By Parker Stone, Panhandle News Network Sports
Berkeley Springs, W.Va– It was sadly a season to forget last year for Berkeley Springs High School Football: falling victim to a tough schedule featuring five teams that would make the playoffs in 2022, as well a question mark around the quarterback position that was not solved until the late stages of the season. In its 95th iteration as a program in the state of West Virginia, there are some changes ahead for Berkeley Springs.
Former Berkeley Springs Head Coach Terry Rea was hired by Washington High School as their next head coach earlier this year after the resignation of former coach Glen Simpson. Rea ends his two-year tenure in Morgan County with a 6-14 record.
This led to Berkeley Springs hiring former Washington defensive coordinator Wes Eddy as their new head football coach in late March. Eddy has experience all over the state of West Virginia, serving as an assistant at Hedgesville and having head coaching stops at Webster County High School, Princeton High School, and East Fairmont High School.
“Everybody from the superintendent to staff has helped me out and we see the goal of moving the program to being successful consistently,” Eddy said on the July 26th edition of Panhandle Sports Live! “We have expectations and I think that is important for the kids in setting expectations.”
Eddy in his different coaching tenures has used the option run scheme on offense and a combination of the 3-3 stack and 4-2-5 defense, but he has made it clear he is not locked into those specific schemes as he begins his journey as chief of the Tribe.
“You want to tailor what you want to do to the skillset of your players,” Eddy said on the March 28th episode of Panhandle Sports Live! “Berkeley Springs is a school of 600 students, so you get creative and match what they can do best with varying your scheme.”
Eddy will hand off defensive play-calling to Paul Price, who comes to Berkeley Springs after stops all throughout the WVIAC and Mountain East Conference. “Coach Price and I would catch up, talk ball when he was at Concord and I was at Princeton all the time,” said Eddy. “His daughter is a pharmacist in Morgan County and his grandchildren live here, so it was a natural fit for him to spend more time with his family and still be involved with football.”
The Tribe offense looks to improve upon 2022 where they averaged 15 points per contest and half of their games being held to single digits on the scoreboard. This improvement will depend on the growth of junior quarterback Aiden Cain. The quarterback carousel for Berkeley Springs finally settled in with Cain in the back stretch of the season as he has claimed the starting job coming into the 2023 season.
“The sky is the limit for him,” Eddy said on his quarterback. “Not only can he throw well but he can run well too. If he gets past the first level, he will be very difficult to get in the open field.” Eddy also noted Cain’s growth as a leader this offseason as he has taken more control over offensive huddles.
Senior Connor Duvall saw action early last season as Berkeley Springs’s starting quarterback, but will now be making a full transition to running back in 2023 as he will take the lead for Coach Eddy’s backfield in 2023. “Connor can run the ball well, catch out of the backfield, and can block for us on passing downs when we need it,” said Eddy.
The backfield will also include sophomore Jackson Ambrose and junior Steven Aulabaugh.
The receiver room will be retooled after the transfer of junior Gavin Young to Hedgesville, with Holden Gurson seemingly stepping in as the team’s top option in the passing game. Gurson in his first season of high school football flashed star potential on both offense and defense for the Tribe. Look for three-sport athlete Isaiah Hutchinson and sophomore tight end Adam Rippeon to be some of Cain’s favorite targets this season along with Gurson.
Both sides of the trenches have question marks needing to be answered for Berkeley Springs, with captain Hunter Ambrose, Demario Cook, Austin Patton, Cole Bernhard, and Brady Wilt all gone. Eddy thinks the trenches may be his team’s strength later on this season, as he is going to be leaning on junior tackle Seth Armentrout to protect Cain’s blindside.
“Seth was thrown into the fire early as a sophomore,” said Eddy. “Now as a junior he has looked more comfortable and has been working on new techniques. He will be a key asset for us this season.”
Eddy highlighted senior Landon Helman who will return at center for the Tribe, as well as noting the improvements of fellow senior Lukas Purdy. Junior Krystian Norris has impressed Eddy in the weight room this summer, noting not only his strength but also his quickness which Eddy hopes will aid the Tribe’s rushing attack. With the return of junior Remmy Sites after taking a year away from football, Eddy is hoping to avoid going both ways on his trenches for the majority of the season.
“If things fall perfect for us, we can build a full five offensive line and not be forced to play them on defense, and that would be massive for us to be platooned like that,” said Coach Eddy.
The defense looks to receive a boost from Coach Eddy and Coach Price after giving up an abysmal 49 points per game to their opponents. Eddy thinks with more numbers this year, the defense should be better with fewer athletes having to play both ways for Berkeley Springs.
Colton Hess will be a returner for the Tribe on the defensive line, as well as look for Rippeon to have a role at linebacker on the defense. The secondary will seemingly be held down by Gurson and Hutchinson, the former having two interceptions for touchdowns in Berkeley Springs’s loss to Tucker County last year. Chase O’Brian will also have a role in the secondary and will serve as the backup quarterback.
Axel Robles will return as the Tribe’s placekicker and Cain will continue to punt for Berkeley Springs this season.
Berkeley Springs’s schedule will feature two fewer teams that made the playoffs last season, as Tucker County and Wheeling Central Catholic are replaced with Keyser and Phillip Barbour.
You can hear every Berkeley Springs High School Football game on 92.9 WXDC beginning August 25th.