MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — The cold rain Sunday afternoon couldn’t dampen the elation at Martinsburg High School, where a spirited crowd gathered to welcome home the school’s first state championship-winning football team.
Little more than 12 hours after capturing their first Class AAA title in five tries by defeating Brooke 30-0 at Wheeling (W.Va.) Island Stadium, the team returned to campus as champions.
The win was the first AAA football title won by a Berkeley County school. Musselman High previously won Class A and Class AA titles, according to Berkeley County Schools Superintendent Manny P. Arvon.
Holding a large black umbrella, Arvon said he has told past teams not to let a championship be the defining moment in their lives.
But given the off-the-field adversity the team faced in losing star quarterback Kameron Puller to a mysterious debilitating illness, Arvon said his message is different for them.
“I think this game was much more than a football victory,” Arvon said. “I think it was a defining moment in their lives to come together.”
A celebration to honor the team will be held Wednesday evening at the school, Arvon said.
Aside from the loss of Puller, whose prognosis is unclear, Arvon said the team had to endure the “controversy of others” stemming from the brawl between South Charleston and Hurricane High football players in their quarterfinal playoff game.
“Martinsburg High School did it the right way,” Arvon said.
The AAA title game was postponed a week as a result of court action that ensued after the fight. After defeating Hurricane, South Charleston defeated Brooke High 29-28, but the victory over Brooke was forfeited because players who had been suspended after the fight were allowed by a circuit judge to play against Brooke. The judge’s ruling was thrown out by the state Supreme Court of Appeals and Brooke was awarded the chance to play for its fourth title.
Martinsburg’s defense never gave their Northern Panhandle opponent much of a chance, holding them to only six first downs.
Rick Wachtel, who has served as the home game public address announcer at Martinsburg High games for more than 25 years, said this year’s team “by far” had the best defense he had seen.
After holding the AAA trophy aloft with his team around him on campus to cheering fans Sunday, Martinsburg High coach David Walker said the feelings he had about winning the championship were hard to describe, other than being happy for the players, the fans and the school.
“It’s been a long time coming,” said Walker, who thanked the dozens of fans who endured the rainy weather to welcome the team home.