By Luke Wiggs
MARTINSBURG, W.Va — After 6 consecutive trips to the postseason, the Applemen of Musselman finished under .500 for the first time in the Brian Thomas era with a 3-7 record last year.
However, 3 single possession losses and injuries throughout the lineup, including multiple quarterbacks, did more to motivate the Applemen for this upcoming season than dismay.
While Musselman is reloaded and refreshed coming into the 2022 season, they still face one of the toughest schedules in all of class AAA.
“Our conference is tough.” 10th year head coach Brian Thomas said, “Not everyone is knocking down the door to play a team like Martinsburg, but we get them every year which I’m excited about. I think its made us better as a program but it makes your schedule difficult as well. And you’re playing Jefferson who’s one of the top teams in the state, Washington continues to improve, Hedgesville continues to improve, and Spring Mills continues to be an up and coming program as well, so we play a tough schedule.”
“Our out of conference schedule, in my opinion, if it’s not one of the best in the state, may be the best in the state.” Thomas continued. “We play Bridgeport, Morgantown, Wheeling Park, Parkersburg and Sherando (Virginia) so that’s a tough out of conference schedule but we embrace it.”
Musselman’s upcoming 2022 opponents were a combined 67-44 last season with 5 of them reaching the post season.
Offensively, the Appelmen look to return to a more run based scheme after a season of spread football last year.
“We’ve traditionally been a run-first power attack team. We slung it around a lot more last year than we had hoped to.” Thomas said, “So we’re going to get back into a run first power attack. At the same time we do have a really good quarterback and some good pass catchers so we will sling it a little bit, but last year we threw the ball 40 times a game and you aren’t going to see that this year.”
That aforementioned quarterback is Bayden Hartman who returns for his senior season after featuring for the Applemen last year both through the air and on the ground.
“I kind of compare him to Brett Farve, I guess for the new age I should say Mahomes because some of these kids may not recognize Farve.” Said Thomas, “He’s kind of a gunslinger, sometimes he does things that are unorthodox. I trust him alot, he’s one of those kids that just makes plays and is really smart. I have a lot of faith in Bayden.”
Hartman’s top target this season will be senior wideout Ray Adames who is also a senior and ran an 11.17 at the 100 meter dash in the state track meet good enough for 5th place.
“Two years ago we started 21 seniors and started one underclassman and that was Ray.” Thomas said. “He’s a matchup problem and is one of the best receivers in the state.”
Adams will feature along with Logan Shelton, who is also receiving some preseason buzz, and Troy Woolaston, a member of the Musselman basketball team, playing his second season of football.
Running the football, the Applemen will turn to Alex Scaggs to shoulder much of the load.
“He’s a really good athlete that we have coming back.” Thomas said. “I think he’ll see his fair share of carries.”
Xavier Pollard and Dennis Pike return along the offense line for Musselman. James Carmichael, John Morgan and Chris Sencindiver also return looking for a larger role along with some newer faces as well.
Defensively Musselman will have a healthy mix of both two-way players and not. Woolaston figures to force off the edge, and Hartman and Scaggs both look to feature in a deep secondary.
Linebacker is where the Applemen saw the most turnover, but Anthony Cornell, Kobe Moneypenny, and Brayden Henderson look to be mainstays in that core going forward.
Musselman begin the season with 3 consecutive EPAC opponents with Spring Mills week 1, Martinsburg week 2, and Jefferson week 3.