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North-South football notebook: Reclassification will bring change in fall

The North-South football game, in a way, brings down the curtain on the previous sports season. When it rises again in August, the landscape will have changed a good deal in West Virginia athletics.

The latest batch of SSAC reclassifications is sure to jumble the contenders and the pretenders when the new school year arrives. A few highlights:

  • Joining Class AAA - Point Pleasant (AA football finalist last year), Shady Spring (AA football semifinalist last year), Oak Hill (back-to-back AA basketball champion 2010-11):
  • Joining AA - Bridgeport (AAA football semifinalist twice in last three years), North Marion (back-to-back AAA girls basketball champion 2010-11), Fairmont Senior (five-time AAA baseball runner-up in last 10 years);
  • Joining Class A - Magnolia (AA football champion 2010), Tug Valley (AA boys basketball champion 2012), Greenbrier West (AA football semifinalist 2010).
  • Some of the schools moving down a class could be sitting on a gold mine of success.

    Fairmont Senior, for instance, has been more than competitive in many AAA sports. Besides making the baseball state tournament nine times in the last 10 years, the Polar Bears won 21 games and were the No. 4 seed in the boys basketball tournament last March and just missed the football playoffs at 5-5 after making the 16-team field in 2010.

    "We've always got good athletes coming through the school,'' said Trevor Malnick, an inside linebacker for the North from Fairmont Senior who also played baseball. "I think with the drop down to double-A, they have a good shot at winning some state championships at pretty much any sport they want to.''

    Magnolia finds itself in a similar situation, moving to Class A after making its mark against bigger schools. Recently, the Blue Eagles won the AA boys basketball title in 2003, a baseball crown in 2006 and a football championship in 2010.

    "A lot of things are going to change,'' said North wingback Jayson Keller of Magnolia, who also played basketball. "I've got a little brother who's still playing, so I'm going to [pay attention].

    "But I think they can't get overconfident the next couple years, because single-A is not as easy as it sounds. Williamstown's pretty good at football, and Madonna and [Wheeling] Central.''

    Of course, a downshoot of teams tackling smaller divisions is that they may lose some of the rivalries they developed in the other classes.

    "They've changed the schedule all around,'' Malnick said of Fairmont Senior. "They have to play double-A schools now, but from what I've heard they're still going to try to play some of the rivalries.''

    Keller has heard Magnolia's basketball schedule has some open dates because not many schools are lining up to play a team that returns 6-foot-7 Mark Winters, a state player of the year candidate.

    "I'm pretty sure they're having trouble getting basketball teams to pick us up next year,'' Keller said, "because we're supposed to be pretty good.''

    Playing by the rules

    There was a time not too far gone when North-South coaches, players and game organizers would pore over details of the game's special rules, such as requiring each team to throw at least 20 passes, no blitzing on defense, etc.

    But rarely in recent years have those rules been mentioned in the week leading up to the game, distributed at the media day or even found their way into print in the game program.

    But both coaches this year are aware of the rules . . . if they're still being enforced.

    "We're kind of obligated by rules to do a few things,'' said South coach George Barker of Chapmanville during media day. "We're going to spread it out, spread it around to as many people as we can, and hopefully as often as we can.''

    Barker's teams at Chapmanville have leaned heavily on the run in recent seasons. Last year, 80.3 percent of the Tigers' offensive plays were rushing plays.

    "We're going to run our offense whatever the best way is these kids can run it,'' Barker said. "That's what we're going to do. If it's the passing game, we're going to be throwing it. If it's the running game, we're going to run it. We're just going to run our offense and do what we do best.''

    North coach Tony Filberto, who's leaving Oak Glen to return to Weir this year, has been concocting a hybrid offense this week. He has combined some of the offense he ran last year at Oak Glen with the attack operated by coaches Mike Young and Jason Rine of Wheeling Central, two assistants on his North staff.

    "We're going to play within the rules of the North-South game,'' Filberto said. "We're going to be a wing-T misdirection team with our run, and we've incorporated the Wheeling Central run with our passing game, so we're going to get a blend of the two. You're going to get multiple formations, throwing the football and running the football.

    "We're just as confident throwing the ball as we are running the ball. If the defense is doing to give us the throw, we'll be throwing it. If they're going to give us the run, we'll run it. We've blended our passing game with [Central's] running game, and it's come out to a pretty neat offense. Maybe we'll use it through the season. We feel comfortable going to either, and we will do both.''

    Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or rickryan@wvgazette.com.

     


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