By Luke Wiggs Panhandle News Network Sports

Martinsburg, W.Va- A Martinsburg football program that consistently dominates the headlines did so a little bit earlier than usual this season. May 15th marked the official return of Dave Walker to head coach.

22 of the 23 seasons Walker had coached at Martinsburg before leaving to coach at DII Concord (where he had a 14-8 record in 3 seasons) ended with a winning record, highlighted by 8 championships.

Walker returns to take the reins of a program that was guided by the capable hands of Britt Sherman (28-5 in 3 seasons) in Walker’s absence. Sherman will remain on staff as offensive coordinator.

Martinsburg fell to Huntington in the state semifinal last year, and with the Bulldogs returning the majority of their roster, teams across the state may be worried they just poked the sleeping bear.

EJ Hendricks, Ladamian Weller, Peyton Kaufman, Rashaad Reid, and Wes Hancock all return from one of the state’s top offensive lines a season ago.

“Those 5 have been running like our first group,” Walker said. “But since we’ve put on pads, we’ve had 3 other guys that have really made it a competition.”

At quarterback, Martinsburg loses Ezra Bagent who committed to Shepherd but still retains 2 D1 caliber talents at the position each will be tough to keep off the field.

“Murphy (Clement) is our #1 but Koi (Fagan) is a close second, He’s also been getting snaps at running back.” Walker said. “They’re both going to be on the field for us.”

Koi is expected to receive the lion’s share of carries at running back along with Nicholas Busky. Clement is also a major threat as a scrambling quarterback.

“We probably have 6 guys we really like at the positions.” Walker said about his receivers. “Buzz (Dover) led Martinsburg last year in receiving, Kashez (Gedeon), Sirod (Musgrove) and Jay (Lardy) have all looked really good as well, Those should be the first group. Tom Jacobs is a sophomore as well that has shown flashes. I’m really confident in that group.”

Expect Reid and Hancock to also feature on the defensive line, along with a host of Bulldogs including Xercees Yancy

“We feel as though we have a lot of good linemen.” Walker said. “We’ll play a lot out of an even front.”

Linebacker is the biggest position of intrigue for Martinsburg who graduated all 4 of last year’s starters.

“We had some guys who played well in JV last year like Busky and (Brady) Hager.” Walker said. “Koi can play there as well and we have a young kid, Terrell Coalfield, that has looked really good, and Yancey can play that position too.”

“Right now, Gedeon’s playing safety with Clement.” Walker said regarding his secondary. “You’ll see Musgrove and Dover at corner.”

The Bulldogs open up their schedule with 4 consecutive out of state teams: Clarkson North (Canada), Stone Bridge (VA), Boys Latin (MD), Woodson (Washington, DC). They then begin conference play in the EPAC where they have not lost a game since 2007.

Their season opener against Clarkson North on Saturday, August 26th, at 1 PM, can be heard on the Panhandle News Network.