Dogs revel in state title won with QB in mind

December 16, 2010|By BOB PARASILITI |
  • Martinsburg football coach David Walker addresses his team during the MHS Victory Event on Wednesday to celebrate their 2010 West Virginia Class AAA state championship.
By Joe Crocetta/Staff Photographer

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — In team sports, class, dignity, selflessness, focus and determination are like air.

All are colorless, but all are needed for survival.

All those intangible ingredients have done Martinsburg athletics well. The Bulldogs haven’t only survived, they have thrived.

Supporters turned out on Wednesday to honor the Martinsburg football team, which claimed the school’s first-ever West Virginia Class AAA state championship in the sport on Saturday, in the school’s gymnasium. These celebrations are becoming old hat for the Bulldogs, since it was the third in the last two years at the school.

This one was a little different, though. While there was much to celebrate for the 14-0 team that dominated the playoffs and endured more than its share of adversity, there was also much to reflect upon.

“I could get used to this,” said Manny Arvon, superintendent of Berkeley County Schools. “This is the third time in a short period that I have been asked to speak about the accomplishments by the students of Martinsburg.


“In the other championships, I told the athletes ‘Don’t let the championship define you.’ This time is different. This group of young men and their coaches have taught us a lesson. With their commitment ... the way they treated others ... their focus on a goal ... I’ve never been more proud of what they taught us as a community.”
On this day, pride had colors. They were black and orange.

Numbers and statistics will always provide a label for the Bulldogs’ 2010 championship. Not only was it the school’s first, but also the first Class AAA title garnered by the Eastern Panhandle.

It was provided by a team that allowed just 7.7 points per game and posted two shutouts in four playoff games while scoring 36.6 points.

The title was won by the team which was forced to sit and wait as a political football was kicked around the courts to decide who would be its opponent. Brooke won that right and lost 30-0 in a game played a week after the other two state titles were decided.

Martinsburg successfully completed its fifth trip to the state final in the last 10 years for this first championship. The Bulldogs are no strangers to the postseason as they have advanced to the playoffs for 13 straight years.

The title was Martinsburg’s holy grail, but the reason for reaching it may have defined the whole quest.

“I have been overwhelmed at who has called us to congratulate us,” said Martinsburg coach David Walker. “I’ve been asked what has defined this team. It’s their selflessness and their loyalty to team and to Kameron (Puller). This has been a life lesson. ... Everything is precious.”

Puller, Martinsburg’s quarterback last season, was lost to the team after being diagnosed with a life-threatening disease. The Bulldogs embraced the huge loss by turning it into the rallying point for the season. The goal was to “Win for Kam.”

“We lost our quarterback, we had kids transfer, kids hurt and kids who decided not to come out,” Walker said. “We just kept working. When we beat (Thomas Johnson in the third game of the season), things started to click. Then when we smashed Fort Hill, I thought we might be pretty special. We got better. You could see the confidence growing in practice and in games.”

Supporters nearly filled the gym as Martinsburg’s band played the school’s fight song while creating a tunnel where the team entered, crossing a green carpet with yard lines and a makeshift goal post.

Pictures from championship weekend hung from the ceiling in the hall and a montage of game clips were projected on a screen.

The team was presented with proclamations from Mayor George Karos and the city, and received letters and resolutions from Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin.

“Whatever you go on to do, do what you did in the last year,” said Karos as he addressed the team. “If you do, you’ll never be a loser.”

Each player received a team photo with the championship scoreboard in the background and other trinkets to commemorate their feat.

While the title was important, the accomplishment of the mission made a bigger impression.

“Winning the title hasn’t sunk in yet,” said senior running back David Gladden. “We all just believed in each other. We were missing Kam and we had to fill his shoes. We were glad we were able to do it. We just want to tell Kam we did it and if you try, you can do anything.”

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