CHARLESTON — Coming into this season, South Charleston and Cabell Midland were considered two of the teams to beat in the Mountain State Athletic Conference.
That was borne out again when the final playoff ratings were released in Class AAA, with Midland and SC picking up the top two seeds, respectively, heading into the postseason.
And even though the AAA playoffs were pretty much a wash, with 11 of the 15 games called off due to COVID-19, the Black Eagles and Knights distinguished themselves again as the only two teams in their class to finish the season with unbeaten records.
So it's no surprise to see their paths intertwine again on the Class AAA All-State team -- eventual champion South Charleston (6-0) and Cabell Midland (5-0) each placed three players on the first team of the squad selected by a panel from the West Virginia Sports Writers Association.
The Black Eagles, who captured a fifth state championship when their semifinal and title games were ruled no contests because of high COVID counts in their opponents' counties, were represented by sophomore quarterback Trey Dunn, senior defensive lineman Zeiqui Lawton and senior defensive back Shyleik Kinney. The Knights placed senior running back Jakob Caudill, junior defensive lineman Nemo Roberts and senior defensive utility man Jaydyn Johnson on the first team.
South Charleston coach Donnie Mays was glad to see his team stay the course following consecutive records of 4-7, 3-7 and 4-7 coming into the 2020 season.
"The big thing we always preach to the kids at South Charleston,'' Mays said, "has been to stay together and eventually something good is going to happen, and that's shown over the years. Since 2008, we've been in the finals or should have played for a state title five times, so that's a pretty good track record considering what Martinsburg has done.''
SC took back-to-back titles in 2008-09 and was denied a chance to play in the 2010 finals when its semifinal victory against Brooke was ruled a forfeit for use of ineligible players. The Black Eagles also lost to Capital in the 2014 title game.
Teams around West Virginia had to navigate a course that changed almost daily due to COVID, and Mays felt like his players' maturation helped them handle both that situation and their climb to the top. He saw his 10 seniors mesh with the team's youthful talent.
"This year was difficult,'' Mays said, "and like we told them, with the things we've been through this year and the last three years, we can take on anything at this point. We were beat up, beat down, inexperienced, learning positions, young. Eventually it paid off for us. We hung out together and played together, especially Zeiqui's group. We knew we had a really talented group of young players, and those underclassmen provided the seniors with a lot of help.''
One of those young bucks was Dunn, whose game took flight in his second year as a starter. He threw for 1,865 yards and 23 touchdowns against just four interceptions, leading an offense that cranked out more than 51 points and 520 yards per game. Dunn also ran for 289 yards and seven scores.
Lawton, who has committed to Cincinnati, was a terror on defense with 10 sacks and 19 tackles for loss among his 48 stops, and also totaled 19 quarterback hurries. Kinney, who began his career as a quarterback, had 33 tackles and two interceptions as a defensive back and was the team's No. 2 receiver with 16 receptions for 310 yards and six TDs.
Caudill, a fullback, led Cabell Midland in rushing with 746 yards and 10 TDs in just five games, earning praise from coach Luke Salmons for getting "all the tough yards between the tackles ... He is the heart and soul of our team.''
The 245-pound Roberts anchored both sides of the line for the Knights, who won all but one of their games by at least 35 points. Salmons called Roberts one of the best linemen he's coached in 10 years at Midland. Johnson directed the Knights' option attack at quarterback, running for 546 yards and seven TDs, and came up with 48 tackles and two interceptions on defense.
The rest of the backfield on the first-team offense included running backs Blake Hartman (Musselman) and Naieem Kearney (Martinsburg). Hartman broke one state record with 748 career points and tied another with 118 touchdowns. In eight games, he rushed for 1,696 yards and 30 TDs and also returned three kicks for scores. Kearney (625 yards, eight TDs) was the leading rusher for the Bulldogs, who saw the defense of their four straight AAA titles derailed by the COVID pandemic when they couldn't play their quarterfinal game.
The offensive line featured five athletes from playoff teams -- Wyatt Milum and Bryce Biggs (Spring Valley), Ethan Northcraft (Musselman), Devin Hill (Bridgeport) and Caleb Bryan (Wheeling Park). Milum and Biggs, both Division I prospects -- played on a Timberwolves team that went to Martinsburg and snapped the Bulldogs' state record 57-game winning streak on Sept. 18.
At wideout are Princeton's Ethan Parsons, who had 49 catches for 870 yards and 12 touchdowns and Wheeling Park's Shaheed Jackson, who caught 38 passes for 597 yards and 10 scores.
The offensive utility positions showcase Keon Padmore-Johnson (Spring Mills), Colby Piner (Greenbrier East) and Cam Cole (Bridgeport).
Padmore-Johnson was a dual-threat QB, with 1,732 yards and 23 TDs passing (against just one interception) and 907 rushing yards with 10 TDs. Piner rushed for 1,038 yards and 14 TDs, caught 26 passes for 453 yards and four scores and added four kick-return TDs. Cole ran for 1,301 yards and 18 TDs in the Indians' single-wing attack and threw five scoring passes, completing 11 of 17 attempts for 277 yards.
Andrew Glass of Wheeling Park is the kicker, connecting on 5 of 6 field goal tries (with a long of 47 yards) and 43 of 45 extra points.
Along with Lawton and Roberts, other members of the first-team defensive line are J.T. Muller (Bridgeport) and Justin Waybright (Parkersburg). The linebackers are Caden Biser (Morgantown), Justin Rinehart (Musselman), Tyrone Washington (Hurricane) and Braxton Todd (Martinsburg).
The other defensive backs are Huntington's Devin Jackson, Martinsburg's Anthony Smith and Wheeling Park's Nate Shelek. Devin Gaines of Parkersburg South mans the other defensive utility position and the punter is George Washington's Michael Hughes.
Hughes, who had committed to Appalachian State, averaged 40 yards per punt, with just one touchback and six downed inside the 20. He also booted 21 of 25 kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks, kicked field goals of 42 and 47 yards and was 18 of 18 on extra points
The Bucs, who went 1-5, during the 2020 season, did not have a selection on the All-State Team.
The second-team captains are Martinsburg's Kevon Warren (offensive utility) and Ripley's Quinton Joyner (defensive line).
The Class AAA All-State Team as selected by the WVSWA.
FIRST TEAM OFFENSE
QB – Trey Dunn, South Charleston, Soph.
RB – Blake Hartman, Musselman, Sr. (Captain)
RB – Jakob Caudill, Cabell Midland, Sr.
RB – Naieem Kearney, Martinsburg, Sr.
OL – Wyatt Milum, Spring Valley, Sr.
OL – Ethan Northcraft, Musselman, Sr.
OL – Devin Hill, Bridgeport, Sr.
OL – Bryce Biggs, Spring Valley, Sr.
OL – Caleb Bryan, Wheeling Park, Sr.
WR— Ethan Parsons, Princeton, Sr.
WR – Shaheed Jackson, Wheeling Park, Sr.
UT – Keon Padmore-Johnson, Spring Mills, Sr.
UT – Colby Piner, Greenbrier East, Sr.
UT – Cam Cole, Bridgeport, Jr.
K – Andrew Glass, Wheeling Park, Sr.
FIRST TEAM DEFENSE
DL – Nemo Roberts, Cabell Midland, Jr.
DL – J.T. Muller, Bridgeport, Sr.
DL – Justin Waybright, Parkersburg, Sr.
DL – Zeiqui Lawton, South Charleston, Sr. (Captain)
LB – Caden Biser, Morgantown, Sr.
LB – Justin Rinehart, Musselman, Sr.
LB – Tyrone Washington, Hurricane, Sr.
LB – Braxton Todd, Martinsburg, Jr.
DB – Shyleik Kinney, South Charleston, Sr.
DB – Devin Jackson, Huntington, Sr.
DB – Anthony Smith, Martinsburg, Sr.
DB – Nate Shelek, Wheeling Park, Jr.
UT – Devin Gaines, Parkersburg South, Sr.
UT – Jaydyn Johnson, Cabell Midland, Sr.
P – Michael Hughes, George Washington, Sr.
SECOND TEAM OFFENSE
QB – Grant Cochran, Princeton, Soph.
RB – Dalton Flowers, John Marshall, Sr.
RB – Stevie Mitchell, Wheeling Park, Sr.
WR – Donavin Davis, South Charleston, Sr.
WR – Josiah Honaker, Princeton, Sr.
OL – Garrett Green, Hurricane, Sr.
OL – Evan Ferguson, Spring Valley, Jr.
OL – Xavier Bausley, South Charleston, Jr.
OL – Nate Cole, Musselman, Sr.
OL – Deavan Francis, Parkersburg, Sr.
UT – Gavin Lochow, Huntington, Soph.
UT – Frankie Amore, Washington, Sr.
UT – Bryson Singer, Parkersburg, Jr.
UT – Kevon Warren, Martinsburg, Sr. (Captain)
K – Ethan Vargo-Thomas, Oak Hill, Soph.
SECOND TEAM DEFENSE
DL – Quinton Joyner, Ripley, Sr. (Captain)
DL – Chris Hudson, Capital, Sr.
DL – Max Wentz, Huntington, Jr.
DL – Tanner Saltis, Bridgeport, Sr.
DL – Corbin Page, Spring Valley, Jr.
LB – Nolan Shimp, Lincoln County, Jr.
LB – Cole Diamond, Spring Valley, Sr.
LB – Chase Henson, Spring Mills, Sr.
LB – Michael Ray, George Washington, Sr.
DB – Chandler Schmidt, Cabell Midland, Jr.
DB – Hayden Moore, Bridgeport, Sr.
DB – Isaiah Vaughn, Cabell Midland, Sr.
UT – Jaimelle Claytor, St. Albans, Sr.
UT – Cam Rice, Morgantown, Sr.
P – Christian Hicks, Hampshire, Sr.
RT Alexander, George Washington; Eli Archer, Huntington; Owie Ash, Hedgesville; Nathan Baker, Lincoln County; Eliki Barner, University; Ayden Bishoff, Preston; Noah Braham, University; TT Brooks, University; Amari Brown, Capital; Brogan Brown, Hurricane; Reilly Bubb, Hedgesville; Alex Burton, John Marshall; Reece Burton, Princeton; Brody Brumfield, Spring Valley; Jace Caldwell, Spring Valley; Eli Campbell, Princeton; Anthony Casto, George Washington; Hudson Clement, Martinsburg; Jace Colluci, Woodrow Wilson; Kenyan Cook, Woodrow Wilson; Deondre Crudup, Morgantown; Daminn Cunningham, University; Mondrell Dean, South Charleston; Elijah Edge, St. Albans; Jackson Fetty, Cabell Midland; Christian Gist, Capital; Chase Hager, Hurricane; Kadin Hall, Ripley; Beau Heller, Wheeling Park; Gabe Hendershot, Parkersburg South; Peyton Henderson, Bridgeport; J.D. Love, Bridgeport; Casey Mahoney, Parkersburg; Jake McCarren, Spring Mills; Maddex McMillen, Woodrow Wilson; Nolan Meehleib, Jefferson; Wyatt Minor, Bridgeport; Matt Moore, Ripley; Sam Moreland, Hampshire; Ethan Pesi, Washington; Amir Powell, Greenbrier East; Spencer Powell, Jefferson; Bryce Rayl, John Marshall; Joey Ramsey, Ripley; Phil Reed, Bridgeport; Landyn Reppert, Bridgeport; Palmer Riggio, Cabell Midland; Sammy Roberts, Jefferson; Trevor Sardo, Hampshire; Eli Selvey, Oak Hill; Austin Sharp, Washington; Te’amo Shelton, Oak Hill; Josh Shorts, Brooke; Sincere Sinclair, Wheeling Park; Cam Sine, Musselman; Christian Slack, Martinsburg; Doryn Smith, Martinsburg; Isaiah Smith, Lincoln County; Tyrees Smith, Huntington; Colt Thomas, Wheeling Park; Kevin Tinsley, South Charleston; Cyrus Traugh, Parkersburg South; Zion Watson, Martinsburg; Noah Waynick, Huntington; Elijah Williams, Riverside; Adam Wilkinson, Riverside; Quentin Wilson, Greenbrier East; Thomas Wogan, Washington; Gage Wright, Parkersburg South