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New class and new challenges for 10-time state champs from Bridgeport

BRIDGEPORT, W.Va. — An old nemesis was defeated and a tenth state championship trophy made its way back to Johnson Avenue last December. The Bridgeport Indians avenged a pair of semifinal defeats in 2017 and 2018 by defeating Bluefield 21-14 in the Class AA state championship game.

“It was a dream come true,” said Bridgeport senior lineman Tanner Saltis. “Hopefully we can do it again this year. It was definitely amazing.”

“It was very special,” said Bridgeport senior running back/linebacker J.T. Muller. “It is once in a lifetime to go win a state championship. But we are hoping to get a shot at doing it again.”

While the players celebrated, the coaching staff quickly pivoted to a daunting new challenge. For the first time in eight years, Bridgeport moved up to the state’s largest classification in Class AAA. New opponents on their schedule include playoff programs Parkersburg South, Musselman and Huntington.

“This is one of our toughest schedules we have had at this school in a long time,” said Bridgeport head coach John Cole. “It is going to be different and they are going to have to play really well and play really hard just to survive to the end of the year to hopefully make the playoffs.”

The script for success is woven into the fabric of the Bridgeport football program. A run-dominated offense has underwent some tweaks in recent years and may do so again this fall with a new element.

“At the skill positions we have some younger kids that we think, sophomores and juniors, that have a little bit of better speed,” Cole said. “I am not talking world-class speed but for Bridgeport High School, they’ve got a little bit of speed.”

The entire Bridgeport starting backfield of Super Six MVP Carson Winkie, Trey Pancake, Devin Vandergrift and Brian Henderson has graduated. Junior Cam Cole is the presumptive starter at quarterback. Seniors J.T. Muller and J.D. Love will also return to the backfield.

“We need kids that can block,” Cole said. “It is great to have those skill kids, but we’ve got a couple of backs that are going to be blocking on every play.”

At the point of attack, the Indians must replace all-stater Michael Watkins but the bulk of line returns.

“We’ve got three starters coming back,” Cole said. “So that makes me feel a lot better. Our center is coming back so that makes Coach (Tyler) Phares and I a lot more comfortable. And we’ve got some younger kids that have put in some time. They got a little bit of playing time last year and we think can play.”

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Congress Must Pass a Covid Relief Bill—Fast

Democratic and Republican Congressional leaders and representatives of the Trump administration have been trying to come up with an agreement on another round of Covid-19 relief for the country.

So far, there is no deal.

The House of Representatives has already passed their version. It is a Democratic bill that served as a vehicle for hundreds of millions of dollars in spending unrelated to the pandemic.

Privately, even some House Democrats complained about some of the add-ons, like the taxpayer-funded diversity studies of the legal pot industry and a revision in tax code that would benefit the highest earners.

The Senate Republican plan is a more manageable $1 trillion. No doubt Republicans have tucked a few of their side projects into the bill, but any excess is far more manageable than the House bill.

The problem is that Republicans are not united. An estimated 20 Republican Senators do not think there should be any additional pandemic relief. Also, President Trump and Senate Republican leaders do not seem to be on the same page.

Senate Republicans who do not want to add another dollar for pandemic relief may argue they are trying to hold the line on federal spending. The national debt is a legitimate concern, but so are the immediate state of the economy and the millions of people who have been sidelined.

The pandemic is not going away and without additional help, the economic damage will be permanent.

The Republican disunity gives Democrats the negotiating advantage.  However, it is doubtful that the restaurant worker who has lost her job or the dry cleaner who is having trouble paying his utility bills cares much now about politics.

The extra $600 a week unemployment benefit for 250,000 West Virginians and more than 30 million Americans ran out last week.  Small businesses that obtained the paycheck protection program loans to keep workers on the payroll and pay their bills are running out of money.

Front line health workers have stepped up, and will have to continue going above and beyond, as the country fights back against the virus.  Governors, local leaders, and health experts have repeatedly called on Americans to follow best practices, and most Americans have listened.

Now Congress needs to hear the voices of their constituents. The most important thing is not the next election; it is what’s happening right now across the country.

For the good of the nation, they need to find a reasonable compromise and do it quickly.



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Justice concerned about reduction in National Guard assistance

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Jim Justice on Wednesday came out against President Donald Trump’s decision to reduce the federal government’s support of National Guard units across the country.

Trump on Monday signed an extension regarding National Guard units’ responses to the coronavirus pandemic, which included a funding cut to deployments except in Texas and Florida. The federal government will cover 75% of coronavirus-related expenditures through the rest of the year.

Justice said during Wednesday’s coronavirus briefing the country needs to support coronavirus response efforts, including the work of National Guard units.

“Without any question, we should support our National Guard’s effort because of what they have done for each and every one of us every blooming day,” he said.

Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, who is also the state’s adjutant general, emphasized the funding reduction would be a burden for the National Guard.

“We’re down about right now to a steady state of 400 National Guardsmen,” he said. “To maintain 400 guardsmen for the 132 days through the rest of the calendar year, if West Virginia had to pay a 25% share, it would cost us $7.26 million.”

Hoyer said the National Guard is determining if the funding is available.

Justice had a call scheduled for Wednesday afternoon with Defense Secretary Mark Esper. Justice said during the coronavirus briefing he would “emphatically express” his concerns during the conversation.

“If we got to find the money in West Virginia, we’ll find the money,” he said. “But for crying out loud, our nation needs to stand steadfast with our Guard because of the job that they do every day.”

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Marshall officials provide more details on fall courses

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Marshall University officials on Wednesday provided more details about the upcoming fall semester, including how courses will be formatted.

The institution announced last week freshmen, some graduate and most professional students will take part in some face-to-face courses and other students will mostly participate in virtual classes.

The change stems from rising coronavirus case numbers and comes after other institutions, including West Virginia University, announced similar plans to scale back in-person interaction.

Jamie Taylor, the institution’s provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, said faculty have been training to lead virtual lessons that align with typical in-person classes.

“What makes Marshall different is that we are converting most of our face-to-face courses to a virtual synchronous format that will still enable students to interact with faculty in real time,” he said. “We have talked with many other universities, and it appears that we are an outlier on this as other universities seem to be focusing their efforts on asynchronous or e-courses.”

Students, beginning Friday, will be able to see how their schedules have changed. Taylor said labs and studio courses will be in-person, while other courses will be marked as hybrid learning between face-to-face instruction for freshmen and virtual lessons for other undergraduate students or virtual for all students.

An example of a schedule for the upcoming fall semester. (Marshall University)

“Students will be able to raise their hand in the classroom, stop the instructor and ask questions,” Taylor said of virtual lessons.

Taylor also explained how the university is creating internet “learning centers” to provide students with necessary internet capabilities.

“I want to point out these learning centers are open to all of our students, not just freshmen and students in professional programs,” he said. “Even if your classes won’t be meeting in person, our campus is a great place to set up your laptop or access a desktop in one of our learning centers.”

Gov. Jim Justice announced Wednesday 1,000 hotspot locations across the state with internet access. Taylor said the university will inform students of those locations when they become available.

The fall semester is still scheduled to begin Aug. 24. Students will move into residence halls from Aug. 15 through Aug. 23.

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Charleston man identified as victim in Ohio boating accident

DELAWARE, OH — A Charleston man has been identified as the victim of a boating accident on Alum Creek Lake in Ohio on Monday, according to The Columbus Dispatch.

Stephanie O’Grady, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, told the newspaper that Joseph Youssef, 29 of Charleston, died as a result of the accident.

Two other people were taken to the hospital as a result of the accident but not other information was given.

The Columbus-Dispatch said the incident involved a boat pulling a person on an inner tube near the Alum Creek Marina.

Delaware County Fire Dispatch told the newspaper one of the victims was reportedly run over by a boat and suffered a near amputation of a leg.

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Number of cases connected to Grant County nursing home double

PETERSBURG, W.Va. — A second round of COVID-19 testing at a Grant County nursing home has resulted in more positive cases among residents and staff.

The Grant County Rehabilitation and Care Center said Wednesday 13 additional residents and six additional staff members tested positive for the virus in testing held last Wednesday and Thursday. The test results didn’t come back until late Tuesday evening.

“There’s frustration and concern,” Grant County Health Department Administrator Sandy Glasscock told MetroNews. “We’re trying to search for answers for how to prevent it from further spread.”

There have now been a total of 38 positive cases at the home that’s located in Petersburg.

Glasscock said home officials have the infected residents in a separate section of the nursing home.

“They are following the CDC protocol by isolating those and they are keeping staff limited and there’s extra sanitation,” Glasscock said.

A few of the residents have been hospitalized and the virus has claimed the life of one of the residents, a 92-year-old man, representing the first COVID-19 death in Grant County.

Glasscock said testing will continue every week until there are 14 straight days without a positive case. She said once an outbreak occurs in a nursing home it’s difficult to stop.

“When you have them living in a congregate setting like that it’s difficult to control even using all of the measures they have,” Glasscock said.

Grant County only had 15 COVID-19 cases a month ago, now it’s had 117 with 45 active. Glasscock said there have been 22 community spread cases since last Friday.

“People are just being careless,” she said. “When things opened up they started having group parties, pool parties, the governor’s guidance does not restrict private parties.”

Glasscock it’s the basic things that will help reduce the number of positive cases in her county.

“If we can get people to start social distancing and wearing masks we could limit this,” she said.

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Ja’Corey Hammett flips commitment from Miami to WVU

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia was able to flip Miami native Ja’Corey Hammett from his commitment to the University of Miami. Hammett became the 14th verbal commitment to WVU’s Class of 2021 on Wednesday afternoon. He previously committed to Miami after receiving an offer in late-January.

— Corey hammett (@hammett_corey) August 5, 2020

Hammett is a 6-foot-3, 205 pound defensive end from Northwestern High School. He helped NHS to a 13-2 record and the Florida Class 5A state championship last fall. Hammett collected 63 tackles for the Bulls (34 were solo) and 11 sacks in his junior season.

Hammett has collected around twenty Division I scholarship offers, eleven of those have come from ‘Power 5’ schools. In addition to WVU and Miami, Arkansas, Florida State, Kentucky, Mississippi State, Nebraska, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, South Carolina and Tennessee had offered. He also received offers from Alabama State, Coastal Carolina, Florida Atlantic, Florida International, North Texas, UAB, and Western Kentucky. He is listed as a 3-star recruit by


West Virginia’s previous Class of 2021 verbal commitments

Nijel McGriff NW Mississippi C.C. 6-2, 285 DL
Edward Vesterinen Helsinki, Finland 6-4, 240 DL 3-star
Tomas Rimac Brunswick, Oh. 6-6, 275 OL 3-star
Kaden Prather Germantown, Md. 6-3, 200 WR 4-star
Brayden Dudley Buford, Ga. 6-3, 250 DL
Treylan Davis Jackson, Ohio 6-5, 230 TE 3-star
Jaylen Anderson Perry, Ohio 6-1, 210 RB 4-star
Hammond Russell Dublin, Ohio 6-3, 235 DE 3-star
Will “Goose” Crowder Birmingham, Ala. 6-3, 192 QB 3-star
Wyatt Milum Huntington, W.Va. 6-6, 280 OL 4-star
Saint McLeod Philadelphia, Pa. 5-11, 190 Safety 3-star
Andrew Wilson-Lamp Massilon, Ohio 6-3, 175 WR 3-star
Viktor Wikstrom Stockholm, Sweden 6-3, 235 TE 3-star

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Harrison County Commission hears more about Stonewall Jackson statue but takes no action

CLARKSBURG, W.Va. — A motion to remove the Stonewall Jackson statue from in front of the Harrison County Courthouse failed again Tuesday during a meeting of the Harrison County Commission.

David Hinkle

Commissioner David Hinkle made the motion but it died for a lack of a second. The motion followed another round of emotional comments from residents about the statue of the Confederate general who grew up in Harrison County.

For the third time in as many months, residents called in and came to the courthouse to share their views on the statue that was gifted to the county in 1952 by the Daughters of the Confederacy. When the statue was erected the nation was going through the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court case that established racial segregation in public schools.

The commission voted on June 17 to keep the statue. During a July 1 meeting no motions were made, but commissioners heard from Jim Griffin, chairman of the West Virginia Black Heritage Festival and board member Angelica Scott.

“I am really appalled that we are repeatedly coming back for votes, votes, votes,” resident Anna Grimes said during Wednesday’s meeting. “I think we have a lot of other issues in this county that take precedent over re-voting every time someone comes before you.”

Ron Watson

Griffin has explained to commissioners the statue sends a message of injustice to minorities entering the courthouse for official business.

“I truly think these statues were placed to send a message to race of people, we’re watching you and we’re still here,” Griffin said. “I think that’s the way African Americans see that statue.”

During Wednesday’s meeting people were largely in support of keeping the statue and had concerns about why the issue is continually brought before the commission.

“I don’t know why something continues to be voted on, I don’t know how that system works, but it sounds fishy to me,” resident Scott Swagger said. “I’m kind of appalled that there was one days notice for the meeting and we have Harrison County citizens lined up around the hallways like cattle.”

Many that spoke publicly reflected on the national trend of removing monuments and statues and cautioned commissioners that removing one, could lead to removing any and all historical figures because certain people are offended.

“You want to condemn something that happened over 150 years ago? Nobody alive has done anything to anybody when it comes to slavery,” resident Ed Way said. “You’re no better than Hitler if you want to take our history away from us.”

Patsy Trecost

Another resident Jim Talerico, echoed calls from commissioners Patsy Trescost, Ron Watson and members of the crowd to put the issue on the ballot and let the people decide.

“Put on a ballot and let the people vote, let the people decide what they want to do and if you don’t want to drive by that statue, or walk by it-nobody is making anybody do that,” Talerico said.

A request for comment from Commissioner Ron Watson had not been returned by late afternoon Wednesday.

The meeting was marred by inappropriate interruptions while Griffin was addressing commissioners. The interruptions were made by unknown people calling into the Zoom meeting.

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Wilson falls short in attempt to get on ballot in governor’s race

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — The West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office says Delegate Marshall Wilson didn’t collect enough valid signatures to get his name on the November General Election ballot to run as an independent for governor.

Marshall Wilson

Wilson, I-Berkeley, needed the signatures of 7,139 voters to mount a campaign but he told WEPM Radio in Martinsburg that of the signatures his team collected just more than 5,700 were validated.

“Which of course is not enough, but frankly, it’s kind of impressive,” Wilson said. “We built a statewide network of patriots in a very short period of time and we made a lot of contacts and we’re going to continue.”

Wilson said he had a shortened amount of time to gather signatures because the Primary Election got pushed to June. He said it was hard to do traditional campaign style meetings with folks because of the COVID-19 restrictions

“Do you have any idea to convince people that you are honest and sincere when you have your face covered up?”

Wilson said he’s not giving up. In addition to suing the Secretary of State to get on the ballot, he is mounting a write-in campaign.

Wilson is currently serving as a delegate from Berkeley County in the 60th District.

-story by Marsha Chwalik, Panhandle News Network

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WVU scores recruiting win as Fairmont Senior’s Marley Washenitz stays home

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Halfway through her high school career, Marley Washenitz has her college destination picked out. The Fairmont Senior rising junior guard has verbally committed to join the Class of 2022 at West Virginia University.

WVU was the first ‘Power 5’ conference school to make a scholarship offer to Washenitz last July. Virginia Tech and Boston College soon followed with offers and strong interest.

committed… @CoachShelby @CoachMikeCarey @CoachCraigWVU @CoachChrisWVU @WVUWBB

— MARLEY WASHENITZ (@mwashenitz) August 5, 2020

As a freshman, Washenitz helped the Polar Bears to the 2019 Class AA state championship, averaging 15 points per game and earning third-team all-state honors. As a sophomore, Washenitz earned first-team all-state distinction. She averaged 24 points, 10 rebounds and 6 assists per game as the Polar Bears returned to the state tournament.

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