It’s been one strange year for James Barker in his first season as head coach of the Chapmanville Regional High School football team.
First the COVID-19 pandemic hit, causing a delay of the three-week summer practice period into July.
Then came the WVSSAC’s announcement of the cancellation of Week One of the season and that wiped out the Tigers’ August 28 opener with Sissonville.
Then came the color-coded maps and Logan County being deemed a virus “hot spot.”
That caused a week’s delay to regular football practices beginning during the preseason for the Tigers and for Logan County’s other two teams, Man and Logan.
The delay also wiped out Chapmanville’s September 4 home game with Poca. The Dots went ahead and added Wheeling Central to their schedule.
Chapmanville is now left with a nine-game schedule and much uncertainty is still around, however, Barker and his staff are preparing for the season ahead and hope things can get off the ground and the Tigers are able to have a successful season.
The Tigers are slated to open on September 11 at Winfield.
“Our goal is just to compete every day,” Barker said. “Our team goal is the same and I’m not sure that it’s changed since the coronavirus started. We want to make sure that our players are safe and healthy as as much as possible. We want to make each other better each and every day and be a true family and create a true team environment. The on field stuff, the wins and losses and the X’s and the O’s that will come with the territory. We talk about character, commitment and community. We want to make sure that our kids are doing the right thing and try to be the best people that we can be and be a family on and off the field.”
Barker, 35, replaces Rob Dial as head coach of the Tigers.
Barker is a longtime Chapmanville assistant coach and the son of former CRHS head coach and current athletics director George Barker.
Dial led the Tigers the last four seasons to a 21-19 mark before resigning in December. The Tigers were 5-5 last year.
Barker’s last head coaching stint was when he was the head coach at Chapmanville Middle School in the 2011 and 2012 seasons. He is a 2010 graduate of Marshall University.
Chapmanville’s last playoff berth was in 2015 when the Tigers had home field advantage but lost a 42-14 first-round playoff game to Robert C. Byrd in George Barker’s last season.
George Barker was head coach at Chapmanville for 12 seasons from 2004-15 and led the Tigers to six playoff appearances, including a Class AA state semifinal berth in 2013.
The Tigers, however, will have some rebuilding to do.
One major hole to fill is at quarterback where Chapmanville lost outgoing senior Chase Berry to graduation. The All-State and All-Cardinal Conference selection completed 128 of 194 passes for 1,341 yards with 13 touchdowns and four interceptions in 2019. Berry also ran for 903 yards last season and scored 10 touchdowns and was the Tigers’ leading rusher.
The Tigers have a QB competition to replace Berry.
Senior Jaxson Turner, a running back last year, junior Brandon Butcher and sophomore Brody Dalton are all in the mix.
So who will start?
“That’s a really good question,” Barker said. “We had two guys in the summer during the July practice period, Brandon Butcher and Jaxson Turner, that took reps. Another guy who we think is going to compete as well, Brody Dalton, was down in South Carolina playing baseball and he could not practice because of those rules for out-of-state travel.”
Butcher or Turner did not throw a single pass last season.
Dalton did, however, complete a pass for 27 yards on a fake punt play in last year’s Man game.
Right now, it’s all open.
“We’re going to have a quarterback competition,” Barker said. “The quarterback position is a very important position for us. What’s been tough for us is that for us to not do the 7 on 7s like we normally do and to not have the full summers like we normally have it’s been a little bit more difficult to determine who the best option out of those three guys are. It’s a little bit of a different scenario.”
Barker said you could see any of the three play quarterback this fall.
Think of them as 1A, 1B and 1C with no real starters or backups.
“There’s probably a lot of truth to that,” Barker said. “There will probably be a lot of situations where each one of those kids does something better than the other one. In certain scenarios we might want one on the field and other scenarios we might want another one. You might see a little bit of a quarterback carousel from us this year.”
Chapmanville has a fourth quarterback in freshman Drew Berry, the younger brother to Chase Berry and also to Alex Berry, another former Tigers’ quarterback.
The Berry brothers are the son of Chapmanville assistant coach Bo Berry.
Drew Berry is likely to be the Tigers’ JV quarterback this fall, Coach Barker said.
“We lost a Berry and we gained a Berry,” Barker said. “We’ve been doing that for about a decade now. Maybe a little bit longer because Lonnie Lee was down here too. We had Alex also in the past. You even go back to 2005-06 we had Lonnie Berry’s son Lonnie Lee, who is a doctor at Logan Regional Medial Center. He was a quarterback. Then we had Alex Berry and then Chase Berry and now we have Drew Berry. So we are having another Berry.”
In the backfield, Chapmanville might go to a running backs by committee approach. Fullback Josh Bumgarner, who ran for 494 yards and scored six touchdowns, has graduated.
“We are looking for some guys to emerge out of our running backs group,” Barker said. “Until we can find a hot hand I don’t anticipate any of our guys being a 20-carry-a-game guy. We’re going to use almost a running back by committee system until we can find out who hits us best in what we are trying to do. It might be a lot like quarterback. We might have guys who can do things the right way in certain sets that we use such as our spread set. We’re working on it.”
Turner, when not playing QB, could see significant carries in the backfield. He rushed 35 times for 118 yards last year and scored a touchdown.
“Jaxson is back,” Barker said. “He’s probably one of those guys that we could line up everywhere and he would know what to do and how to help us. He’ll see some carries at running back.”
Josh Atwood, Caleb Whitt and Alex Miller are other possible candidates in Chapmanville’s backfield. Each saw a handful of carries last fall.
Freshman Fred Miller could also see time at running back.
At wide receiver, top target Waylon Hensley (45 catches, 625 yards, 5 touchdowns) has graduated but Barker said he expects to have some depth there.
“We have to replace Waylon Hensley who led us in catches and yards last year,” he said. “The good thing is that that’s a position that we feel like we are going to have some depth at.”
Dalton and Turner, when not playing quarterback, look to be two of the Tigers’ top two receivers heading into the season.
Dalton had a good season a year ago, catching 46 passes for 478 yards and scoring three touchdowns. Turner had 27 grabs for 126 yards and two scores.
“If Brody is not the quarterback we feel like he’s going to be a good receiver for us,” Barker said. “Jaxson Turner is another guy that we can put out there.
Other receivers have also stepped up with Jacob Topping, Chris Farley and David Peluso. Peluso had two catches for nine yards last season.
“We are really high on some of our younger guys. Jacob Topping came into camp a little bit heavier and stronger and looked pretty good out there,” Barker said. “Chris Farley is another addition. He played some defense for us last year. But really we feel like his strength is going to be on the offensive side this year. David Peluso is going to be a huge play maker for us. He played corner for us last year. He’s in a different gear for us right now watching him move, run and work. He looks like a starter to me. He’s a great kid and he’s been a really good story for us.”
Chapmanville also has a bunch of players who Barker calls “tight end/fullback hybrids.”
One of those is Elijah Stollings.
“We have a bunch of guys who are tight end hybrid who you might see in tight and out wide,” Barker said. “We feel like they can catch the ball and do some things. Elijah Stollings is a big target and a good kid. He played some defense for us last year. He’s going to get some looks on offense this year.”
Lance Scott could also see action at tight end as well as Hunter Lambert.
“Lance Scott is another kid who played defense for us last year and is probably going to get some looks on offense for us,” Barker said. “Hunter Lambert is a guy who can play fullback or tight end. We really don’t know right now,” Barker said. “He’s going to be on the field somewhere. We’ve got a lot of big bodies that we feel are going to help us.”
Chapmanville’s receiving corps also has a new addition with Will Kirkendoll, a CRHS basketball player.
Newcomer Keith Kennedy gives the Tigers another option.
Ryan Chapman who played mostly on the defensive side of the ball last season, who could see time at tight end.
Three starters return on Chapmanville’s offensive line in Evan Plumley, Chris Samson and Benji Crouse.
“We return three out of our five starters,” Barker said. “And we also have another kid who has played some and has some experience. So sometimes we call it three and a half starters.”
JT Craddock also started some last year on the O-line.
“JT Craddock was a center last year and came in and played for us some at the varsity level,” Barker said. “Those guys all have experience.”
Nathan Walsh and Colby Collins, backups a year ago, give Chapmanville some depth in the trenches.
“We have some backups who return who got into the game a lot and played some on the offensive line last year in Nathan Walsh and Colby Collins,” Barker said. “We are really high on our line this year. We feel like this might be one of the strongest groups that we have and one of the biggest groups that we’ve had in a while. We have a couple of younger kids who are probably going to step in there as well and help us.”
Brady Dalton, Gabe Silva and Elijah Adkins are three other CRHS linemen who could step in.
Freshman RJ Jones, the son of Chapmanville Middle School coach Ron Jones, is also expected to contribute on the offensive line or tight end.
Chapmanville’s defensive line is also experienced and solid.
“Those same guys will be on the D-line for us,’ Barker said. “We return every starting defensive lineman from last year. Nathan Walsh, Colby Collins are back on the inside. Elijah Stollings and Evan Plumley are the two defensive ends. We may move some kids around some and we may substitute a little more this year with our D-linemen to keep them fresh because we weren’t able to practice in the first week. We are going to be behind everybody in conditioning so we are going to try to keep as many fresh bodies on the offensive and defensive line as possible and we feel like we have the personnel to do that.”
At linebacker, starter Josh Atwood returns. He finished with 61 total tackles and two fumble recoveries last season before going down with a knee injury. Barker said he’s back strong and expects him to have a big year.
“Josh Atwood was our leading tackler going into the Logan game but he suffered an ACL injury in that game lat year,” Barker said. “He’s back and cleared 100 percent. He looks really good and I don’t know if he’s lost a step from that injury. So he’s probably going to be the main guy on the inside for us.”
Hunter Lambert also seems to have the nod as a starting inside linebacker.
“We had to replace Josh Bumgarner who was our other inside linebacker but we have Hunter Lambert who has been in our system now going into the fourth year,” Barker said.
Brady Rains, Charles Stallard and Tyson Thompson, a first year player and a CRHS baseball athlete, are other options at linebacker.
Both of the outside linebackers are back as well in Turner and Caleb Whitt.
Whitt logged 72 tackles last year. Turner had 53 total stops. Scott also saw time at linebacker last season.
“We’ve got some depth there at linebacker and we’ve got some younger players coming in as well,” Barker said.
Barker also said he hopes to have linebacker Cole Farmer on the team this season. He did not play last year.
In the defensive secondary, Peluso is back.
“David Peluso is the only returning member of our secondary and he did a really good job last year,” Barker said. “We have to replace Alex Freeman who went to Concord to play. Waylon Hensley was our safety and we’ll have to replace him. Peluso is one of our best athletes on our team.”
Riley Ferguson, a sophomore, also figures into the Tigers’ plans.
“We have some younger guys who can step in and help us,” Barker said. “Riley Ferguson is a young sophomore that has shown some flashes in the summer.”
Jacob Toppings, Alex Miller, Fred Miller, freshman Brayden Lykins, and sophomore Parker Dingess are other members of Chapmanville’s secondary.
In the special teams, Chapmanville returns Atwood as its kicker and Peluso as the punter.
Colton Barker, Scott and Eli Pridemore are Chapmanville’s other punters.
The graduated Bumgarner was the Tigers’ long snapper the last four years since his freshman season but will have to be replaced. Brody Dalton will likely be his replacement.
The Tigers are set to open the season on September 11 at Winfield after the first two games were canceled.
The home opener is September 18 against Nitro.
Chapmanville has four home games and five away.
The Tigers added non-conference North Marion to its schedule on October 9 to replace the canceled game against Sissonville.
Paul Adkins is the Sports Editor of the Logan Banner. Follow him on Twitter at @PAdkinsBanner or email him at email@example.com