MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — As Martinburg coach David Walker prepares for his 22nd season as the Bulldogs’ head coach, he does so in a position he’s become all too familiar with.
Martinsburg has won consecutive Class AAA state championships and six of the last eight, though 17 seniors have departed since the Bulldogs’ 44-16 triumph over Spring Valley in last season’s title game.
“It all starts with the competition that you try to create in practice,” Walker said. “We don’t talk a lot about the past. We just talk about getting better every day. Competition either makes you better or you run away from it, so you find out quick who wants to be here and compete.”
The Bulldogs still have more than their fair share of notable returners, including running back/linebacker Dewayne Grantham, a West Virginia University commit. Wide receivers Jarod Bowie and Teddy Marshall also return, as does Grant Harman, who will take over at quarterback.
“We don’t lack for a list of kids that look good on paper and have the names, but you still have to go out every day and perform,” Walker said. “Just because you’re a two-year starter doesn’t mean you’ll be a three-year starter. You still have to do the things you need to do on and off the field.”
Walker indicated Elijah Banks is also likely to see action as a signal-caller at least to start the season, which begins with Friday’s home game against Loudoun Valley (Va.).
“Both have done a great job and bring different skillsets to the table,” Walker said. “So the game plan going into the first week will be to use both of them, unless one really separates himself in the next few days.”
Entering preseason camp, Walker was perhaps most concerned about finding linemen on both sides of the ball. However, he singled out Brandon Moran, Ty Lucas and Matt Bednarski for their performance up front.
Grantham, Aaron Pierson and Ricky Barrett form an experienced and talented trio of linebackers, while Harman and Marshall are standouts in the secondary.
“In some other areas we’re ahead of the game, but in other areas we’re inexperienced,” Walker said. “Overall, we’re about where I thought we’d be. We need to replace some guys up front on both sides of the ball and those are the guys we’ve really looked at. So far they’ve done a pretty good job.”
As usual, the Bulldogs face a challenging schedule consisting of five in-state foes and five out-of-state opponents.
After the opener against Loudoun Valley, the Bulldogs remain at home to take on H.D. Woodson and Eastern, a pair of teams from Washington, D.C. Woodson won at Martinsburg in 2015 — the Bulldogs’ most recent home loss.
Martinsburg’s other out-of-state opponents are Academy Park (Pa.) and Sherando (Va.).
“Woodson is loaded with Division I talent,” Walker said. “We go outside of Philadelphia for a game Academy Park. They were 7-3 last year, so that’s a pretty good team with a lot of athletes.
“I think our toughest team out of state will be Sherando. They’re 30 miles away, regional champs in Virginia and they have a lot back, so that’ll be a big challenge for us. They could and maybe should’ve beaten us last year.”