SOUTH CHARLESTON - Looking for where the power lies in football in the Mountain State Athletic Conference? Head west, football fan.
The coaches in the 11-team league not only picked Spring Valley to win the MSAC in their inaugural preseason poll, but three of the top four teams in that poll come from the Wayne County-Cabell County region. The poll was introduced and discussed Thursday morning at the MSAC's inaugural media day at the Little Creek Country Club in South Charleston.
Capital was the only team to break up the conference's west-end-heavy top four. Huntington was picked to finish second, followed by the Cougars and Cabell Midland.
It's not really a surprise the Timberwolves found themselves at No. 1. Spring Valley has played for the last three Class AAA state championships, finishing runner-up to Martinsburg each time.
There was a time that Spring Valley coach Brad Dingess remembers when he and his other MSAC compatriots in Wayne and Cabell looked to Kanawha County, watched Capital and South Charleston play for the Class AAA crown, and wondered when they would rise to that perch. That time is now.
"It's good to have those high expectations coming into the year," he said. "That's where you want your program to be. ... It comes in waves. Everybody's program's comes in waves. It just happens that we're all pretty good here."Hurricane was picked to finish fifth, followed by South Charleston in sixth, George Washington in seventh, Parkersburg in eighth, Woodrow Wilson in ninth, Riverside in 10th and St. Albans in 11th.
COUGARS ROAMING TO OPEN SEASON: Capital coach Jon Carpenter will be looking for a place to practice in the first couple weeks of the preseason.
The Cougars' regular home of University of Charleston Stadium is getting a face-lift with a new track. That construction will keep Capital from practicing there, and the hunt is on for a temporary solution. Carpenter said Thursday the likely answer will be in eastern Kanawha County at an open field.
That disappoints Carpenter, who said the team will have to get its players and equipment even farther from campus for a while, which will cut even more into the Cougars' practice time.
"The sad part is my community is used to it," Carpenter said. "And that's what broken my heart about it. They don't pay much attention to it. It crushes my soul. It's hard to be in charge and not have a fair shot at getting your kids ready."
The Cougars open their season at UC Stadium on Aug. 30 against Johnson County (Kentucky).
FINAL GRID-O-RAMA: When the MSAC concludes its 2019 Grid-o-Rama, scheduled for Aug. 23-24 at UC Stadium, it will be the conference's last.
MSAC commissioner Jim Hamric said he heard the concerns of his football coaches and will do away with the event after this year. The hope, he said Thursday, was to move to a 7-on-7 tournament, possibly at the new Shawnee Sports Complex.
"We hate to see it go, for me as an administrator, because it was a great resource of money," Hamric said. "We could run our whole athletic program with that. But I heard the football coaches say we were leaning on them so much for that."
The current plan is to schedule a 7-on-7 in early June before the big summer football camps at West Virginia and Marshall universities. And the field wouldn't be limited just to MSAC teams. Teams from all over the state could come to participate and there would be events for linemen at the site as well.
George Washington coach Steve Edwards Jr. thought it was a great idea.
"I think it's beneficial for everyone to do a 7-on-7," he said. "I think you'd get good interest from people wanting to come down, especially with the conference name. You'll get a lot of people who'll want to come down and get a chance to see what's going on down here.
"When I go to other places up the road, I like to see teams I don't get to see very often," he added.