Local Sports, Sports

The year of the freshman: Young athletes provide much-needed support to area teams

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – It’s been a great year for freshman athletes, one that surpasses recent years of productivity from the fish in a pool of sharks. 

Of all area high schools, freshmen held up no other school’s programs like Trinity Christian’s youngsters. In both football and basketball, multiple 9th-graders lifted the Warriors further than most folks expected. 

August saw the reintroduction of Trinity’s football team, and the first-year group was led by freshman Drew Boczek in the pocket, Davon Eldridge in the backfield and Levi Teets lined up in the slot. Boczek, whose season ended early due to a broken foot, passed for 539 yards and three touchdowns. Eldridge led all running backs with 493 years and six touchdowns. Eldridge is currently the only freshman not returning to play for the Warriors in the fall, recently transferred out of Trinity. 

Further, during basketball season, Boczek was a major contributor in the postseason. He made a name for himself on defense, pickpocketed opponents to lead the Warriors in steals in the Class A playoffs and helped push TCS to the regional co-finals where they ultimately lost. Throughout the year, Jon Moore was also a big piece of the Warriors’ success, filling in the 2-guard spot well alongside senior Seth Goins.  

“Jon is a talented kid. If he’s not the fastest kid in our school, I have to see who is,” boys’ basketball coach John Fowkes said. “Drew, Jon and that whole group of kids, and Levi Teets – let’s talk about Levi. You look at the kid and you aren’t expecting to see him do what he does in both sports. In football he’s an animal: He shows no fear, he can run the ball, plays great defense and you can put him in the slot. In basketball, you can tell him to go shut the other team’s best player, and he can do it.”

Fowkes is also an assistant football coach at TCS and was exposed to the same guys and their work ethic in the fall. There he saw a group of confident young men step onto a field whose youth got them in trouble at points, but would get back up and fight on. 

“They came in and weren’t scared,” Fowkes said. “They lacked the experience and I think that’s what got them at times this year, especially in basketball there was a lack of experience [but] toward the end of the year they were part of the reason we were able to make the run to the regional finals.” 

Fowkes was also quick to point out the help that Matt Gadd as well, a 6-foot-7 center that saw playing time rotating in for senior Fletcher Hartsock. 

But is it just a fluke? Fowkes doesn’t think so, noting that the young core of athletes is building a legacy on the hill. 

“People know who they are in both sports,” Fowkes said. “Drew and Jon, and they know who Matt Gadd is, too. When they [see him] on the floor and ask who that is, you tell them he’s a freshman and people look at you stunned. I think Matt showed tremendous growth in basketball toward the end of the year. [During] football he got hurt and didn’t get to finish as strong as he wanted, but in basketball, he played several minutes in that regional final and I can’t wait to see what he brings.

“And they’re only freshmen. The legacy that they could have, man, there’s a lot of college football and basketball players in that group.” 

Fowkes likens his group of freshmen to that of the three-time state tournament title class of Paige Poffenberger, Sydney Holloway and Rachel Laskody, as well as this year’s University High senior trio of Kaden Metheny, K.J McClurg and Mike Maumbe, who won the 2019 Class AAA title. 

 “I haven’t seen another group of kids be able to step on the varsity field as quick as that group of kids did, and that’s at any school I’ve been at,” Fowkes said. “The first one that comes to my mind automatically is the [freshman] class when Kaden Metheny [entered UHS]. If these boys can do anything K.J., Kaden and Maumbe have done, we’re going to be hanging banners up for multiple sports. I believe these boys by the time they are seniors, you’ll be calling this team the best one in the state overall. I think that’s the legacy they can bring.” 

Other standouts on the grid

Boczek wasn’t the only freshman quarterback stepping into the fire to lead his team. At UHS, after a brutal opening quarter of the schedule, head coach John Kelley made the call to swap out junior starting quarterback Joseph McBee with 5-foot-11 Chase Edwards. 

Edwards was a phenomenal spread quarterback in middle school, and that translated well into his first year as a Hawk, providing a much-needed spark to UHS in the final half of the schedule. That was especially true in the Hawks’ dominating 53-6 win over Buckhannon-Upshur where Edwards logged 195 yards (150 passing, 45 rushing) and three touchdowns. 

There were other standout freshmen in the win over B-U, including offensive linemen Gavin Powroznik and Jacob Stevens, whose explosiveness helped the Hawks rack up 297 rushing yards. It was a step forward for the offensive line that was struggling from Week 1. 

Other standout freshmen on the UHS football roster included defensive backs Noah Braham, Sage Clawges and Jaeden Hammack. All had major moments throughout the year that put them on the good side of the coaching staff. 

Further, in Blacksville, Carson Shriver saw plenty of time in the pocket for the Cee-Bees. Shriver split time with senior Seth Casino and proved to be a mobile QB who could elude even the best defenses. 

In the Cee-Bees’ 27-20 overtime win over Valley-Wetzel, the 155-pounder rushed 10 times for 155 yards, including a 64-yard touchdown on a Wildcat play. Though listed as a quarterback in his freshman year, Shriver will likely be moving to the running back roll with the departure of senior Sean Hays, especially after the Cee-Bees’ final game of the 2019 season against Hundred where he racked up 84 yards and a touchdown on six carries in the blowout 51-0 win. 

But wait, that’s not all 

On the south side of Morgantown, Morgantown High saw plenty of freshmen heed the call, especially within the girls’ basketball team. 

Without a senior on the roster, the Mohigans were led by the junior trio of Kaitlyn Ammons, Berit Johnson and Cat Wassick, but throughout the year three girls saw playing time increase as they helped push MHS out of an early-season slump onto an eight-game win streak. 

Lindsay Bechtel was easily the most productive freshman, rotating into the guard spot. At 5-foot-7, Bechtel was one of the Mohigans’ best slashers who could also pull back for 3-pointers when MHS needed them most. Revaya Sweeney and Mia Henkins also brought fire to the Mohigans rotation throughout the season, especially down the stretch into the postseason. Their explosive plays put opponents on their toes and gave the starters much needed rest. 

And it would be a crime to forget the contributions of UHS guards Emily Sharkey and Eden Gibson who are rising stars in their own right. Sharkey and Gibson were major playmakers when the starters needed a break and when senior Ashten Boggs was battling a lower leg injury and helped UHS to a 19-7 overall record and a spot in the state semifinals against No. 1 Parkersburg. Sharkey was the fifth leading scorer on the roster with 4 points per game, while Gibson was sixth with an average of 3.2 points. 

So while things are in the air for the current seasons, it’s good to know that the future of Morgantown-area sports are in good hands.

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