Highlanders look for North-South impact
INSTITUTE, W.Va. -- Recently graduated Huntington High player Toney Kitts knows exactly what he wants Saturday out of the North-South All-Star Football Classic.
"I expect a W. That's what I anticipate," Kitts said with a grin during media day Tuesday on the campus of West Virginia State University, where roughly 70 of West Virginia's best seniors from the past season are practicing for the all-star tilt.
The game gets underway at 7 p.m., Saturday, at University of Charleston Stadium/Laidley Field.
Leading up to the game, Kitts and fellow Highlander Jarod Martin, members of the South squad, have been getting used to playing alongside athletes that, for the most part, had been foes in Class AAA over the past four years.
"It's a little bit weird," Kitts, an offensive and defensive lineman, said of blocking for the likes of Woodrow Wilson quarterback Andrew Johnson. "But it's different, it's good. You're surrounded by great athletes and they just make you better."
Both players said they're just happy to be part of the North-South Classic tradition.
"It's an honor just to get selected, it really means a lot to me," said Martin, a tight end. "On each team it's the best 35 in the state, so to be here is just an honor."
Kitts and Johnson signed to play football at the collegiate level, Kitts for West Virginia Wesleyan and Martin for West Virginia State.
Both said the game has offered the opportunity to get back into football before they attend their respective fall camps. The pair, along with most of the other players selected for the game, haven't played since the playoffs ended in December 2012.
"It's perfect, it just feels great," Kitts said. "I love to put on the pads, play some football and get ready for college."
"It's a good way of seeing what it's going to be like next year, because all of these guys are such good athletes," Martin added.
They were part of a Huntington High team that went 0-10 when they were freshmen, suffered another losing season the next year, then went 8-4 in 2011 and 9-3 last season when the Highlanders were briefly rated as the No. 1 team in the state in Class AAA.
Kitts and Martin said the all-star experience has been all good so far.
"The whole environment of it is great, there are some great coaches here and it's just a great place to be," Kitts said.