The Voice of West Virginia
BIG CHIMNEY, W.Va. — A woman died in a house fire Friday in Kanawha County.
The blaze, which was called in at about 9 a.m. Friday, occurred at a residence in the 4500 block of U.S. Route 119 in Big Chimney.
Authorities said a woman died in the blaze.
The state Fire Marshal’s Office is investigating.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Leading law enforcement officials in Kanawha County are reminding motorists stay-at-home doesn’t mean police are ignoring them if they choose to drive recklessly.
Kanawha County Sheriff Mike Rutherford and Charleston Police Chief Tyke Hunt held a virtual news conference Friday focusing on some hazardous driving that’s taken place in recent days including a pair of deadly crashes.
“(The stay-at-home order) is not a free pass to be out here and speeding and drunk driving and being hazardous on the roadway,” Rutherford said. “It’s going to be a lot easier to spot you and we will enforce the laws.”
Hunt agreed. He said erratic behavior on the highways will be easily spotted.
“If you are driving faster than usual or driving in a reckless matter it’s going to be more likely that are going to get caught and if you are caught you’re going to have to answer to that,” Hunt said.
Rutherford and Hunt both said they have sufficient staffing numbers at this time. Rutherford said Kanawha County Circuit Judge Charles King has signed a court order allowing him to deputize other officers if necessary. Hunt said city officers would be ready to fill in as deputies if the coronavirus impacts staffing levels.
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Bill Withers, a son of West Virginia who reached the top of the musical world with a string of hit songs in the 1970s, died Monday at the age of 81 in Los Angeles, his family revealed on Friday. Withers’ family told the Associated Press that the singer died from heart complications.
Withers wrote and recorded a string of legendary songs that held up for the rest of his lifetime and will continue to do so beyond it, including “Lean On Me,” “Ain’t No Sunshine,” “Lovely Day,” and “Just the Two Of Us.”
He won Grammy Awards for Best R&B song in 1971 and 1981 for “Ain’t No Sunshine” and “Just the Two of Us,” respectively.
“In terms of West Virginia music, he was perhaps the most successful songwriter in the history of the state, but it’s bigger than that,” said West Virginia Music Hall of Fame Director Michael Lipton. “His songs are still completely relevant and fresh. They’re still being played, still being used and still being sampled.”
William Harrison Withers was born on July 4, 1938 in Slab Fork, a tiny hamlet of around 200 residents in Raleigh County. The youngest of six children, he lived with his mother and grandmother in Beckley after his parents divorced when he was 3.
His grandmother served as the inspiration for another of his hit songs, “Grandma’s Hands.”
When he was inducted into the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame in 2007, Withers explained that his West Virginia upbringing was instrumental in creating “Lean on Me,” a song he would later perform at the presidential inaugurations of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.
“People helped each other get by,” he told WV Public Broadcasting prior to his induction. “When times were hard, people leaned on each other. My family didn’t have a refrigerator, and the people across the street across the street from us didn’t have a phone. So we helped each other. They gave us ice, and we let them use our phone.”
Withers was a late bloomer in the world of music, partially on account of a stutter that carried on from childhood into his 20s.
Hoping to avoid the life his father lived in the coal mines — Withers was only 13 when his father died of health complications from mining — he joined the Navy in 1956.
After nine years in the service, Withers settled down in California, working as a milkman and in an aircraft factory before finally embarking on the career that would make him a household name. In fact, Withers was still working at the airplane factory when the cover photo for his debut album, “Just As I Am,” was taken.
It was on that debut album that Withers shot to stardom as “Ain’t No Sunshine” reached No. 3 on the pop charts.
Withers departed the music business with the unexpected suddenness with which he entered it, never recording an album after 1985 due to his disenfranchisement with record companies.
Withers was inducted in the inaugural class of the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame, and entered the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015.
According to Lipton, Withers didn’t just take a one-off trip for his own induction ceremony into the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame. He attended the event multiple years, including when he was asked to simply provide a video introduction to the ceremony.
In Lipton’s view, Withers lived a life that was uniquely West Virginian in nature, and it was summed up by his music.
“He’s an icon. He was also, in a way, a quintessential West Virginian,” Lipton said. “His life growing up was not easy, in both economic ways and social ways.
“When we talk about West Virginia music, we use him as an example — was it rock, was it soul, was it folk? It was all of those things. That’s the weird, beautiful thing about West Virginia. It’s hard to describe. There’s something about it that’s deep and soulful.”
Withers is survived by his wife, Marcia, and children, Todd and Kori.
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RAVENSWOOD, W.Va. — Four workers at the Constellium aluminum plant in Jackson County have tested positive for coronavirus, the company confirmed Friday.
Plant CEO Buddy Stemple said the Ravenswood plant, which has approximately 1,200 workers, is taking the necessary precautions published by the Centers for Disease Control.
“In conjunction with the Health department and CDC guidelines, we have taken the necessary precautions concerning quarantines,” Stemple said in a statement. “We are taking several precautions to protect our workforce including regular disinfecting of work areas.”
Plans are to continue to operate the plant. Stemple said many of the products made there “are critical in this time of crisis. Our customers supply medical devices, masks, and ventilators. We supply the transportation markets which haul goods to market, as well as our aerospace and US Defense customers.”
Most of the workers at the plant are represented by the United Steelworkers Union. They come from several counties along wth the state of Ohio.
Stemple’s full statement:
Our first priority is the Safety and health of our employees, partners and communities while protecting the future of our business. Many of our products are critical in this time of crisis. Our customers supply medical devices, masks, and ventilators. We supply the transportation markets which haul goods to market, as well as our aerospace and US Defense customers.
As of today, four of our team have tested positive for the Coronavirus. In conjunction with the Health department and CDC guidelines, we have taken the necessary precautions concerning quarantines. We are taking several precautions to protect our workforce including regular disinfecting of work areas. I am proud of all who work at Constellium Ravenswood for their courage and dedication thus far in this crisis. You can imagine that operating in this environment with 1200 people and 68 acres under roof is a challenge. I want to thank each of them.
Buddy Stemple, CEO
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West Virginia has 20 new confirmed cases of novel coronavirus, making the total positive case count 237.
As of today, 6,367 West Virginia residents have been tested for covid-19.
The tests have included 237 positive, 6,130 negative and two deaths.
Cases have been identified in Barbour (1), Berkeley (37), Cabell (5), Greenbrier (3), Hancock (5), Hardy (2), Harrison (17), Jackson (11), Jefferson (12), Kanawha (40), Logan (4), Marion (11), Marshall (4), Mason (3), Mercer (3), Mineral (2), Monongalia (35), Morgan (1), Ohio (11), Pendleton (1), Pleasants (1), Preston (4), Putnam (5), Raleigh (3), Randolph (2), Roane (2), Tucker (3), Upshur (1), Wetzel (2), Wirt (1) and Wood (5) counties.
Most of the confirmed cases, 55 percent, are women, while the other 45 percent are men.
The biggest age group of those with coronavirus — at 23 percent — is people between ages 60 and 69.
The next biggest age group, 19 percent, is West Virginians between ages 50 and 59.
Speaking today on MetroNews’ “Talkline,” West Virginia’s newly-appointed coronavirus czar, said West Virginia’s overall rate is reassuring but that the state can’t let up on social distancing.
“I think so far so good,” Marsh said.
“Certainly we know from all the models and looking at the country, the explosion we’re seeing in some of our metropolitan areas should give us pause and should make us understand that nobody gets a free pass on this.”
Most West Virginians seem to be taking the social distancing message seriously, Marsh said.
“We are executing, in my opinion, the opportunity that is to write our own future,” he said.
“So far, people are doing a fantastic job. But if we’re in a four quarter game, we’re probably midway through the first quarter. So there’s a lot of the game still to play.”
.@claymarsh, Vice President and Executive dean of WVU Health Sciences, joins @HoppyKercheval to discuss how to prevent the spread of COVID-19. WATCH: https://t.co/jmMe7bOYY9 pic.twitter.com/NOxVidUk29
— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) April 3, 2020
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. — All registered voters in West Virginia should start receiving postcards within the next week asking if they would like to request absentee ballots for voting in the Democratic or Republican primary elections which are now set for June 9.
“We kind of feel like we can breathe — for a moment,” said Linda Huggins, county clerk in Preston County and president of the West Virginia County Clerk’s Association.
Sending out the absentee ballot request cards on dates that’ll vary by county represented the next step in what has been an evolving situation for county clerks since this year’s primary season is coming at the same time the novel coronavirus is spreading.
On Wednesday, Governor Jim Justice announced he was using his emergency powers to push back West Virginia’s primary, originally scheduled for Tuesday, May 12, to Tuesday, June 9 because of the pandemic.
“It’s a tough situation to extend an election date. No one wanted to do that, but it has to be done,” Justice said at that time.
At first, the plan was for West Virginia to continue with the May 12 primary date with expanded absentee ballot options.
The additional absentee ballot options, under an interpretation of the law citing absentee ballot qualifications for health concerns, remained for the new June date.
“At the same there’s a stay-at-home order, we were asking people to come out and be poll workers and sit at a table all day in front of the public and it’s a hard position for the county clerks to be in,” Huggins said.
“The delay did give us a little bit of relief to hope that things will subside a little bit by then.”
Under the revised primary calendar, the deadline to register to vote is May 19.
In-person early voting at county courthouses, annexes or designated community voting locations was scheduled for normal business hours and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. beginning on May 27 and continuing through June 6.
All absentee ballot applications have to be in by June 3.
“I think it would be a smart, wise decision to vote absentee ballot,” Huggins recommended.
In addition to scheduling poll workers for early voting and primary days, she and other clerks were also making staffing decisions for the tracking and counting of what were expected to be dramatically increased numbers of absentee ballots.
In Preston County, for example, Huggins said there were typically about 200 absentee ballots for an election.
Already this year, there have been that many requests for absentee ballots in a single day.
At the same time, courthouse hours were reduced while many normal operations continued, public access was limited and some staff members were home for reasons tied to COVID-19.
“It’s exhausting, it’s mentally exhausting especially if you have people in the office who aren’t here because of different scenarios,” Huggins said.
“It’s a fearful situation to be in and it’s the unknown is what is so fearful, so we’re just trying to be as safe as we can be.”
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RONCEVERTE, W.Va. — Two people were killed in a Thursday fire in Greenbrier County.
The bodies were found inside a Ronceverte residence located at 291 Fullen Cemetery Road. Fire crews responded to the scene early Thursday morning. No word yet on what started the blaze.
The state Fire Marshal’s Office is investigating. The couple that lived in the house were elderly, neighbors said.
Positive cases of Covid 19 surpass 200 in the state. CAMC is in what it’s CEO calls “financial Never-Never Land.” Workforce WV is working to get National Guard troops trained up to help with the surge in unemployment claims. A doctor at the Beckley V-A is charged with sexually assaulting a patient. There was a recent spike in fentanyl overdoses in Wyoming County. In Sports, organizers of the North-South All Start Football Game are trying to think positive about this year’s game in June. Those stories and more in today’s edition.
West Virginia Legislative leaders have issued a bi-partisan call for Governor Jim Justice to cancel the rest of the public school year. (Read more from Brad McElhinny.)
Senate President Mitch Carmichael, Minority Leader Roman Prezioso, House Speaker Roger Hanshaw and House Minority Leader Tim Miley in a letter to Justice said the projected peak of the virus in West Virginia in early May means it would be a mistake to reopen schools.
“Based on these projections, we believe it would be wise to fall on the side of caution and keep students at home for the remainder of the 2020 school year rather than risk sending our children into potentially hazardous and untenable learning environments,” they said.
No one would argue with the logic of protecting the health and safety of students, teachers and staff. That’s a given, and it’s the reason schools were closed in the first place last month. However, there is no need to make that decision immediately.
Yes, Justice postponed the May 12 Primary Election for a month, but county clerks and the Secretary of State had various deadlines quickly approaching. Also, West Virginia did not want to find itself in the same chaotic situation as neighboring Ohio where the election was called off, back on and then called off again within a few hours of Election Day.
Schools are different. Administrators, teachers and staff have experience in opening and closing and, given a few days notice, could swing back into action… if, and that’s an important “if,” health officials who are advising the Governor and State School Superintendent Clayton Burch deem it is safe to return.
The lawmakers say in their letter that students, their parents, teachers, service workers and the public would be best served with the certainty that would come with closing. Well, yes, but these are wildly uncertain times. Individuals and institutions are all trying to adjust to rapidly changing developments because of the pandemic.
But here is one certainty: If you announce a suspension of the 2019-2020 school year, learning will cease. Superintendent Burch acknowledges that the amount of learning that is going on now varies widely from student to student and county to county, but he adds that teachers are trying to stay engaged with their students.
“The skills need to stay sharp,” he said. “They need to stay engaged.” Just this week the Department of Education released a more detailed instruction and guidance for remote learning during the pandemic.
West Virginia Education President Dale Lee agrees that the school year should continue. “Our educators are doing a fantastic job of reaching out to all kids and we’re going to continue that,” Lee said, adding that if the school year is canceled, “Any learning that is happening stops, any engagement stops.”
Currently, schools are closed until April 30. Maybe they can reopen after that, or maybe not. Burch and Lee both believe that even a couple weeks of in-class instruction before the end of the semester would be valuable.
West Virginia’s school teachers often say that the kids come first. If we take them at their word then we’ll assume that the vast majority of them have come up with innovative ways to stay engaged with their students and keep them from falling behind.
That’s the preferable kind of certainty we need during these difficult times, rather than just throwing in the towel.
(Story by Andrew Spellman/The Dominion Post – Rosters voted upon by the WVSWA)
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — There wasn’t much doubt that the No. 1 University High boys’ basketball team (22-3) was favored to return to the Class AAA finals this year. Now, with their season in limbo, it’s expected seniors K.J. McClurg and Kaden Metheny won’t suit up in their high school uniforms again, their senior season effectively over due to the coronavirus pandemic. Regardless of the what-ifs, McClurg and Metheny aren’t leaving UHS empty-handed. Both were named first team all-state Friday by the West Virginia Sports Writers Association, solidifying their careers at University on a high note.
Four years ago, Metheny and McClurg stepped onto the court at UHS for the first time. Since then, they’ve led University to one title and potentially another.
Greatness hasn’t escaped the pair who have been intertwined with each other since they were in 5th-grade. In 2019 the duo helped University win its first Class AAA state title with a victory over then-No. 1 Martinsburg. This year, the Hawks battled some of the best teams in the country, nearly beating the highly-touted Arizona 5A state champion Millennium High in Myrtle Beach, S.C., losing 65-63.
It was the Hawks’ first loss of the year and was immediately followed by their second, a 79-73 defeat at the hands of Beach Ball Classic host Myrtle Beach who is a powerhouse in the Palmetto State. But when things looked bleak, Metheny and McClurg rallied the troops and UHS took off once more, going on a four-game win streak which saw tight wins over Morgan Park (Ill.), rival Morgantown and Kennedy Catholic (Pa.).
The streak was eventually snapped by Morgantown Jan. 15, another two-point loss reminiscent of the loss to Millennium, in which Metheny and McClurg combined for 42 points, with 32 and 10 points, respectively. That loss was a brutal reality check for the Hawks, knocking them out of the No. 1 spot in the West Virginia Associated Press Poll. It was a check coach Joe Schmidle remembers it well.
“The Morgantown game was a wakeup call,” he said. “As much as any coach or any kid hates to say it, I think there was some complacency, and they needed it. I don’t think they were working hard enough in practice, they weren’t taking things seriously enough and, you know, when that happened it got us focused. Not just the kids, but for me, too, and we needed to do some things to get better.”
Schmidle noted that even Metheny and McClurg weren’t immune to the reality check, as each player had to win their spot in every single practice following that night.
“It absolutely did,” Schmidle said. “They all knew that one thing about us as a team is there’s open communication. I talk and communicate with my players because I want feedback from them. They know who’s playing the best, they know who they trust and what do they think we need to do. It can happen during a game or in a casual conversation during the school day. The bottom line is, those guys are competitors and even though they have loyalty to their brothers that they’ve been playing with, they still want to win. They want the best talent on the floor that will get them a win.”
And with that loss behind them, six days later, UHS downed Parkersburg South on the road by 12 points, before dropping 109 points on John Marshall four days after that. In fact, the Hawks never lost another game, winning them all by comfortable margins.
While they may not get a chance at repeating for the title, Metheny and McClurg were recognized for their outstanding seasons with first team all-state honors. However, the end goal still feels unfulfilled.
“It’s an amazing accomplishment and it’s special to share that with K.J., but I think I can speak for both of us that we wanted to end the year as state champions, not first team all-state,” Metheny said. “We wanted that team accomplishment. But it’s definitely amazing to share it with my brother and teammate. We’ve been the one-two punch together over the years. With the season ending like it did, it’s hard, but we know there’s a reason for this. God has a purpose and He’s going to redeem it, but we have to try and find every positive out of this. It’s been an amazing year. We accomplished so many things and this is a team I’ll remember and cherish for the rest of my life.”
“It’s great to know that we went out with a bang,” McClurg said. “It didn’t go how we wanted it to, but everything we worked for up to this point, it shows that the work we put in paid off. We’re blessed to be in the situation we are at UHS. I want to thank my coaches, teammates and parents for pushing me.”
Metheny, named first team captain, snapped two major school records this year. He first overcame current-Milwaukee Brewers infielder Jedd Gyorko’s all-time 3-point record during the Hawks’ routing of Wheeling Park in the OVAC semifinals, surpassing the former Hawk with his opening trey to take the No. 1 spot. He then hit his 2,000th-career point in the Hawks’ sectional finals win over Morgantown, a game where he was just shy of the school’s single-game scoring record (Duke Pride, 53 points) with 44 points. Further, he averaged 24.9 points, 4.1 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game.
“I’ve played basketball my entire life and I’ve been blessed with so many things through this entire journey,” Metheny said. “It’s all from God, first and foremost. Going into UHS as a freshman, I never would have thought I’d accomplish this many things. It’s a true testament to the hard work I’ve put into the game of basketball. To see what it’s panned out to be is truly amazing, but I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish those things without my teammates, coaches and trainers.
“For coach Schmidle to be able to rely on me going in as a freshman and make me a starter as a freshman, he truly believed in me and I’ll cherish that for the rest of my life. He’s been the best coach I’ve ever played under and we’ve created a coach-player bond that is inseparable. All these accomplishments are humbling. For everything that I’ve done as a kid out of Morgantown, I hope that I can set an example for the younger kids coming up that you can be someone coming out of this city and you can accomplish so many things.”
Metheny signed to continue his career at Bowling Green.
Though one can easily be overshadowed by such a talent as Metheny, McClurg stood out just as much among his comrade. He was the second in line in scoring, rebounds and assists, averaging 20.3 points, 4.8 boards and 2.8 assists per game.
McClurg credits his success to a stifling defense as a bigger-bodied guard and becoming a leader early on in his junior year.
“We’ve always had scorers and players that can just play, and I’m always driven to win,” McClurg said. “I really give it all defensively. I think I’m one of the better defenders out there. Rebounding, I’m a bigger guard so I do my best. And leadership [which] nowadays is critical. Last year we had two seniors so someone had to step up and I think Kaden and I really stepped up as leaders on and off the court.”
McClurg’s game improved from athlete to player over the years.
“Since 5th-grade I was always out of control. I wasn’t really skilled around the perimeter, I was always one of those kids who was a football player and transitioned into driving to the hole and using my body and strength to finish at the hoop,” McClurg said. “As I grew older I started working out with Kaden and other guys who were guard- and perimeter-oriented, so ever since high school, I’ve been working on both parts of the game, even midrange. It’s hard to guard someone who has all three.”
And while Metheny has been a long-time commit to Bowling Green, McClurg is still weighing his options, though he’s close to choosing a college. After pulling out of a commitment to Niagara following Patrick Beilein’s resignation in October, McClurg opened his recruitment once again. He’s currently being pursued by multiple programs, including offers from New Hampshire, Navy, West Liberty and Nova Southeastern, plus interest from Rider, UMBC and UNC-Asheville.
Though the future holds promise for the duo, it also brings emotions to their coach.
“I’m really going to miss them a lot, I’m trying not to think about it especially here lately we haven’t had the ending to this season as we wanted,” Schmidle said. “It doesn’t feel like we’ve had any closure. I still talk to them all the time, and I’m really going to miss them. Not just because of what they bring to our program as basketball players, I’m going to miss them as people.
“They’ve made me look really good as a coach, I can tell you that. I get a lot of credit for things because of those two.”
The duo is joined on first team by Teddy Marshall (Martinsburg), Mason Pinkett (George Washington, 17.3 ppg), Alex Vargo (Wheeling Park), Malaki Sylvia (Parkersburg South), CJ Meredith (Spring Valley, 25.9 ppg) and Chandler Schmidt (Cabell Midland, 17.8 ppg).
Morgantown’s leading scorer Carson Poffenberger found a spot on the second team after entering the season doubted by many. Taking over the center spot from Nick Malone, the 6-foot-7 Poffenberger was outstanding on both sides of the court, shattering all expectations. He averaged 12.9 points and 5.5 boards per game. The rest of second team is captain Rodney Toler (St. Albans), Ben Gilliam (Woodrow Wilson), Sheldon Everhart (Hedgesville), Amare Smith (Huntington), Telryn Villa (Martinsburg), Sam Potts (Parkersburg) and Richard Law (Woodrow Wilson).
Preston High senior Nick Smith picked up a spot on third team after leading the Knights with 20.4 points, eight rebounds and seven assists per game. Smith is joined on third team by Captain Austin Dearing (Hurricane), Quaysean Sutton (South Charleston), Ryan Hurst (Buckhannon-Upshur), Kerion Martin (Capital), Will Shively (Jefferson), Ty Johnson (Ripley) and Ayden Ince (Woodrow Wilson).
Teddy Marshall, Martinsburg, Sr.
K J McClurg, University, Sr.
C J Meredith, Spring Valley, Sr.
Kaden Metheny, University, Sr. (Captain)
Mason Pinkett, George Washington, Jr.
Chandler Schmidt, Cabell Midland, Soph.
Malaki Sylvia, Parkersburg South, Sr.
Alex Vargo, Wheeling Park, Sr.
Sheldon Everhart, Hedgesville, Sr.
Ben Gilliam, Woodrow Wilson, Jr.
Richard Law, Woodrow Wilson, Sr.
Carson Poffenberger, Morgantown, Jr.
Sam Potts, Parkersburg, Sr.
Amare Smith, Huntington, Jr.
Rodney Toler, St Albans, Sr. (Captain)
Telryn Villa, Martinsburg, Sr.
Austin Dearing, Hurricane, Sr. (Captain)
Ryan Hurst, Buckhannon-Upshur, Jr.
Ayden Ince, Woodrow Wilson, Jr.
Ty Johnson, Ripley, Sr.
Kerion Martin, Capital, Sr.
Will Shively, Jefferson, Fr.
Nick Smith, Preston, Sr.
Quaysean Sutton, South Charleston, Sr.
David Bittorie, Spring Mills; Brock Booth, Spring Valley; Dai’marquis Brooks, Capital; Peyton Brown, Princeton; Ethan Clay, St. Albans; Jaimelle Claytor, St. Albans; Bailee Coles, Greenbrier East; Dylan Day, Parkersburg South; Javante Elzy, Riverside; Justin Frohnapfel, John Marshall; Karrington Hill, Capital; Evan Hosby, Hedgesville; Evan Hughes, George Washington; Lamar Hurst, Buckhannon-Upshur; Alex Isinghood, Brooke; Drew Keckley, Hampshire; Torin Lochow, Huntington; Cam Marks, Parkersburg South; Chase Maynard, Spring Valley; Xavier Morris, Wheeling Park; Danny Moylan, Washington; Ryan Niceler, University, Corbin Page, Spring Valley; Ethan Parsons, Princeton; Joseph Patterson, Huntington; Palmer Riggio, Cabell Midland; Alex Rudy, Morgantown; D J Saunders, Wheeling Park; Dominic Schmidt, Cabell Midland; K K Siebert, Cabell Midland; T J Stuckey, Musselman; Daion Taylor, Jefferson; Noah Umpleby, Parkersburg; Javin Wilmer, Hedgesville; Alex Yoakum, George Washington; Travis Zimmerman, Wheeling Park.
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