 4-6 records the last three years.
The Tigers and veteran head coach George Barker hope to improve on that this fall but it won’t be easy, playing in the difficult Cardinal Conference.
It never is easy.
Around 50 players are out for Chapmanville, which is scheduled to open the season on Aug. 28 at home against Sissonville in the first ever game played on the new Tiger Stadium turf.
“I think every coach in America will tell you that if they have 40 they want 50 and if they have 50 they want 60,” Barker said on Friday. “For a Double-A school, around 50 players is not bad. We’ve got a couple of guys on the bubble here.”
Barker, who has been around football for a long time, said he never tires of the excitement early August brings when practices get started and players and fans look toward the end of the month with the start of the new high school grid season.
“Everybody in the state is undefeated right now,” Barker said. “You are out here playing against yourself and everybody looks good. We’re excited about this season.”
Chapmanville’s new Field Turf was laid down this week but the job is not done.
The rubber pellets, which act as dirt, have to be filted into the artificial blades of grass. The yard line numbers have also got to be cut and placed into the turf.
The Chapmanville block “C” in the middle of the field and the end zone designs of “Chapmanville” and “Tigers” still has to be cut and sewn in.
“The crew went to Chicago but they are supposed to come back,” Barker said. “They told me they would be back in three days.”
Chapmanville is slated to play in the third-annual Cardinal Conference Gridorama on Aug. 15 at 8 p.m. against homestanding Scott High School at the Scott High School football field at Madison.
The Tigers play 3A Lincoln County on Aug. 21. The scrimmage against the Panthers is scheduled to be played at Tiger Stadium, but Barker said it could be moved to Hamlin if the Chapmanville turf is not game-ready.
Logan, led by coach Gary Mullins, is coming off last year’s 2-8 season. The Wildcats started out 2-1 but then dropped their last seven.
Logan opens Aug. 28 at county rival Man.
The Wildcats have two away scrimmages set — Aug. 15 at Paintsville (Ky.) and Aug. 21 at Wayne — as Logan’s own turf project is still yet to be completed.
Man, which went 6-5 last year and made it to the Class A playoffs, travels to Class AAA George Washington on Aug. 15 for its traditional preseason opener, then head to River View on Aug. 21.
The turf at Man’s George A. Queen Memorial Field is already done and the Hillbillies practiced on it all week.
Man was the only county team last year to make it to the playoffs.
The Hillbillies, however, faltered late in the season with a 26-20 home loss on Halloween Night to upstart Tug Valley, a Final Four playoff team, and then were upset 14-12 at Van in the regular season finale.
Man drew Tug Valley again for the playoffs and lost 16-12 to the Panthers in a game which was played at Mingo Central’s Buck Harless Stadium.
The Hillbillies also lost a couple of hearbreakers — 28-22 at Westside and 26-20 in overtime at Chapmanville.
Man won 32-26 in overtime at Logan in last year’s season opener.
Chapmanville went 2-0 and won the county championship last year with a 48-42 overtime victory at Logan.
All three games involving county teams went into overtime last season.
The Tigers started out 0-3 last year, then won four straight to get back into the playoff picture. Chapmanville then lost its last three.
(Paul Adkins is the Sports Editor of the Logan Banner. He can be reached at 304-752-6950 ext. 1730, by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @PAdkinsBanner).