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MetroNews Class AAA ‘Top Plays’ of 2019

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Take a look at the ‘Top Plays’ from the 2019 season in Class AAA football.

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Efforts continue in Monongalia County to give families homes for the holidays

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — A plan to put 15 families into 15 homes for the holidays is taking shape in Morgantown.

According to Monongalia County Commission President Tom Bloom, interviews of potential families are moving forward.

“We put our first two households into apartments, we have two more signing leases today, and we have six more households that are in the process,” Bloom said.

Bloom credited the work of Rachel Coen and the West Virginia Coalition to End Homelessness for the effort, adding the entire community has come together to make this happen.

“It’s been a really great event,” Bloom said. “I want the community to know it can work. It’s a big change for these individuals (and) a big change for the community, and if you work together to come up with legitimate solutions and not academic reasoning, I really believe this can work and it is succeeding.”

Bloom said they have learned valuable lessons from landlords, service providers and others that will be important in the future.

The families selected as part of the program will have a year of counseling and life-coaching designed at helping them be independent.

Bloom noted the program will continue as long as results are satisfactory.

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Mountaineers return to memory-filled Madison Square Garden

West Virginia returns to one of its most frequent road haunts with a trip to Madison Square Garden, where the Mountaineers face host St. John’s at noon Saturday in the Big East-Big 12 Challenge.

“I think they’re excited about it,” said West Virginia coach Bob Huggins. “I don’t know if it’s what it once was, but still, it’s the place. Like the old song, if you make it there, you can make it anywhere.”

West Virginia’s history at MSG predates the current version of the venue, which was built in 1968. WVU has played 88 games at Madison Square Garden and its predecessor since its first trip in 1942, when it won the NIT.

The Mountaineers have 36 wins at MSG. The only place they have won more games outside of West Virginia is the old Richmond Arena, where they went 37-5 in dominating the Southern Conference from 1955-69.

All that history is of little import to this year’s Mountaineers, who are seeking the program’s first 8-0 start since 2009-10.

The Red Storm (7-2) are in their first year under former Arkansas and Missouri coach Mike Anderson. A disciple of former Razorbacks head coach Nolan Richardson, Anderson’s teams take Huggins’ old “Press Virginia” concept up several notches.

“They play the way Mike’s always played,” Huggins said. “They’re going to press multiple ways. Diamond. Box-press. Man-to-man. They’ll run and jump us. Things Mike has done for a long time.”

St. John’s does not dally with the basketball. With an average possession length of 14.2 seconds, the Red Storm play at the sixth-quickest pace in the country.

“They want to lead the country in possessions,” Huggins said. “Their thinking is they can outscore people with more possessions.”

Fortunately for West Virginia, Huggins has not been shy about getting his whole bench involved this season. In theory, the Mountaineers should have the legs to keep pace.

Memorable Mountaineer moments at MSG

West Virginia 47, Western Kentucky 45 — March 25, 1942

West Virginia was the last team in the eight-team NIT field, but made the most of it.

After upsetting Long Island and Toledo in the first two games, the Mountaineers downed the Hilltoppers for their first tournament title.

In front of a sellout crowd of 18,251, Roger Hicks sank two free throws with 20 seconds left to put West Virginia in front. Tournament MVP Rudy Baric led the Mountaineers with 17 points, and Dick Kesling added 14. West Virginia rallied from an eight-point halftime deficit, which was no small feat in the era predating the shot clock.

NYU 72, West Virginia 70 (OT) — Feb. 12, 1959

It was a previous incarnation of the Garden, but this was still a pretty big game. The Violets snapped the No. 9 Mountaineers 11-game winning streak in overtime after neither team could score in the final 3:30 of regulation.

Cal Ramsey had 30 points and 15 rebounds for NYU, including the last bucket of regulation. Bob Smith scored 29 for WVU, and the New York Times correctly observed that Jerry West was “limited” to 20 points.

The Mountaineers bounced back just fine, eventually reaching the national championship game.

Tulsa 89, West Virginia 87 — March 23, 1981

West Virginia’s deepest postseason run since the 1959 Final Four came to an end in the NIT semifinals.

Tulsa’s Paul Pressey had 20 points, nine assists and an NIT-record seven steals to help erase a seven-point WVU lead in the second half.

Guard Diego McCoy led the Mountaineers with 30 points on 12 of 15 shooting, but West Virginia could not overcome 29 turnovers against the pressing defense of then-unknown first-year Tulsa coach Nolan Richardson.

A key contributor to the win for the Golden Hurricane? Mike Anderson, who had 17 points and seven assists. Anderson is now coaching St. John’s with Pressey as his top assistant.

Tulsa went on to beat Syracuse in the NIT title game, while WVU lost to Purdue in the third-place game.

Louisville 82, West Virginia 71 (2 OT) — March 8, 2007

Why the long gap? From 1962-2004, West Virginia went a ghastly 1-20 at Madison Square Garden. That fortune began to change in the latter half of the 2000s.

With a win over the 12th-ranked Cardinals in the Big East tournament quarterfinals, the Mountaineers likely would have punched their ticket to the NCAA tournament.

West Virginia charged all the way back from a 17-point second half deficit with an 18-0 run and stood on the verge of the upset before Edgar Sosa drove coast-to-coast for a buzzer-beating layup to send the game to overtime.

Louisville put the game away at the free-throw line in the second overtime, and WVU was left on the wrong side of the bubble.

West Virginia 63, Mississippi State 62 — March 27, 2007

It didn’t take long for the Mountaineers to earn their redemption at MSG.

West Virginia erased a 14-point deficit, and Darris Nichols drained a 3-pointer at the buzzer to send the Mountaineers to the NIT championship game. Nichols scored 17 points to lead WVU past the Bulldogs.

West Virginia 78, Clemson 73 — March 29, 2007

Frank Young scored 24 points to lead West Virginia to its first NIT title since 1942, earning tournament Most Outstanding Player recognition in the process.

Da’Sean Butler added 20 points off the bench. West Virginia sizzled from three-point range, hitting 12 of 20 three-pointers in John Beilein’s final game as the Mountaineers’ coach.

The postgame celebration was notable for another reason — the word “Virginia” was misspelled on West Virginia’s championship t-shirts.

West Virginia 74, Pitt 60 — March 12, 2009

The Panthers were ranked second in the country when the Mountaineers made them eat it on the big stage in the Big East quarterfinals.

Devin Ebanks scored a career-high 20 points and Alex Ruoff chipped in 18 to set the pace. Bob Huggins’ fingerprints were all over the dominant defensive showing. WVU was the first team all season to hold Pitt without a three-pointer.

WVU’s Big East run ended the next night when Syracuse — fresh off of its epic six-overtime win over UConn — defeated the Mountaineers 74-69 in a mere one overtime. A 50-foot Eric Devendorf shot before the halftime buzzer ended up being significant for the Orange in that win.

West Virginia 54, Cincinnati 51 — March 11, 2010

Da’Sean Butler banked in a three at the buzzer to lift WVU over Huggins’ old team in the Big East quarterfinals.

Future NBA irritant Lance Stephenson tied the game on a three of his own with 42 seconds left. WVU committed a shot-clock violation on the following possession, but Butler hounded Cincy’s Dion Dixon into dribbling out of bounds with 3.2 seconds left to set up his own heroics on a Devin Ebanks inbounds pass.

West Virginia 53, Notre Dame 51 — March 12, 2010

Tory Jackson’s last-second three was off the mark, enabling West Virginia to advance its second-ever Big East championship game.

Butler was once again at the top of his game, scoring a game-high 24 points.

Ironically, it was the second time Ben Hansborough suffered an agonizing loss at the hands of West Virginia at the Garden. Hansborough was a freshman on the Mississippi State team that lost to WVU in the NIT before he transferred to Notre Dame.

West Virginia 60, Georgetown 58 — March 13, 2010

West Virginia won its first and only Big East tournament title over the Hoyas.

Once again Butler was the hero, scoring the game-winning shot with 4.2 seconds left to provide the final margin. He was tournament MVP with another 20-point performance.

The Mountaineers made the most of the momentum created from this MSG run, winning four more games in the NCAA tournament to reach the Final Four for the first time since 1959.

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Instant Analysis of Bridgeport’s 10th state championship, 21-14 over Bluefield

WHEELING, W.Va. — Joe Brocato and Greg Carey break down Bridgeport’s 21-14 win over Bluefield in the Class AA state championship game.

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Highlights: Bridgeport defeats Bluefield 21-14 to win the Class AA title

WHEELING, W.Va. — Highlights from Bridgeport’s 21-14 win over Bluefield in the Class AA state championship game.

(Highlights produced by Pikewood Sports)

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Winkie’s record-setting effort leads Bridgeport over Bluefield in Class AA final

Photo by William Wotring

Bridgeport’s Carson Winkie (36) rushed for 200 yards and three touchdowns in the Class AA title game, leading the Indians to a 21-14 win over Bluefield. Winkie carried a Super Six record 43 times in the win.


WHEELING, W.Va. — Bridgeport head coach John Cole knew most people viewed the Indians an underdog in Friday’s Class AA title game against Bluefield.

Leading up to the contest, however, there was a much different sentiment inside the Indians’ locker room.

“We knew we were strong up front and that if we played hard, executed and picked up whatever they threw at us, we could overcome them,” Cole said. 

And that’s just what the Indians did.

Behind a 200-yard, three-touchdown performance from Carson Winkie, No. 2 Bridgeport finished with 14 unanswered points to knock off Bluefield 21-14 in Friday’s final at Wheeling Island Stadium.

Winkie carried the ball a Super Six record 43 times to help lead Bridgeport (13-1) to its 10th state championship.

“I’ve been super well-conditioned throughout this year and that’s why I was able to run the ball 43 times,” Winkie said. “The line did an amazing job and that’s why I was able to get those yards. I just kept on going at it. I knew this was my last game of high school football and I put it all on the field. I’m happy this is the outcome.”

Winkie’s 1-yard TD run with 6:47 to play allowed the Indians to lead, 19-14. He then crossed the goal line on the two-point play to give his team a seven-point advantage.

“We needed to get them off the field more than we did,” veteran Bluefield head coach Fred Simon said. “They just kept the ball away from us and that hurt us.”

After falling behind late in the game, Bluefield (12-2) managed a pair of first downs on its ensuing drive. Carson Deeb then threw a 50-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Wiley, but it was negated by offensive pass interference. Two more penalties, combined with a sack, forced the Beavers to punt.

Bluefield got the ball back following Shawn Mitchell’s recovery of a Winkie fumble, but Deeb’s pass was intercepted by Devin Vandergrift with 2:04 remaining.

The Beavers finished with seven penalties for 62 yards, compared to the Indians’ two infractions that totaled 20 yards.

“Once it got tight, we couldn’t make a mistake,” Simon said. “And we had too many penalties.”

Both teams lost a fumble after putting together strong opening drives.

Mitchell recovered Trey Pancake’s fumble at the Beavers’ 27, before the Beavers drove to the Bridgeport 1, only for Deeb to fumble on a sneak, which the Tribe’s Devin Hill recovered for for a touchback.

Winkie’s 5-yard touchdown run with 5:55 left in the first half allowed the Tribe to hold a 7-0 lead.

Bluefield (12-2) got a 59-yard pass from Deeb to Wiley to pull even just 1:25 later, and the game went to halftime tied at 7.

“We always thought we had a chance coming into the game,” Winkie said.

The Beavers took their first lead of the night 1:30 into the second half on Deeb’s 61-yard TD pass to Wiley.

Winkie scored on a 2-yard run with 3:59 left in the third, but the point-after try was pushed wide right following a false start, which left the Beavers with a 14-13 lead.

The Indians then forced a three-and-out to take over at their 30 late in the third.

A decisive 15 play, 70-yard drive followed. It featured Winkie gaining 5 yards on a fourth-and-1 and Vandergrift picking up 11 on a third-and-10 in the red zone. Two plays later, Winkie reached the end zone for the third time, scoring what proved to be the winning touchdown on his 38th carry.

“That’s offseason conditioning. He’s a very talented, smart and motivated young man and we have a lot of others that are the same way,” Cole said. “But he’s the leader.”

Deeb threw for 234 yards in defeat, with Wiley catching four passes for 150 yards.

Bluefield finished with a 304-269 advantage in total yards, but rushed for only 70 yards. All of the Indians’ yardage came on the ground, which led to them nearly doubling Bluefield’s time of possession (31:56-16:04).

“We knew J.J. Davis is a really skilled runner and we had to focus on his running abilities,” Winkie said. “We shut down the run and that’s why they had to go to the pass. They got a couple big plays on us, but other than that they weren’t able to bring the ball down the field in increments.” 

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Photo gallery: Bridgeport beats Bluefield for 10th state championship

WHEELING, W.Va. — A look at the action Friday’s Class AA title game between No. 2 Bridgeport and No. 4 Bluefield at Wheeling Island Stadium. The Indians finished with 14 unanswered points to win, 21-14.

(Photos by William Wotring)

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Brown vows that WVU needs to be ‘one of most improved teams’ in 2020

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — What was good enough for West Virginia in Neal Brown’s first season at the helm isn’t going to cut it in Year 2.

“A 5-7 record is not good enough,” Brown said in a season wrap-up press conference on Friday afternoon. “That doesn’t meet the standard here. I’m well aware of that. But we were only favored in two of the 12 games. And I was pleased with how we finished the season. I’m excited about the future. I’m excited about where we’re going.”

The Mountaineers will need to replace both starting offensive tackles, both starting cornerbacks and their starting punter and long snapper. But outside of those positions, West Virginia stacks up well going into next season in terms of production.

Now those players need to take the next steps forward in their development.

“It’s going to be a huge offseason for us,” Brown said. “We’ve got to be focused on being one of the most improved teams in the country next year.”

It’s no mystery where West Virginia needs to make the most progress.

“The key area of improvement offensively is run-game production,” Brown said. “If we want to make strides offensively, we’ve got to be able to run the ball better.”

The Mountaineers were 129th out of 130 FBS teams with 2.6 yards per carry, making it almost literally impossible to run the ball worse.

“Defensively, we’ve got to increase our takeaways,” Brown said. “Those are the two biggest statistical pieces we need to see improvement in.”

The Mountaineers tied for 101st nationally with 14 takeaways. Brown’s final team at Troy ranked third in the country with 31 takeaways.

West Virginia’s secondary figures to be more adept forcing turnovers next year as safeties Tykee Smith, Sean Mahone and Kerry Martin Jr. return to the lineup after closing the season with several solid performances. All three had big plays in West Virginia’s season-ending win at TCU.

There were fewer outward signs of future growth from the offensive front.

“There’s a recruiting piece and development piece. We have to get stronger on the interior part of the offensive line,” Brown said. “Some of that is youth and time will solve that. Some of it’s technique. There’s a strength component, and pad-level component, an explosive component. We’ve got to get better at that. That’s why the offseason is so critical.”

Not everything is the offensive line’s fault, either.

“We’ve got to do a better job finishing runs at running back,” Brown said. “We have to do better in space at running back. We can get a little better than that. But we’ve got to recruit guys that can compete for playing time. The more competition you have in the room, the more push there is to get everyone better. We’ve got to get some bigger, more explosive guys in that room.”

Brown said the coaching staff has to improve, too.

“We have to look at schematically what we can do about it,” Brown said. “When you’re as poor as we were in that area, everything’s on the table. There is a clear gap between that and anything else we have to get better at offensively.”

George Campbell applying for extra year

Jerome Miron/USA TODAY Sports

West Virginia Mountaineers wide receiver George Campbell (15) scores a touchdown as Baylor Bears cornerback Kalon Barnes (12) defends during the game at McLane Stadium.

Brown confirmed that wide receiver George Campbell is petitioning the NCAA for a sixth season of eligibility due to his injury-plagued career at Florida State. Campbell missed the entire 2016 season and played only four games in 2017 due to injuries.

“We’re pretty certain he’ll be approved,” Brown said.

However, there’s a chance Campbell won’t be using that extra year.

In his first post on Instagram, Campbell wrote, “Thank you Mountaineer nation, I am forever grateful. This has been a great experience and I wouldn’t change it for anything in the world. It’s time to start this new chapter in my life and I pray God continues to guid me and allow my story to impact others.”

Brown pointed out that Campbell ranked second on the team in community service points this season.

“I’m supportive of George,” Brown said. “We thought it was going to be a one-year deal. He exceeded expectations. He gave stability to that receivers’ room. He was our best player on special teams. We got significant production from him late in the year.

“I think he’s just scratching the surface. If he comes back, he can mold into a high-level receiver. But I’m completely supportive of whatever decision he makes.”

Campbell finished the season with nine touchdowns and 469 yards on 17 receptions.

Haskins, Stilley in transfer portal

Sophomore center Adam Stilley and junior tight end Jovani Haskins are both in the transfer portal, Brown announced.

Stilley, a walk-on from Martinsburg, has been in the program three years and decided to move on for a chance to actually get on the field. He turned some heads in training camp, but ultimately did not play this season.

“He’s worked hard and been nothing but great here,” Brown said.

Haskins, who already transferred to West Virginia from Miami, entered the portal on Friday. Brown said he had not sat down to talk with Haskins yet having spent the rest of the week on in-home recruiting visits.

Haskins had an underwhelming season, giving way to Mike O’Laughlin as West Virginia’s starting tight end. His decreased playing time was exacerbated by penalties and missed assignments when he did get the opportunity to play.

Brown looking for continuity

Don’t expect any changes on Brown’s coaching staff in his first offseason.

“That’s the intent,” Brown said. “You never know what will happen in the next two months. But that’s the intent.

“I tell my staff that I’m for them personally, but my greater responsibility is to our university and the football program. So my hope here is that it’s a working environment they want to be part of. They see where we’re going and how we go about getting there, and we’re giving them an opportunity to grow in the profession.

“We want to continue to develop them as coaches to whatever their end goal is, whether it’s coordinator or head coach.”

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West Virginia defensive lineman Darius Stills staying for senior year

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia defensive lineman Darius Stills is sticking around for his senior year.

Stills, an all-Big 12 player who finished second in the league with seven sacks, announced late Friday afternoon that he will forgo this year’s NFL Draft. Stills had previously submitted his name to the NFL’s College Advisory Committee, which provides feedback to prospective underclassmen who are thinking of entering the draft pool.

— Darius C. Stills (@DariusStills56) December 6, 2019

“These past 3 years having the opportunity to live out my childhood dreams of playing football and being able to showcase my talents for West Virginia University holds a special place in my heart & I wouldn’t trade it for the world,” Stills wrote on social media. “…After talking with God and my family, I have decided to forgo the 2020 NFL Draft and return for my senior season.

“I am excited for what the 2020 season has in store for Coach Neal Brown & the team. Let’s get to work! Trust the climb!”

Stills and his brother Dante, who tied him with seven sacks, are poised to give West Virginia one of the Big 12’s top defensive lines next season.

The Fairmont natives are sons of former WVU standout Gary Stills, who played in the NFL for 10 seasons.

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W.Va. governor on ‘Nazi salute’ photo: ‘It’s disgraceful’

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Jim Justice repeated his condemnation of a photo showing more than 30 state corrections trainees making a salute associated with Nazis.

“It’s shameful,” Justice said.

The governor first issued a statement of condemnation on Thursday when the photo first came to light.

During a Friday afternoon press conference that dealt with several state government issues, he again said the photographed gesture is unacceptable.

“It’s a disgraceful thing, and it’s an act of stupidity in many different ways,” Justice said.

State officials said two instructors and one class member have been fired already over the photo. More than 30 others have been suspended, likely moving toward firing.

That’s because of their participation in a group photo that drew widespread, strong disapproval when it was released Thursday to the public.

Participants in the Division of Corrections training class are pictured in uniform, raising their outstretched arms in salute. The photo includes the West Virginia state seal.

Above the photo is the label “HAIL BYRD,” which state officials have said refers to a class instructor whose last name is Byrd.

State officials released a pdf of the photo on Thursday with the faces blurred.

“My first reaction was just simply this: We’re a proud state, and we’ve got a diversification of a lot of different people from within our state,” Justice said at the press conference.

“This is intolerable to every single, living, breathing human being in this state.”

State officials said the group photo marked the end of the training class for workers who were to be assigned to correctional facilities around West Virginia.

Jeff Sandy

The class includes training on issues such as how to recognize white supremacy and its symbols, Public Safety Secretary Jeff Sandy said.

The class term ended the day before Thanksgiving, which was the same day state officials described finding out about the photo.

Since then, an investigation involving more than 50 interviews has been underway, Sandy said. The final interview finished at 5 p.m. Thursday, Sandy said.

The resulting documentation and conclusions will be presented to the governor’s in-house legal team and then, probably, to the public.

“The net of everything has to be dismissals, terminations, and we’re moving through the process as expediently as we can,” Justice said.

Reporters asked both Justice and Sandy when an unaltered version of the original photo would be released to the public and when those involved would be named.

Sandy said public information is going through legal review — and expressed concern that some in the photo have been threatened.

“We are concerned about threats to the individuals from other groups,” Sandy said.

Justice said he, personally, would like to open up all the information but deferred to the lawyers.

“These people deserve to be exposed. They do,” he said. “I don’t know that I can legally do that.”

Justice, who often talks about the importance of viewing the state optimistically, said this incident needs to be treated without blinders.

“I don’t want you to move on past it because it’s that important,” he said. “It’s so unacceptable; it should be condemned to the highest degree.”

He later added, “”The facts are the facts. I’m not standing there with my arm up. If somebody is willing to do that, they need to be willing to suffer the consequences.”

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