ONA — If Cabell Midland High School’s boys basketball team had a theme song, it might be Chicago’s “Feelin’ Stronger Every Day.”
Knights coach Rick Chaffin credited a weight program developed by former Marshall University and Barboursville High School football standout Will Edwards for improving the team’s strength as a key factor in a 7-1 start and a No. 6 ranking in Class AAA.
“Will Edwards put together a weight program for us in April of last year and it’s made a tremendous difference,” said Chaffin, the second-year coach of the Knights. “When I got here, we were really weak. It was a big problem.”
Cabell Midland is known for its rigorous weight program for its football team, but no football players play basketball. With no one heavier than 205 pounds on a guard-heavy roster, Chaffin knew it was important for his players to improve their strength to battle larger, more physical teams in the Mountain State Athletic Conference.
Weight training was a change for the program, but the Knights have experienced a great many changes. None is bigger than winning. Cabell Midland has not posted a winning season since going 16-10 in 2009-10. That was five coaches ago.
“Our guys, they’ve had three different coaches the last four years,” Chaffin said. “Now, we have a little bit of stability and they’ve responded well to that. We can take kids and put them in position to be successful. Really, we’ve come leaps and bounds over where we were. The program was down a really long time.”
According to MaxPreps.com, Cabell Midland has gone 37-146 since its last winning season. Last year’s 8-15 mark was its best since 2009-10 and in one-plus season under Chaffin the Knights are 15-16 heading into Tuesday’s 7:30 p.m. home game with Huntington High (2-6). Cabell Midland has not beaten the Highlanders since Jan. 13, 2010, when the Knights won 54-49.
Against the young HHS squad led by new coach Ty Holmes, Cabell Midland will bring a mix of veterans and youngsters. Ty Sturm, a 6-foot-1 senior guard, has drawn small-college scholarship offers. He is joined in the rotation by fellow seniors Tanner Paugh, Tyler Straub, Jaron Womack and Jake Edwards, who is the son of Will Edwards; sophomore Palmer Riggio and freshman sensation Chandler Schmidt, who scored 23 in a 62-57 victory over Hurricane on Tuesday.
“We played eight players and all contributed,” Chaffin said of the win at Hurricane. “We need them all to contribute.”
Schmidt has provided a scoring boost needed in replacing leading scorer Jovaun Light, now a player at West Virginia State University.
“Schmidt is a good player, a strong kid,” Chaffin said. “He comes from a good basketball background. I’ve had coaches tell me he’s probably the best freshman in the state.”
The Knights’ victories have come against a mix of good and bad teams. They opened with an expected 86-41 triumph over outmanned Grace Christian, then won 71-50 over a solid South Point squad. The Knights then beat Riverside 76-60 in a game Chaffin expected to win. The stunner came on Dec. 18 when Cabell Midland went to traditional power Capital and won 68-57. The victory opened some eyes and significantly boosted the confidence of the Knights.
After an 83-34 rout of Class A Fayetteville, Cabell Midland pulled off another significant road win, beating South Charleston 60-53 on Jan. 3. Two days later, the Knights fell behind Spring Valley by 25 points and rallied furiously within two, but lost 70-65. Chaffin wondered how his team would respond. He found out Tuesday when Cabell Midland rallied from 11 down to win at No. 5 Hurricane.
“It was good to see the kids rebound from a loss like that,” he said.
This season Chaffin is talking about victories more often than losses. He likes that.
“Last year, I didn’t know how many games we would win, but I knew we’d be better,” Chaffin said. “This year, we expect to win games. The kids are stronger. They’ve gotten better and are continuing to get better. Their basketball IQ is way up.”
Cabell Midland doesn’t have a rich basketball history but is the owner of a state championship. Behind 6-9 center Mark Patton, who went on to star at Marshall University, the Knights won the 2002 state title, beating South Charleston 61-54 in the final to finish 25-3. While this season’s squad will be pressed to match that record, it at least has a chance — something it hasn’t had in nearly a decade.