By Paul Adkins
Heading into this weekend’s inaugural East-West All-Star classic, Gary Mullins said he feels like he’s put together a pretty solid football team.
Mullins, the head coach at Logan High School, has been picked to coach the West All-Stars in Saturday night’s clash with the East.
The game is scheduled to kick off on Saturday at 8 p.m. at Mingo Central’s Buck Harless Stadium.
The all-star contest replaces the Hatfield-McCoy Senior Bowl, which pitted graduated senior football players from West Virginia against those from Kentucky and was played from 1996-2013, first at Matewan and then the last two years at Mingo Central.
Mullins said the West has some good linemen but is heavy on skilled position players and that should give the fans a good show.
Out of the 32 players on the West roster, 11 are from the Kanawha Valley representing Capital, George Washington and St. Albans high schools.
Fourteen players are from Logan County, including nine from Coach Mullins’ Logan team, one from Chapmanville Regional and four more from Class A state playoff team Man High School.
Rounding out the roster are three players from Mingo Central, one from Scott and three from Class AA state runner-up Wayne.
The opposing East All-Stars, coached by River View’s Gehrig Justice, come from such schools as Wyoming East, Westside, River View, Bluefield, James Monroe, Summers County, Princeton, Oak Hill and Webster County.
Mullins began practices on Monday at the Logan Football Stadium after a Sunday meeting and walkthrough. The team was set to practice on Tuesday at Scott High School and Wednesday again at Logan. Thursday’s practice is at Scott and Friday’s final walkthrough is slated to take place at Scott.
“So far it’s been great. The guys came in on Sunday with a great attitude,” Mullins said. “We basically went through on the board and showed them our basic offense. Everyone was excited and pretty much everyone showed up. The guys who didn’t show up we had alternates in their spots so those guys could fill in. We’ve got 32 or 33 and that’s about the max that you can have. We’re really happy with that.”
Representing Logan are: Brynden “Worm” Street; Tyler Vernatter; Josh Rein; Clayton Marcum; Tyler Workman; Ty Yeager; Daniel Hanks; Jacob Vance; and Jody Butcher.
Matt Chapman is the representative from Chapmanville.
Man High School’s players on the West roster are Tracy Jones, Jeremiah Beavers, Cayce Mullins and Thomas Holt.
Holt was a last-minute addition to the team along with Clifton Pratt of Capital and Austin Giacamo of George Washington when some others opted out.
Logan’s Vance and Butcher were also added late to the roster.
George Washington’s Jon Alexander appears to have the nod as the West’s starting quarterback. Logan’s Rein and Man’s Mullins are the backups.
Alexander, a Class AAA all-state selection from a year ago, is headed to play collegiate football at Division II West Virginia State. Alexander is a 6-foot, 185-pounder and has a strong arm and pin-point accuracy. That was on full display during Monday’s practice.
“He caught on really fast to the offense on the first day,” Mullins said of Alexander. “Everything seems to be going good. He look really good out there and he really seems to be excited to be playing in this game. That’s the most important thing.”
Rein saw some time at quarterback last season for Logan and was also a top receiver. Rein caught 38 passes for 603 yards and seven touchdowns last season for Logan. Under center, he rushed for 220 yards and passed for 132.
Cayce Mullins was mostly used at wide receiver last year for Man as he had 50 grabs for 569 yards and five scores. He also has some experience at quarterback and running back and also on defense.
At fullback, the West has Logan’s Vernatter, Chapman of CRHS, Eric McDaniel of St. Albans, Jonathan Pittman of Capital and Dakweon Wills of Mingo Central. Vernatter, also a linebacker on defense, ran with the ball 77 times for 435 yards last season for the Wildcats, scoring eight touchdowns.
At tailback, the West has Street, who is headed to play collegiate football at Division II Glenville State. Street was a special honorable mention pick last year along with Rein as he ran for 1,444 yards on 167 carries and scored 14 touchdowns.
“He’s a great player and a great running back,” Mullins said of Street. “We have so much skill on this team. It’s going to come down to finding the best place to put them.”
The West can also turn to running backs James Richmond of Capital and Michael Belcher from Scott.
At wide receiver, the West All-Stars are deep and talented.
If Mullins decides to put Alexander in the spread as planned there will be plenty of athletic players to throw to.
Rein is one of those receivers along with Kurt Arthur of Wayne. The West also has Man’s Jones who led the Hillbillies’ offense last season by catching 41 passes for 697 yards and nine touchdowns.
Taylor Clark of St. Albans, Edmond Harvey of Capital, Alex Lee of Mingo Central, Pratt of Capital and Giacamo of GW are still other top receivers who could do some serious damage if Alexander’s passes go their way.
A good group of wide receivers? That’s saying it mildly.
“Oh gosh. They are so athletic,” Mullins said. “They caught on really fast yesterday. They are all out there to have fun, compete and have a good time.”
Along the offensive and defensive lines, Coach Mullins has plenty of talent.
James Walton of Capital, the Hunt Award winner last season as the state’s best interior lineman, will anchor the D-line. His Cougar teammate Jaisson Dyer will also lead the defensive line.
The offensive line has a Logan County flavor with Yeager, Vance and Butcher of Logan and Beavers and Holt of Man. Wayne’s J.C. Maynard and Nick Harmon are also expected to play along the offensive line. Brandon Blankenship of Mingo Central and Adam Huffman of GW could see action on both sides of the ball along with some of the others.
At linebacker, the West has Vernatter, Willis, Belcher, Pittman, Chapman and McDaniel. Chapman was one of Chapmanville’s leading tacklers last season with 72 total stops.
In the secondary, the West is led by Harvey and Richmond. The deep group also has Marcum, Workman and Street of Logan and Lee of Mingo Central. Pratt and Giacamo are also good defensive backs along with Arthur.
“We have a lot of guys who want to play defense,” Mullins said. “A lot of the Capital kids came in and they are defensive specialists. They play on that side of the ball and that’s their first love. You don’t get that a lot of times around here.”
The West special teams are led by Hanks, who will handle both of the placekicking and punting duties. Last season, Hanks was a dependable kicker for the Wildcats as he made 34-of-45 PATs and also booted a 26-yard field goal. As a punter, he averaged nearly 40 yards a boot. Rein can also punt if need be.
Coach Mullins’ West All-Star staff is made up of Josh Fry, Jason Davis, David Toney and his dad, Gary Mullins Sr., from his Logan team. Also, former Chapmanville assistant coach Rob Dial is on the staff.
2014 Cliffs West All-Star
James Walton (DL), Capital
Edmund Harvey (WR/DB), Capital
Jonathon Pittman (RB/LB), Capital
Jaisson Dyer (DL), Capital
James Richmond (RB/DB), Capital
Clifton Pratt (LB/DB), Capital
Eric McDaniel (RB/LB), St. Albans
Taylor Clark (WR), St. Albans
Alex Lee (WR/DB), Mingo Central
Dakweon Willis (RB/LB), Mingo Central
Brandon Blankenship (OL/DL), Mingo Central
Matt Chapman (RB/LB), Chapmanville
Tracy Jones (WR), Man
Jeremiah Beavers (OL), Man
Cayce Mullins (QB/RB), Man
Thomas Holt (OL), Man
Brynden Street (WR/S), Logan
Tyler Vernatter (RB/LB), Logan
Josh Rein (QB/WR), Logan
Clayton Marcum (DB), Logan
Tyler Workman (DB), Logan
Ty Yeager (OL), Logan
Daniel Hanks (K/P), Logan
Jacob Vance (OL), Logan
Jody Butcher (OL), Logan
J.C. Maynard (OL), Wayne
Nick Harmon (OL), Wayne
Kurt Arthur (WR/DB), Wayne
Adam Huffman (OL/DL), George Washington
Jon Alexander (QB), George Washington
Austin Giacamo (WR/DB) George Washington
Michael Belcher (RB/LB), Scott
Head Coach: Gary Mullins
Assistant Coaches: Josh Fry, Jason Davis, David Toney, Rob Dial, Gary Mullins Sr.