CHAPMANVILLE — The Cardinal Conference is well known over the years for its quality brand of football.
Despite slipping to an uncharacteristic 5-5 season last year, the Wayne Pioneers have been the most successful, winning Class AA state championships in recent years in 2012, 2011 and 2006 and being state runner-ups in 2013, 2009 and 2004.
The Poca Dots have fallen on hard times in recent years but they had a run of their own, winning three straight 2A state championships in 2001-03.
Last year, the Tolsia Rebels, led by all-stater Luke Presley, had their moments of glory, shocking county rival Wayne in the season opener, then going on to win the Cardinal Conference championship before falling 39-0 to Bridgeport in the 2A state finals at Wheeling Island Stadium.
Tolsia finished 12-2 overall and a perfect 7-0 in league action. The school also has a 2006 state runner-up finish as the Rebels lost to rival Wayne in the Wheeling Super Six.
The Rebels are gone, however, as Tolsia has left the conference and have taken their game to Single-A ball.
That means there will be a new conference champion this fall.
It’s wide open at this point as the high school football season is set to begin at the end of the month.
The Cardinal Conference will be very tough and very deep again this fall with the additions of former Class AAA schools Logan, Winfield and Nitro, making it a 10-team league.
Logan and Winfield were former members of the conference in the 2000s.
Nitro played for many years in the state’s premiere Class AAA league, the Mountain State Athletic Conference.
New Chapmanville coach Rob Dial said the Cardinal is very deep. The Tigers joined the league in 2007 and many have credited the move as helping make Chapmanville much more competitive on the state level.
“I’m certainly not going to attempt to give you any predictions,” Dial said when asked about the conference. “But I’ll tell you this … I believe that the Cardinal Conference is probably one of the most physically tough football conferences in the state that your are going to see.”
The Cardinal Conference had another successful season last year as four league teams advanced to the Class AA playoffs.
The Mingo Central Miners came on strong last year and finished second in the conference standings with a 6-1 mark, falling twice to Tolsia, including a 22-0 quarterfinal playoff loss and a 44-41 setback during the regular season. The Miners beat Summers County (68-28) and tradition-rich Bluefield (35-22) in the playoffs and closed out at 10-3 overall.
Chapmanville was also a playoff team last year but fell 42-14 at home to Robert C. Byrd in the first round of the Double-A playoffs. The Tigers closed out 7-4, dropping their last four games after starting out 7-0.
The Tigers finished in a three-way tie for third place in the conference standings last year with Herbert Hoover (4-3) and Wayne (4-3).
The Herbert Hoover Huskies advanced to the post-season last year as well and beat James Monroe 55-40 in a first-round playoff game on the road. Hoover closed out 8-4, losing 54-0 at Tolsia in the second round.
Herbert Hoover High School, and some of its athletic facilities, experienced a huge setback with the recent flooding in the Clendenin/Falling Rock area. The West Virginia floods claimed the lives of at least 26 people.
Wayne was just 5-5 last season and missed the playoffs, a super rare event for the traditionally strong Pioneers which experienced a down year. Wayne hopes to jump back to the top of the conference again this fall.
Six out of the eight Cardinal members had at least a .500 season or better.
The sixth team was Sissonville, which finished 5-5 overall. The Indians were just 1-5 to start the season but finished strong with four wins as Sissonville beat Clay County (13-12), Logan (56-0), Poca (69-12) and Braxton County (33-14).
Scott (2-8) and Poca (0-10) struggled last season and brought up the rear in the Cardinal Conference standings.
Logan (4-6), Nitro (1-9) and Winfield (4-6) bring a new wrinkle into the league this fall.
Nitro enters the season with a nine-game losing skid after beating rival Poca 39-14 in last year’s season opener then falling in the last nine contests.
The conference will be split into North and South divisions.
The South Division is made up of Chapmanville, Logan, Scott, Mingo Central and Wayne. In the North Division are Herbert Hoover, Poca, Sissonville, Nitro and Winfield.
“You have 10 teams that are all good programs,” Dial said. “Many of them have good traditions and all are very very well coached. You’re going to see wide diverse styles of offenses from one team to the next. All of them play hard physical styles of football.”
Dial said the three new teams makes the conference even better.
“We have a tremendous amount of respect for all of the programs,” he said. “Coach (Gary) Mullins at Logan does a tremendous job. With them moving into Double-A that’s going to help them fit better as far as the numbers game of football goes. That’s going to be a better fit for them but for also Winfield. I talked to Coach Snyder at Winfield and they are looking for a really good year. They are expecting to have a really good team.”
Dial said there’s no gimmies in this league.
“You look at a team like Poca who went 0-10 last year,” he said. “Just about 10 years ago they were the three-time state champions. Every team in this conference from one to 10 you’re going to have to play football on Friday night in order to be successful.”
The conference will hold its annual preseason Gridorama on Aug. 20 at Scott.
The event features five controlled football scrimmages involving all 10 conference teams.
Each scrimmage will be timed and limited to two hours on a continuously-running game clock and consist of 10-play drives and down-and-distance plays.
The coaches of the opposing teams in each scrimmage will decide the exact format for their respective scrimmage.
Gates open at 9 a.m.
Admission is $7 for students and adults. Admission receipts will be divided among the member schools. Concessions will also be available.
The Gridorama schedule is as follows:
Cardinal Conference Gridorama
August 20 at Scott High School
Chapmanville vs. Winfield, 10:15 a.m.
Nitro vs. Sissonville, 12:15 p.m.
Herbert Hoover vs. Poca, 2:45 p.m.
Logan vs. Mingo Central, 5 p.m.
Scott vs. Wayne, 7:15 p.m.
Team CONF ALL PF PA
Chapmanville 0-0 0-0 0 0
Logan 0-0 0-0 0 0
Mingo Central 0-0 0-0 0 0
Scott 0-0 0-0 0 0
Wayne 0-0 0-0 0 0
Team CONF ALL PF PA
Herbert Hoover 0-0 0-0 0 0
Nitro 0-0 0-0 0 0
Poca 0-0 0-0 0 0
Sissonville 0-0 0-0 0 0
Winfield 0-0 0-0 0 0
(Paul Adkins is the Sports Editor of the Logan Banner. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @PAdkinsBanner).