BLACKSVILLE, W.Va. – Clay-Battelle saw a resurgence last football season, even if they didn’t reach their goal of making the playoffs.
Through a rough few weeks – on and off the field – the Cee-Bees split their final four games for an overall 6-4 record. The final two losses of the year weren’t bad, either, as the first was to Cameron, a single-A playoff contender, and the second was to Conotton Valley (Ohio) who only won by six points. This year, a playoff run is still very much a possibility for CBHS, even with a schedule shakeup.
With Week 1 being eliminated due to COVID-19, the Cee-Bees lost a game at Gilmer County. Further, because of a home-and-home agreement with Massanutten (Va.), the team lost an away game in October once Virginia decided to cut its fall seasons. Luckily, they were able to fill that spot easily with a game at Montcalm.
“We were able to work it out with Montcalm that it fit in [the Massanutten hole] perfect,” Clay-Battelle coach Ryan Wilson said. “The trip is almost the same – it may be a half-hour shorter. We already had travel arrangements, we just had to change the direction.”
As for the missed game at Gilmer, that spot is filled with a road game at Hannan.
In the finer points of the 2019 season, CBHS saw a few rising stars gain some traction – namely Daniel Gorbey and Carson Shriver. After putting on muscle and working in the offseason, Cooper Watson won a spot in the pocket and will be splitting snaps with Shriver. Watson and Shriver will also be dividing time in a receiver spot.
“Daniel was on the offensive line last year, but we’re going to move him to the running back spot,” Wilson said. “Daniel is 6-foot-3, 225 pounds. He’s a specimen. He’s a man. Granted, whenever you see Daniel he’s got a smile on his face, but he’s a football player. We like him being a running back and a lead blocker. We’re really excited to get him in action.”
The two-quarterback system is endemic of Wilson’s recent playstyle – he likes to switch his quarterbacks around. Watson, standing at 6-foot-3, brings a different style to the pocket, while Shriver, a shorter, quick-footed player, will keep opponents on their toes.
“Cooper has turned into a really good athlete,” Wilson said. “You saw Carson later in the year last year getting more carries and he broke some bigger runs, so he’ll be more of that home run threat. They have different tools in their toolbox.”
As with many programs, because there were no spring sports there was no weight training for fall athletes. Wilson notes that his team maintained their workouts as best as they could with the situation, even if some did less than others.
“[Maintaining personal workouts] was OK for a while but got tougher. You’re there by yourself, and that takes a lot of motivation,” he said, “but we got creative with it. It was at least nice to get back to our kids [in Phase 1]. You could tell they were out of shape, but in Phase 2 we got our kids back into the weight room. That worked out great for us. You could see we were getting our strength back – not 100%, but we were getting close. By the end of that week, they were in pretty good shape.”
Another thing to overcome this season is the loss of many pivotal seniors, especially Kasey Latocha on the offensive line. Last season, Latocha led the line and helped running back Sean Hays rack up mammoth yardage, as well as helped protect Levi Carrico and Seth Casino. But even with Latocha gone, the line hasn’t fallen apart. Rather, it has grown stronger.
“The offensive line has all been coming in, and my offensive line coach [Aaron LaPoe] said the other day that we are way ahead than we were this time last year because of the experience,” Wilson said. “They’re picking up the offense so quick. Right now, man, they are clicking. I can go down there now and run the offense, and these guys have it down. They’re a fun group to watch.
“You ask who’s a leader, I don’t think there is one person – I think it’s a group. Coach LaPoe said that these guys help each other out. That’s why I don’t think it’s just one guy, it’s group leadership.”
With the three-weeks coming to an end, it’s understandable that there’s an air of concern heading into the season. While professional sports are back, and college sports looks to have the green light, high school teams are hoping for the same.
“[Leadership] is getting stuff out there to the coaches. There are still some unknowns, but week-to-week I’m sure they’ll figure it out,” Wilson said. “I hope there’s a season. We’ll just have to keep following [the guidelines].”