With preseason football camps opening across West Virginia on Monday, the excitement is churning. Each year presents an opportunity for new stars to emerge and old ones to pick up where they left off, leaving their mark on their school and community.
Each year Lootpress recognizes standout seasons with scholarship awards for Offensive Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, Lineman of the Year and positional awards for quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers.
This year we’ve compiled a preseason list of the early favorites to win those awards.
Each award, revealed at season’s end, comes with a $500 scholarship from the Lootpress Foundation. Note – the Offensive Player of the Year Award replaces the positional award of the winner. For example there was no Running Back of the Year awarded in 2021 because Atticus Goodson, a running back, won the OPOY.
Below are the early favorites to win the 2022 OPOY award as well as a recap of what they did last season.
- Judah Price, RB/UTIL Independence (Senior) – A first-team all-state selection as a utility player in 2021, Price steps into a new role as the workhorse for a team that fell just short of winning the Class AA state title last season – though no fault of his. Price scored a touchdown and intercepted a pass in the title game loss to Fairmont Senior, proving he belonged. It wasn’t like he was an unknown coming into the game though. He finished the season with nearly 900 yards rushing and 14 rushing touchdowns while primarily spelling Kennedy Award winner Atticus Goodson. This year Price will not only be the primary ball carrier but he’ll benefit from running behind an offensive line that returns four starters, including a pair of first-team all-staters. On top of his ability as a runner, he’s also a dangerous receiver having picked up over 200 yards through the air.
- Grant Cochran, QB, Princeton (Senior) – Cochran, a senior, comes in as one of the most experienced quarterbacks in the state, having started since his freshman year when an injury pressed him into the starting role. He’s responded well, helping guide the Tigers to a pair of playoff berths the last two years, though under different circumstances. In 2020 he had a talented stable of skill players to rely on, including the eventual Moss Award winner. Last season he was the veteran working with an inexperienced group. Still he adapted to different gameplans, finishing with nearly 1,700 passing yards and 17 touchdowns, becoming the inaugural Lootpress QB of there Year winner.
- Trey Bowers, QB, Independence (Junior) – Bowers comes in as the wildcard with an opportunity to be this season’s breakout star on offense. He spent the first two years of his career as a receiver finishing with over 500 yards through the air and seven touchdowns last season. Like Price, he proved he belonged in the title game with the other Indy touchdown on a big scoring play. Now he’ll step into the role of quarterback, becoming the fourth signal caller in as many years. Still he has the tools to excel. With Price in the backfield, a loaded offensive line and all-stater Cyrus Goodson on the outside, Bowers, one of the state’s fastest players, has an opportunity to dice defenses with his arm and his legs. Logan Phalin, Bowers’ predecessor, excelled at running the ball but was considerably slower than Bowers. With an offense loaded with some of the state’s best players, it will be hard for a defense to key on one player, giving Bowers an opportunity to score on designed run plays and improvise when passing plays fall apart.
- Cyrus Goodson, WR, Independence (Senior) – The area’s top returning receiver, Goodson compiled 500 yards through the air while hauling in eight touchdowns. With Bowers moving to QB, Goodson becomes the clear No. 1 receiving option and figures to see more targets. Though the downside of that is he’ll also garner double coverage as teams shade to keep him in control. He comes in as the only receiver on this list mostly because production at that position often comes down to the quality of the QB as a passer and how often coaches are willing to put the ball in the air. Since a balanced gameplan is often a key to success, it would be hard to imagine Goodson getting frozen out but there are a lot of mouths to feed on that offense. One thing Goodson does have going for him is Martinsburg graduate Hudson Clement, the Moss Award winner arguably the best player in the state last season, was also a receiver.
- Amir Hairston, RB, Bluefield (Running Back) – With the transfer of Jamel Floyd, Hairston, who picked up over 1,100 yards on the ground en route to a first-team all-state selection last season, will be the workhorse for Bluefield this season and he has the speed to produce mind-boggling numbers. A member of Bluefield’s 4×100 and 4×200 state championship relay teams, Hairston has proven he’s capable of scoring any time he touches the ball. His challenge this season will be overcoming stacked boxes and defenses that key on containing him. The Beavers graduated a pair of first-team all-staters in QB Ryker Brown and WR Jacorian Green while also losing several starters along then offensive line. Much of Bluefield’s success this season will likely hinge on how much he can give.
- Ian Cline, RB, Greenbrier East (Junior) – One of last year’s breakout stars, Cline is the area’s top returning rusher having accumulated 1,677 yards on the ground. In addition to that he broke several program records, including the single-game rushing mark with 357 yards and five touchdowns in a win against Hampshire. It all culminated in a first-team all-state selection for the rising junior who seemingly came out of nowhere. Cline has the ability to replicate those numbers, or even exceed them, but like Hairston he’ll have some challenges to overcome. The Spartans graduated several starters along the offensive line as well as some other skill players that helped open opportunities for Cline. In addition he’ll be the focal point for most defenses, which opens up looks for the next candidate.
- Monquelle Davis, QB, Greenbrier East (Senior) – An improviser with the moves and speed to make something happen when the play breaks down, Davis threw for over 1,100 yards and ran for 500 in his second season as the signal caller for East. He also provides versatility as a receiver, having played the position as a freshman and for a few plays last season. With Cline likely to garner a lot of attention, it opens up the playbook if Ray Lee and his staff want to run more option plays and involve Davis in the designed running game.
- Ty Nickell, RB, Greenbrier West (Senior) – Another breakout star, Nickell helped ease the loss of all-stater Noah Brown by rushing for 1,500 yards and 18 touchdowns last season as the Cavaliers returned to the playoff for the third consecutive season. It all culminated in Nickell’s first first-team all-state selection. Now with a year of starter reps under his belt and having soaked up the tutelage of former WVU fullback Owen Schmitt, the rising senior has an opportunity to build upon his breakout campaign and cross the 2,000 yard threshold all while helping West to a deep playoff run. He’ll have his opportunities with the Cavaliers committed to running the ball.
- Kaleb Clark, RB, Nicholas County (Senior) – Last but not least on the preseason watchlist is the third consecutive breakout star from last season, Nicholas County running back Kaleb Clark. Clark was one of the most reliable backs in the area last season, picking up nearly 1,600 yards on the ground while scoring over 20 times. Nicholas County coach Gene Morris has historically done a good job of maximizing his players’ abilities and putting them in positions to succeed. With a deep playoff run in mind, expect Clark to again be atop the area rushing boards. His camaraderie with his offensive linemen has been a talking point for Morris since early last season and it allows him to be in sync with the group as they execute each play. That in addition to his offseason work makes him a worthy candidate.
Darkhorses – Duke Dodson, Summers County; Cooper Ridgeway, James Monroe; Brodie Rice, Princeton; Dominick Collins, Princeton.
Previous Award Winners
OPOY: Atticus Goodson, Independence
DPOY: Ryker Brown, Bluefield
Lineman of the Year: Logan Isom and Brady Grimmett (Co-Winners)
WR of the Year: Keynan Cook, Beckley
QB of the Year: Grant Cochran, Princeton
COTY: John H. Lilly, Independence