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Doddridge has eyes on return trip to tourney

by Mike Nutter

SPORTS WRITER

CHARLESTON -- Still numb from their team's 44-41 loss to Marsh Fork, Doddridge County's Rick Hamilton, Adam Cross and Chris Gum sat with blank expressions in the media room during the minutes following the game.

Their season was over; their hopes for a run at a state title had come to an end. But following an 0-20 season a year ago and a 1-7 start this year, such a run didn't seem plausible. A spot in the Class A semifinals seemed as unlikely as a win over highly-touted Marsh Fork.

One happened, the other was in their grasp.

All five Doddridge County starters are juniors and will be back next year.

Back will be Gum's steady play at the point, Hamilton's fierce presence in the middle and Cross' blanket-like defense. Benjo McKinney's ability to score from anywhere on the floor returns, as does forward Chris Mitchell's slashing drives to the basket. And with key reserve sophomore Brad Wilt back in the mix, the Bulldogs could be a safe bet to playing again this time next year.

"This group has been working for this since we were in seventh grade," Cross said. "We never doubted ourselves. We had faith in each other.

"We could've gotten down when we started 1-7, but we didn't. We knew anything could happen and that the regular season is just a way of getting ready for the tournament."

If Doddridge County is to repeat or improve upon this year's feat, it won't be in Class A. Following the latest enrollment figures, the Bulldogs will compete next year in Class AA.

With a regular season schedule which includes Ravenswood, Ritchie County and Tyler Consolidated, neither coach Dan McConnell or any of his players see that as a factor next year.

"I don't think it matters what class we play in," Gum said. "All five of us are back, and we play a pretty tough schedule. I don't think moving (to Class AA) should bother us."

Cross agreed.

"If anything, I think this year will make us more hungry next year," he said. "Now we know what we have to do to get it done."

n n n

Clarksburg resident and veteran official Tom Moots was honored at halftime of Friday's Class AA semifinal.

Moots was recognized by the National Federation Officials Association and presented the Active Official Award. The award recognizes individuals who have exemplified the highest standards of ethical conduct and moral character and have made contributions to high school officiating in the state.

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