Football Preview | Moorefield hopes experience leads to bounce back season

Aug. 24—MOOREFIELD, W.Va. — Entering last season, Moorefield was coming off three straight playoff appearances and was seeking a fourth.

However, the Yellow Jackets finished 3-7, losing six of their final seven games.

Last year's team only featured 11 upperclassmen out of 42 players. The team had 20 sophomores, including the entire starting offensive line.

"When you look at high school football, you're gonna have those ups and downs," Moorefield head coach Matt Altobello said. "We were young, guys were in some different positions and we were asking guys to play at a high level at a young age. As we went throughout the year, I think they showed progression."

This year's Yellow Jackets bring significantly more experience. Moorefield has 21 upperclassmen including 17 juniors and returns 19 starters.

After falling 51-0 in the season opener to Frankfort, Moorefield defeated Pocahontas County 36-29 and Southern 21-7 to start the year 2-1.

The Yellow Jackets then lost their next five games to Strasburg, Virginia, (40-0), Petersburg (32-7), Tucker County (45-18), East Hardy (43-0) and Keyser (55-19). After ending their losing streak with a 35-14 win at Pendleton County, Moorefield ended the season with a 47-0 loss to Greenbrier West.

"I think our kids enjoy the competition that brings each week," Altobello said of playing a difficult schedule. "They enjoy playing top tier programs week in and week out. It teaches them how to compete and how they have to be their best every single day."

The offense is led by several key returners including starting quarterback Tyson Arnold (5-foot-10, 180 pounds, Sr.). Last season, he went 26 for 59 for 379 yards with two touchdowns and five interceptions.

Brock Linville (5-7, 180, So.) and Cyrus Kump (6-0, 160, Fr.) are the other quarterbacks.

"He throws a good ball," Altobello said of Arnold. "He's smart enough to know if he doesn't have anything, he'll throw it away. If he can hit a check down, he'll hit a check down. He can do a good job of managing a game and making smart decisions."

The Yellow Jackets' top three rushers all return. Adam Landes (5-10, 175, Sr.) led Moorefield with 741 yards on 114 rushes for 10 touchdowns. He also caught seven passes for 119 yards and two scores. He was a second-team All-Area selection as an all-purpose player.

"You know what you're gonna get, it's someone who is hard nosed, who loves football and has a little bit of an attitude," Altobello said. "One of the best qualities is he has high expectations for everyone. He wants to be coached, he wants to be pushed and guided in the right direction. He always has that I can do more mentality."

The starting fullback will be Axton Runions (6-0, 170, Sr.), who ran 103 times for 365 yards and three scores. Oliver Crites (5-7, 195, So.) ran 17 times for 53 yards and is also listed at fullback.

"You're just waiting for him to be shot out of a cannon," Altobello said of Runions. "If he finds a crease, he's gonna hit it and take off."

Caleb Flinn (5-9, 155, Fr.) is listed at tailback while Riley Pillus (5-9, 150, Jr.), Diego Taylor (5-6, 140, Jr.) and Camden Laughlin (5-8, 145, Jr.) are the wingbacks.

Last year, Taylor gained 159 yards on 20 attempts. Drake Milliner (5-4, 160, Fr.) and Daltan Ault (5-10, 194, So.) are also listed as running backs.

Addison Wilson (5-9, 155, Jr.), Taylor and Austin Wolfe (5-7, 162, Jr.) are the top wide receivers on the depth chart. None recorded any receiving stats last year.

Guyan Kahangirwe (6-1, 155, Jr.), Brendan Fawley (5-5, 140, Fr.), Shawn Reed (5-11, 145, So.), Colt Sherman (5-5, 135, Fr.), Brady Vetter (5-8, 150, So.), Jhon Paul (5-7, 125, So.), Jeshua Mazariego (5-5, 140, Jr.) Addison Wolfe (5-9, 145, Fr.) and Laughlin are included at wide receiver on the roster.

Tight end Chayse Myers (6-3, 215, Jr.) led Moorefield with eight catches for 128 yards. Ben Watts (6-1, 200, Jr.), Brayden Sackett-Williams (5-10, 150, Fr.) and Lawrence Sherman (5-7, 135, So.) are the other tight ends.

"He can do it all," Altobello said of Myers. "Majority of the time, he's hanging out with the offensive lineman. I think deep down, he wants to be one of those guys which most tight ends won't admit too. He does a good job blocking up front, he does a good job of running crisp routes and catching the ball. Being 6-4, almost 6-5 makes him a big target."

The Yellow Jackets have the most depth at offensive line with 17 players listed. Alex Miller (5-10, 205, Sr.) was a fullback last season, but is expected to start at weak guard. He ran 48 times for 213 yards last year.

"Majority of the time, when you ask your wing-T coaches who's gonna be your best player on offense, hopefully the majority will say your weak guard," Altobello said. "They're normally pulling out in space, blocking a little more athletic style of player. We had a need at weak guard and our first thought was him."

Trace Pope (5-10, 225, Jr.), is the starting left tackle with Pedro Romero (5-9, 205, Jr.). listed as the backup. Ethan Eye (6-2, 220, Jr.) is the starting center with Gage Wolfe (5-10, 200, So.) behind him.

EJ Wyman (5-10, 235, Jr.) will play right guard with Caleb Sirbaugh (5-8, 180, Fr.) in reserve. Brody See (6-0, 275, Jr.) is the right tackle in front of Braden Ault (6-1, 260, Jr.).

The rest of the offensive line includes Waylon Hogbin (5-8, 180, Fr.), Matix Delawder (5-9, 195, Jr.), Thomas Parisi (5-7, 140, Fr.), Stewart Monroe (5-10, 235, Fr.), Cadyn Steward (5-11, 270, Fr.), Luke Combs (5-8, 255, So.), Benjamin Thompson (5-8, 285, Fr.) and Blake Robinette (6-0, 220, Fr.)

Midway through last season, the Yellow Jackets switched from a 3-4 defense to a 4-2-5 because of personnel. Altobello gave up his duties as defensive coordinator, Wade Armentrout took over and simplified it.

"They look good, they fly to the football," Altobello said. "Guys understand and can just go play fast. They don't have to think, there's nothing to do but line up and play football."

Watts and Myers are the defensive ends with Pope and Runions as reserves. Eye will play nose tackle with Wyman behind him. See is the starting defensive tackle with Bradan Ault as the backup.

Myers was a second-team Class A All-State selection last season at defensive line, finishing with 27 tackles including three for loss, a sack and an interception.

Milliner, Watts, Sackett-Williams, See, Hogbin, Wolfe, Pope, Wyman, Monroe, Steward, Combs, Thompson, Robinette and Romero are the other listed defensive linemen.

Crites and Landes will start at outside linebacker with Delawder and Runions as backups. Miller will play middle linebacker with Daltan Ault behind him.

"Those guys really have a leadership role," Altobello said of the starters. "They know we need to be lined up a certain way. They can get everyone lined up."

Fawley, Sherman, Wilson, Vetter, Myers, Sirbaugh and Sherman are the other linebackers.

Landes was an honorable mention All-State and All-Area selection after leading Moorefield with 49 tackles and an interception last season. Runions recorded 37 tackles with two for loss. Miller added 25 tackles.

Taylor and Pillus will start at cornerback with Wilson and Laughlin serving as depth. Linville is at free safety and Arnold will play strong safety. Kump and Flinn are the backups.

Arnold had 28 tackles with one for loss, an interception and fumble recovery that he returned 70 yards for a touchdown. Taylor added 26 tackles with two for loss and an interception.

"He's a sophomore, but I don't feel he's a sophomore," Altobello said of Linville. "Mentally, he's a lot older than his age. He understands the game of football, he keeps an even keel through his demeanor I haven't seen from a sophomore."

Austin Wolfe, Reed, Kahangirwe, Paul, Mazariego, and Addison Wolfe round out the secondary.

A key addition on special teams is Brian Wilson. He returns to Moorefield to run the unit after two years away. He played at Glenville State under former West Virginia University head coach Rich Rodriguez.

"I told our whole group, if I ever get to that wealth of knowledge, I'm doing something right," Altobello said. "He brings a great perspective to the game and a level of confidence and competition that's so exciting to have."

On special teams, Kyle Molen (5-11, 150, Jr.) returns as the starting kicker. He did not make a field goal, but made 14 of 16 extra point attempts. Levi Davis (5-5, 135, Fr.) is the backup.

Wilson is the punter, last season he punted twice for 70 yards, both inside the 20 with a long of 43 yards.

Landes and Taylor will be the main returners. Landes returned 14 kicks for 218 yards while Taylor returned 15 for 198 yards. Flinn is the other returner listed.

Moorefield opens the season at home on Friday, Aug. 25 with Frankfort at 7 p.m.

This season, the Yellow Jackets also host Strasburg, Tucker County, Pendleton County and Greenbrier West. They will travel to play Pocahontas County, Southern, Petersburg, East Hardy and Keyser.

"For some reason, you look at it as a coach and you know at some points it's gonna be hard," Altobello said. "It doesn't ever stop you from hopefully instilling the kids that you still have to go and give high effort. It doesn't matter if they have more athletes than you, you still have to do those little things right."

Jordan Kendall is a Sports Writer for the Cumberland Times-News. Follow him on Twitter @JKendallCTN.