CHAPMANVILLE — At first glance, Chapmanville’s 4-6 record in 2021 may seem like a disappointment.
While the season was tough, head coach James Barker’s message to his team has been to use the momentum built at the end of that season to make sure the Tigers are prepared for 2022.
Following the team’s October bye week, Chapmanville finished the season with success over its final four contests — the lone loss coming to Logan in a contest that came down to mistakes in the final five minutes.
The end result against the rival Wildcats was still a tough pill to swallow, but wins over Wayne, Mingo Central and Man provided a much-needed boost to the offseason after the Tigers started the year 1-5.
That early 1-5 record was made more frustrating, considering that three of those losses came by a total of 11 points to Sissonville, Winfield and Scott.
“If we win three of those (six losses), we’re a playoff team and if we win four, we’re probably hosting,” Barker said. “At the end of the season last year, though, we went 3-1 after our bye week and we were pretty happy with how that went, outside of losing to Logan.”
As the team gained experience late last season, the Tigers’ confidence grew, which translated to 2021 wins and what Barker hopes are more wins in 2022.
Considering Chapmanville returns eight starters on defense and seven starters on offense, Barker likes his chances as preparation ends and the season begins.
“We feel like we have the opportunity to right some wrongs that happened to us last year,” Barker said.
Barker pointed to the Sissonville loss — a 24-20 defeat in the 2021 season-opener — as an example of how different things will be for his team as this year gets going.
“We had nine guys on defense that had never started a varsity game and, of those nine, we had four that had never played in a high school game,” Barker said. “You’re learning how to win, how to compete and how to get better, which was part of our problem early.”
For Chapmanville’s offense, it starts with the return of quarterback Brody Dalton, who has already signed to play Division I baseball at West Virginia.
Barker said he and Dalton sat down this summer to make sure he was committed to what is likely his last season of football.
““We sat down and had the conversation and said, ‘Is that an issue? Are you concerned about that any?’” Barker said. “(Brody) said, ‘Coach, I just want to win. I wouldn’t be out here if I didn’t want to compete and win.’ That was a great answer from a very mature young man. It’s nice to know he wants to win as much as anyone else on the roster.”
Dalton brings plenty of physical tools to the forefront for the Tigers, but Barker was more impressed with his mentality for the game.
“He’s got a cannon for an arm, obviously, but mentally he sees the game the way I see it, which helps when a coach and player sees it the same way,” Barker said. “He’s going to have the ability to check out of things this year and call his own plays from the line of scrimmage.”
Kohl Farmer, Chapmanville’s leading rusher last season, also returns this season after rushing for 942 yards in 2021 following a two-year absence from the field.
Farmer also showed he can shoulder the load. With Dalton out against Class AA playoff team Scott, Farmer rushed 38 times for 270 yards to lead the Tigers to a near-upset of the Skyhawks.
“He was one of those kids that we knew he was going to be special once he started to play more football,” Barker said. “He’s about 6-4, 210 pounds and runs a 4.6. He’s a monster. The guys on our schedule know him.”
Chapmanville returns three starters on the offensive line, including both tackles who are above 280 pounds — Brady Dalton and R.J. Jones. Returning starter Dan Atwood will handle one guard spot and Gabe Silva will likely handle the other while Caden Robinson and Gabe Davis compete for the center spot.
“If we could get to 10 guys, we’d feel great, but right now, we’ve got about eight guys we trust,” Barker said.
Most of the offensive line will also play on the defensive front in rotation, according to Barker, who added that sophomores Caleb Farmer and Caleb Robinette will both be key on the defensive line.
Of the returning starters to the defense, many are seen at the second level where all the team’s linebackers return for another season.
Eli Pridemore returns as the leader in the middle of that linebacker corps after a freshman season in which he gained All-Cardinal Conference honors. Caleb Whitt, who also will see time at fullback, is a four-year starter while Charles Stallard is in his third year starting.
“We really feel confident in those guys,” Barker said. “We don’t have to replace anything there.”
On the back end, Robert Cook will take over for Brody Dalton at strong safety to allow Dalton to focus on quarterback duties while the free safety will be Adam Mullins. Newcomer Trey Butcher and freshman Austin Adkins will be at cornerback, along with several others.
The Tigers open the season at home on Friday against Sissonville.