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Cabell wins player of year

Dec. 22, 2013 @ 09:12 AM

HUNTINGTON -- This high school football team features a defense more stingy than Huntington High's, a running game more punishing than Cabell Midland's and a passing attack more explosive than Fairland's.

The Herald-Dispatch 2013 All Tri-State Team selected by the newspaper's sports staff is loaded with stars on offense, defense and special teams, led by Player of the Year Nigale Cabell, a 5-foot-11, 235-pound senior defensive tackle from Huntington High. For a defensive lineman to garner the Player of the Year Award from a bevy of talented playmakers on offense, he must be special. Cabell is.

"Nigale's a heck of a football player," said Highlanders coach Billy Seals, the All Tri-State Coach of the Year. "He was a three-year starter on both sides of the ball. Every year he's gotten better and better. I think he's the best lineman in the state. He'll definitely get a chance to play at the next level."

Cabell was a force on the defensive front, making 71 tackles. He had four quarterback sacks, four fumble recoveries and two quarterback hurries. Cabell, though, is more than just what his statistics suggest. Opposing offenses tried to avoid Cabell because they knew they couldn't block him. He was disruptive against the run and the pass and was a key reason Huntington High went 13-1 and reached the Class AAA championship game, where it held Martinsburg's state-best offense to 83 total yards in a 9-7 loss.

As dominant as Cabell was, he wasn't without competition for the Player of the Year award. Other finalists for the honor were Wayne linebacker Mason Hodge, Fairland quarterback Chance Short and Ashland running back Quinton Baker. All three of those players will be back next season.

"It's an amazing thing to learn that I was considered along with those three guys," Cabell said. "I'm honored. I have to give a lot of credit to my teammates."

Hodge (6-1, 235) led a Wayne defense that gave up just 2.6 yards per carry and 216 total yards per game in reaching the Class AA finals for the third consecutive season. The hard-hitting junior linebacker combined speed and physicality to make him one of the most-feared defenders in the region.

A member of the All Tri-State first team defense, Hodge made 60 tackles, including 12 for losses, broke up four passes, forced two quarterback hurries, had one tackle for a safety and blocked one kick despite playing just two quarters in 10 of Wayne's 14 games.He also starred on offense, rushing for 1,528 yards and 18 touchdowns on 164 carries.

Cabell and Hodge would be tested by Fairland's high-powered offense, led by Short (6-1, 170). Short, a junior, was selected as the All Tri-State first team quarterback. He completed 195 of 286 passes for 2,891 yards and 27 touchdowns with eight interceptions to lead the Dragons to their first Ohio Valley Conference title and playoff berth in 20 years. Short also rushed for five TDs.

Baker, a 5-9, 185-pound sophomore on the All Tri-State first team offense, ran wild for Ashland, carrying 200 times for 1,607 yards and 17 touchdowns to lead the Tomcats to the playoffs. Baker also caught 11 passes for 148 yards and two touchdowns

Seals led Huntington to a remarkable turnaround, taking a program that was 0-10 in his first season five years ago and directing it to a Mountain State Athletic Conference championship and the state finals this season.

Seals was one of several coaches considered for the Coach of the Year award, including Wayne's Tom Harmon, Fairland's Cullen Homolka, South Point's Rick Marcello and Raceland's T.J. Maynard. Marcello led the Pointers to a 7-3 record and within one game of the playoffs a year after South Point went 1-9. Maynard led Raceland to an 11-1 record and a playoff berth.

Lining up with Short and Baker in the All Tri-State backfield are Cabell Midland running back Kasey Thomas and Huntington High fullback Paden Christian. Thomas is a 5-11, 180-pound senior who carried 179 times for 1,480 yards and 19 touchdowns to help the Knights to the playoff quarterfinals. Christian, a 5-11, 170-pound senior, rushed 225 times for 1,218 yards and 13 touchdowns in sharing carries with multiple backs.Christian also excelled as a blocker.

A pair of 6-foot, 185-pound seniors -- Fairland's Kyle Sowards and Winfield's Chris Turner -- are the first team receivers. Sowards caught 52 passes for 1,155 yards and 12 touchdowns, averaging 22.2 yards per reception. Turner played nearly all over the field, lining up at wide receiver, tight end, running back, defensive end and linebacker.

The talented skill position players are joined by a beefy offensive line with multiple NCAA DIvision I prospects. Spring Valley features a pair of All Tri-State blockers, both juniors -- Trevor Stacy (6-5, 290) and Alex Locklear (6-5, 300). Stacy was a first-team all-stater and Locklear made the second team, but they are nearly identical players who led the Timberwolves to the playoffs. Both are drawing attention from major college recruiters.

Cabell Midland's Cody Ballengee, a 6-foot, 245-pound senior was a first-team all-stater on a team with three 1,000-yard rushers. Wayne's Alex Elkins, a 6-4, 230-pound senior, was a first-team all-state selection who led a Pioneers' offense that averaged 467.8 yards per contest. Cody McPeek from Fairview, a 6-4, 290-pound junior, reminds people of his uncle, former Marshall University standout Nate McPeek in that he's a dominating run blocker with strength and quickness to pass block, as well.

Huntington High's Nick Tubbs, a versatile 6-1, 170-pound senior, is the first team offensive utility player. Tubbs rushed 122 times for 988 yards and 12 touchdowns while totaling 2,000 all-purpose yards. He is joined on the All Tri-State first team by Huntington High kicker Zach Stevens, who was 7-for-8 on field goal attempts, including two over 40 yards, with a long of 43. Stevens also kicked 51 extra points.

Joining Cabell on the first team defensive front are Cabell Midland's Tyler Hayes, Wayne's Curtis Followay and Point Pleasant's Jon Peterson. Hayes, a 6-3, 205-pound senior, was a second-team all-state pick after being credited with 20 sacks. Followay was a first-team all-stater. Peterson made 73 tackles, including seven for losses, and five sacks. He also recovered four fumbles and intercepted two passes in earning special mention all-state honors.

Alongside Hodge at linebacker are Huntington High's Greg May, Cabell Midland's Josh Cox and Chesapeake's Chad Meadows. May, a 6-foot, 220-pound senior, was a first-team all-stater who made 116 tackles. Cox, a 6-3, 215-pound senior, made 100 tackles in being named special mention all-state. Meadows, a 6-2, 220-pound senior, earned special mention all-state honors after making 110 tackles and rushing for 808 yards.

Huntington High's Clark Wilson, Wayne's Grant Ferguson and Hurricane's Zach Pate make up the All Tri-State first team secondary. Wilson, a 6-foot, 180-pound senior, intercepted four passes and was named all-state first team. Ferguson also was an all-state first team selection, and as did Wilson, quarterbacked his team to the state title game. Pate, a versatile player on offense, defense and special teams, led Hurricane to a playoff berth, catching 42 passes for 739 yards and nine touchdowns.

Point Pleasant's Cody Mitchell is the first team utility player. The 6-3, 211-pound sophomore made 64 tackles, intercepted two passes and recovered two fumbles in being named special mention all-state. Mitchell also helped the Big Blacks to the playoff quarterfinals by rushing for 1,431 yards.

Huntington's High's Ryan Gatrell, a 6-3, 205-pound junior, is the All Tri-State punter after averaging 38.6 yards per kick and earning honorable-mention all-state honors.

The All Tri-State second team isn't far behind the first team. It features Hurricane quarterback Austin Hensley, Cabell Midland fullback Teran Barnitz, Raceland running back Daylin Beach and Huntington High running back Charles Crawford in the backfield.

"If there's a better quarterback in the state, I want to see him," Hurricane coach Jeremy Taylor said of Hensley.

At second-team receiver are Coal Grove's Conor Markins and Raceland's Connor Messer.

The second unit offensive line includes Fairland's Tyler Campbell, Hurricane's Mitch Fitzgerald, Coal Grove's Austin Pleasants, Ironton's Isaac Sherman and Huntington High's Josh Fraley.

The second team utility player is Fairland's Evan Maddox. He is joined by kicker Colin Peal of Point Pleasant.

A defensive line spearheaded by Huntington High teammates Shamar Ingram and Arick Nicks is featured on the second team. They are joined by Coal Grove's Joe Akers and Raceland's Alec Risner.

At linebacker on the second unit are Tyler Dement of Symmes Valley, Drew O'Bryan of Ashland, Nathan Spurlock of Wayne and Chase Walton of Point Pleasant.

In the second team secondary are Hunter Bradley of Wahama, Maverick Dixon of Raceland and Cody Stiltner of Wayne.

Kane Roush of Wahama is the second team utility player. Aden Yates of Point Pleasant is the punter.

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