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Hard work pays off for Walker, Bulldogs

November 11, 1999|By MARK KELLER / Sports Editor

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Perhaps the honeymoon has begun for David Walker.

His arrival as the Martinsburg football coach in 1997 was met with much fanfare, but his team followed it up with a disappointing 1-9 season.

Things improved a year ago. Walker's Bulldogs finished the season strong and made the playoffs with a 6-4 record. They put a scare into Huntington before losing 19-13 in the first round.

In his third year, Walker has the Bulldogs on a roll. After dropping the season opener to Musselman, Martinsburg (9-1) rattled off nine straight wins and enters tonight's Class AAA playoff game against Riverside as one of the hottest teams in the state.

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And after some second guessing following that 1997 season, Walker has seen the light at the end of the tunnel.

"We're heading in the right direction," said Walker, who led East Hardy to seven straight playoff berths before leaving for Martinsburg. "There's still a lot of work to be done before we get where we need to be. But it's coming."

Walker said there were times in 1997 when he wondered if he made the right decision in coming to Martinsburg.

"Any time you start out on a losing note, you tend to doubt yourself," Walker said. "There were times when I thought I should have stayed (at East Hardy). But I knew it was mostly a matter of getting the kids to play hard."

The Bulldogs, as their record shows, have played hard this season. And their resolve will be tested even more tonight when they take the field without starting quarterback Raymond Snow.

Snow dislocated his kneecap and was lost for the remainder of the season in the second quarter of Martinsburg's win over Jefferson last week.

Snow passed for 1,076 yards and 12 touchdowns, but it will be Joey Yurish in charge of the offense.

"Joey's going to have to grow up real fast. He did a good job with the JV team and threw his first touchdown pass against Jefferson," Walker said. "He held his composure, and with the reps he got in practice this week ... I'm very pleased with what I've seen."

All this against a team that, in theory, is a first-year school. But Riverside is actually the consolidation of East Bank and DuPont High, schools that combined for six state titles in the last 10 years.

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