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Bulldogs began season as our No. 1 again

August 24, 2007|By MARK KELLER

Preseason polls are always tricky to put together, particularly when trying to rank high school teams sight unseen.

But when it comes to high school football, we throw caution to the wind and rank them anyway.

Not because we're masochistic. Not because we really like getting those nasty e-mails. Not because I like setting up my reporters to get harassed by fans when they cover high school games.

It's because it's football. No other high school sport draws the attention or gets the opinions flowing like football does.

Therefore, here is The Herald-Mail's preseason Super 7 football poll.

(One note: The preseason poll is a highly informal ranking selected by one person. Once the regular season begins, our panel of 10 voters takes over on a weekly basis. So, if I'm dead wrong on these predictions now, the rankings will right themselves soon enough.)

Martinsburg starts as our No. 1 again, but they might not be the slam dunk they've been in years past. The 'Dogs lost a lot from last year's state finalist, including their top running back, top five receivers and the West Virginia defensive player of the year.

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But there's a reason Martinsburg has made nine straight trips to the playoffs. Through the years, coach David Walker has been able to get players enough experience as underclassmen that they thrive when moved into starting roles. They've been able to reload rather than rebuild.

North Hagerstown has made the postseason three times in the last four years and its JV and freshman teams have been outstanding, giving North one of the most consistent top-to-bottom programs in the area.

The Hubs also lost several talented players, including quarterback Logan Kelso, who rewrote North's record book. North moved to the MVAL Piedmont Conference and significantly upgraded its schedule. But the Hubs should be fine and still make a run at a Class 2A playoff berth.

Berkeley Springs has not one, but two, of the best running backs in the area in Cody Hess and Cody Reed. Both topped the 1,000-yard mark last season, and with most of the offensive line returning in front of them, there's little reason to think they can't do it again.

Once upon a time, Musselman was one of the premier teams in the Tri-State area and a perennial powerhouse in West Virginia. After several years below .500, the Applemen are on the upswing this season with the return of quarterback Ethan French. And, as usual, the Applemen boast an unmatched kicking game with Corey Smith, who has committed to Alabama.

Greencastle-Antrim was a banged-up team for most of 2006, yet still found a way to make it into the playoffs. The Blue Devils return Matt Copenhaver, their leading tackler a year ago, along with junior quarterback Adam Ritchey and junior running back Dustin Barry, who forced his way into the lineup last season after filling in due to injuries.

Jefferson missed the postseason last year after getting in the previous two seasons. As always seems to be the case, the Cougars have speed, which makes them dangerous. But they also play a tougher schedule this season.

Smithsburg returns a starting quarterback, tailback and receiver, but not much more experience. Still, they'll be competitive in a newly aligned MVAL Antietam if they get through a couple tough nonconference games to start.

Also, Boonsboro will contend once its 20 new starters gain some experience. Williamsport will be better as long as running backs Kyle Cunningham and Kyle McDannell improve upon last season.

And finally, my annual nod to Chambersburg, which plays in the Mid-Penn Commonwealth, one of the toughest football conferences in the entire country. Line up the Trojans against the other 17 teams in the area and I'd bet on no worse than 15-2.

Unfortunately for them, they'll probably go 2-8 this year.

Enjoy the season ... and feel free to tell me I'm wrong.

Mark Keller is sports editor of The Herald-Mail. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2332, or by e-mail at keller@herald-mail.com

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