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Notebook: Holliday sends well wishes to Roane County, hopes Herd makes most of off week

— By Bill Cornwell

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Like many around the state, the Marshall University football program is sending positive thoughts to the family and friends of Alex Miller. Miller, a Roane County High School football player, passed away over the weekend after he was taken to the hospital during the Raiders’ game against Clay County.

Marshall head coach Doc Holliday tweeted condolences to the Miller family and Holliday continued to discuss Miller during his Tuesday news conference.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of Alex Miller in Roane County,” Holliday said. “What a tragedy that was. As a coach who played in the state of West Virginia and coached here forever … again our thoughts and prayers are with them from myself, our family and the entire Herd family to everyone in Roane County.”

— — —

Marshall is enjoying a much-needed bye week after starting the season with three hard-hitting contests that have taken a toll on the team. The last two weeks were tough in particular, with the Herd suffering a 14-7 loss at Boise State and bouncing back to beat Ohio, 33-31.

Holliday said two weeks of recuperation before the September 28 home game with Cincinnati will allow key members of his team to improve their health, especially sophomore starting running back Brenden Knox.  

Knox was injured in the Ohio game, and senior wide receiver Obi Obialo, who has not played so far this season as he recovers from a preseason injury, gets extra time to heal.

“Those guys get an opportunity to double up treatments (because of the bye week),” Holliday said. “Most of those situations are just a couple of days deals so we have the chance to get a lot of those guys back.”

— — —

Marshall is the beneficiary of having two bye weeks this season. The next off week for the Herd comes the weekend of November 9 following a stretch of five straight Conference USA games in October, as well as one November 2.

The off weeks aren’t just used for rest as coaches are recruiting and players are preparing for upcoming games, doing what Holliday calls “self-scouting.”

“In a self-scout, you’re breaking down your own tendencies,” Holliday said. “What are we doing on third downs? What are we doing to our opponents? In special teams, where are we giving away things with our alignments and that type of thing. We go over all three of our games and find out what tendencies we have and what we need to change up as well as what other people are doing.”

Holliday also believes every team should have multiple bye weeks.

“The good thing is that we have two of them, which I think in college football, to be honest, everyone ought to have two byes for injury purposes and that type of thing,” Holliday said. “It gives kids a chance to catch their breath a little bit and get healthy. I think it came at a good time for us because we have a couple of guys who are banged up and we have some critical games coming up as well. So I think it fit in pretty well.”

— — —

Holliday is still excited about the way that Marshall dominated down the stretch in the close win over the Bobcats. 

After giving up the lead early in the the fourth quarter on a 72-yard run by Bobcats’ senior quarterback Nathan Rourke, Marshall’s offense answered with a seven play, 75-yard drive capped by a 43-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Isaiah Green to tight end Xavier Gaines. Justin Rohrwasser missed the extra point, leaving Marshall with a two-point lead, but the Herd defense shutdown Ohio’s offense on the next possession, forcing a punt. 

Marshall’s offense then ran out the clock on eight straight runs, taking the ball from the Marshall 28 to the Ohio 2.

“I saw a team that reacted the way you’re supposed to react,” Holliday said. “We had some adversity. We talk all the time about adversity occurring in every game and you just have to be able to overcome that. I saw a bunch of guys who had the right look in their eye and, at the end of the day, got it done. We made two drives when we had to and that was what was needed to get it done.”

— — —

Marshall is getting plenty of time this week to begin preparations for Cincinnati.

The Bearcats, who are also off this week after a 2-1 start, are considered one of the top teams in the American Athletic Conference.

Thus far, Cincinnati has beaten UCLA and Miami Ohio, while losing at Ohio State in Week 2.

The teams last met two years ago in Cincinnati, with Marshall coming away with a 38-21 win in the first season for current UC head coach Luke Fickell.

Holliday says the Bearcats have made great strides in the past two years and he’s especially impressed with Cincinnati’s offense, led by sophomore quarterback Desmond Ridder and junior running back Michael Warren II.

“It seems like every week we play, we face a quarterback that’s going to be a problem and (Ritter) is,” Holliday said. “He was a freshman a year ago and they won a bunch of games with him. The thing that you’re seeing in college football now, almost every week, is a guy at that position who can beat you with his feet. You hear me say it every week, but it’s true. It will be a challenge for our defense. 

“They have a tailback (Warren) who is 220-plus pounds. The reason that they were so successful last season is that they have good players. They have them again and it will be a great challenge for us.”

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W.Va. leaders start looking at budget cuts in case tax collections continue dragging

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia state officials are preparing for the possibility of tightening the budget belt.

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Dave Hardy

State Revenue Secretary Dave Hardy said leaders in the executive branch have been asked to come up with a framework for 4.6 percent cuts.

Hardy emphasized that is only a precaution and that if revenue begins picking up it might not be necessary.

“We have at least considered the possibility that we might be asking our cabinet secretaries and department heads to cut their budget by 4.6 percent by the end of the year,” Hardy said today on MetroNews’ “Talkline.”

The precaution is taking place because state revenue was below estimates the first two months of the fiscal year.

The state collected $32.9 million less in taxes than anticipated in July, the first month of the fiscal year.

Collections again missed projections in August by $16.8 million.

So that’s a total of $49.7 million below what was anticipated to start the fiscal year.

“That has been mitigated by the fact that September, we’re doing pretty well,” Hardy said.

So state officials are taking a wait-and-see attitude while having budget hearings over the next couple of months. Nevertheless, Hardy said efforts are starting for possible budget adjustments.

Gov. Jim Justice has often pointed to state revenue gains as evidence of economic success in West Virginia.

As positive revenue reports came in over the past year or so, Justice has led celebratory press conferences that sometimes included luau apparel.

At the end of the last fiscal year, the Governor’s Office issued a press release touting revenue growth of $511 million, describing it as the greatest single-year revenue growth total in West Virginia history.

“To think where we were when I came in the door – bankrupt – after special sessions trying to determine how much to cut and how many more people to run out of West Virginia,” Justice stated on July 1.

“We had budget crisis after budget crisis every summer. It just shows that my plan to bring our economy back to life is truly working, even beyond everyone’s wildest dreams.”

Hardy said the governor has encouraged caution after the past two months.

“The governor is very pro-active. He always has been,” Hardy said. “We started talking with the governor about, what if September is disappointing? The governor told us to go ahead and start proactively looking at the budget.”

Craig Blair

Senate Finance Chairman Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, said that’s the right approach.

“I’m wanting them to do just what they’re doing,” Blair said in a telephone interview.

Blair suggested that some areas of the economy are stable, particularly overall employment. He suggested highways construction also serves as an economic stimulus.

“I believe we’re going to be able to maintain our revenues and be OK,” Blair said. “But let’s not miss this opportunity for being prepared and also looking for more efficiencies in our government.”

One of the challenges has been the major pipeline construction that provided an economic boost. Court challenges have slowed down that construction, affecting the related jobs.

Energy markets also have been down, particularly exports of met and steam coal along with the price of natural gas. Those have suppressed severance tax collections.

Mick Bates

West Virginia celebrated a budget revival too soon, suggested Delegate Mick Bates, D-Raleigh, the ranking minority member of the House Finance Committee.

“Despite what everyone has been claiming with leis and flowers and rocket ship rides that the fundamentals of the West Virginia economy have really not changed,” Bates said in a telephone interview. “We’ve always been boom and bust based on the extraction industry.”

Bates noted that revenue estimates were raised repeatedly over the past year or so.

“It’s easy to raise but a whole lot harder to revise them down,” he said, suggesting that it’s prudent to now look at possibilities to trim. “They’ve made lots of commitments to spend money.”

He suggested that some tax cuts that were approved — such as a severance tax cut for steam coal from 5 percent to 3 percent over three years — might not have been wise. The change equates to $60 million by the third year.

“There’s no doubt,” Bates said. “There are plenty of people who were raising that red flag at the time.

Justice’s predecessor, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, faced an economic downturn that required mid-year, across-the-board budget cuts as well as use of money from the Rainy Day Fund.

Legislators wound up in special session two years in a row to work out a budget in tough economic times.

Bates dreads a potential repeat. He suggests the time is now to look at strategic cuts, rather than across-the-board cuts. And he suggested the Legislature, like the executive branch, should get started now.

“The time to address this issue is in November and December to try to come up with a plan,” he said, “not to get into a budget battle all over again like we have in past years.”

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Arrest made in Raleigh County threat

RALEIGH COUNTY, W.Va. — A student at Woodrow Wilson High School has been arrested in connection with the threat that prompted an increased police presence at the Raleigh County School on Wednesday morning, according to investigators.

The male suspect was identified as Madison Ewing, 18, who was charged with making terroristic threats.

A threatening note which indicated a shooting involving seven people was planned for the morning of Sept. 18 at 9 a.m. was found on a teacher’s desk.

The school opened as scheduled on Wednesday morning with officers from the Beckley Police Department and others on hand.

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West Virginia defense needs to treat whole game like second half

MORGANTOWN, W. Va. — If games started at halftime, West Virginia’s defense would be one of the nation’s most formidable units.

The Mountaineer defense has yet to allow a second-half touchdown through three games. The only time an opponent has crossed the goal line after halftime was on an interception return by Missouri linebacker Nick Bolton. Opposing offenses are gaining an average of 109 yards against West Virginia in the second half.

The building blocks for a dominant defense are certainly there. But West Virginia ranks only 61st nationally in total defense and 74th in scoring defense.

So what gives?

“It’s a credit to the defensive coaches,” coach Neal Brown said of the second-half surges. “But the first thing is we have to play better in the first half.”

Brown said the circumstances of each game have been slightly different even though each has netted similar results.

“The first game, you’re not sure what to expect against a new coaching staff. We were able to make adjustments,” Brown said. “Second game, the whole first half was bad football, so we were able to refocus the guys. In this game, North Carolina State had not shown much at all on offense in its first two games. It was almost like their first game again.

“We were able to make adjustments on defense at halftime. I’m glad we are getting better in second half, but I’d like to do it from the beginning.”

His players feel the same way about the issue.

“We finish well. We just need to emphasize more on the start,” said senior defensive back JoVanni Stewart. “Your demeanor going into the game — you shouldn’t have to get punched in the mouth to wake up and then want to play the game.”

Senior cornerback Keith Washington says the Mountaineers play with a “finish” mentality. Now they have to find the appropriate starting mentality to match it with.

“We’ve been trying to work on starting out fast,” Washington said. “When the second half begins we come out with a ‘finish’ mentality. Now we’re working on putting together a whole game.”

Neal Brown pre-Kansas press conference

West Virginia came close to figuring out how to start a game against North Carolina State. The Mountaineers were on the verge of opening the game with a three-and-out, but defensive lineman Reuben Jones was called for a late hit on Wolfpack quarterback Matthew McKay. N.C. State was able to flip field position on what then became an 11-play, 46-yard drive.

A strong 60 minutes of Mountaineer defense may be as simple as cleaning up the mental mistakes.

“The message to our players is that we can be as good as we want to be,” said defensive coordinator Vic Koenning. “Sometimes it isn’t as much physical as it is emotional and between the ears… we play physical and with our hair on fire, but we need the little ‘play smart’ part in there. There was 15 plays more than we should have had [Saturday] because on third downs where we got them off the field, we gave them the ball back [with penalties].

“We have a lot of work to get better, and we look forward to coaching it up to get better.”

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Body found in wooded area of Raleigh County

WHITBY, W.Va. — A body was located in a remote area of Raleigh County Tuesday.

According to the sheriff’s office, the discovery was made in the Whitby area, south of Beckley.

Investigators have not disclosed the gender or the approximate age of the deceased person.

No other information has been released.

MetroNews will continue to follow this developing story.

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Ritchie-St. Marys highlights Week 4 slate in Class A

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Greg Carey and Joe Brocato break down the top matchups in Week 4 of Class A football.

  • Webster County (2-1) at Greenbrier West (2-1)
  • Ritchie County (2-0) at St. Marys (2-0)
  • Midland Trail (2-1) at Richwood (2-1)

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Weighty West Virginians

This column is not about fat shaming, but rather an acknowledgment of this fact: West Virginians are too heavy.

Well, not everyone, but a significant percentage.  New figures from the Trust for America’s Health show that West Virginian’s obesity rate is 39.5 percent, and that’s up one percent from the previous year.

In the interest of full disclosure, I’m 5’-9” and fluctuate between 165 and 175 pounds.  I’ve tried—halfheartedly—to lose 10 pounds for the last two years through moderate changes in diet and exercise, with no luck.   I’m also pre-diabetic.

So, this is not a commentary about “you people.” It’s about yet another challenge that goes with being a West Virginian.

According to the Trust report, we are tied with Mississippi for having the highest rates of adult obesity, followed by Arkansas, Louisiana and Kentucky.  If you have any friends or relatives in Colorado, just don’t talk to them for awhile, since they will probably remind you that they have the lowest adult obesity rate—23 percent.

The health risks of being too heavy are well known—increased risk for type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, some kinds of cancer, gallbladder disease and gallstones, gout and breathing problems such as sleep apnea.

Obesity is expensive.  The Trust reports that treating illnesses associated with weight “increases national health care spending by $149 billion annually (about half of which is paid for by Medicare and Medicaid.”  Additionally, being overweight is the most common reason young adults are ineligible for military service, according to the Trust.

Our Mountain State weight problem is not that surprising since we’re also a poor state, and there is a connection between obesity and poverty.  Studies reviewed by the American Diabetes Association found that “counties with poverty rates of greater than 35 percent have obesity rates 145 percent higher than wealthier counties.”

There are many reasons why—less access to healthy foods, more sedentary lifestyles, fewer options for recreation.  We all know many areas of West Virginia that fit those descriptions.

The Trust for America’s Health suggests expanding Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), increasing the price of sugary drinks through excise taxes, adding more money to evidence-based obesity prevention strategies and even making it more difficult to market unhealthy food to children (I’m not sure how you could do that one).

I don’t have the answers—shoot, I can’t even lose a few pounds—but I do know that this is yet another challenge in West Virginia that weighs us down—figuratively and literally—as we try to get ahead.

Like most predicaments, finding a solution begins with acknowledging that the problem exists.  Consider that part done.

 

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Hiking group, friends create garden honoring helicopter crash victim

BECKLEY, W.Va. – Deb Evans considers Paula Wykle to be one of her best friends. She recalled the friendship began in the Junior Women’s Club of Beckley, which lead to the creation of a local hiking group, the Happy Hikers.

“The exercise is great, but the support and the therapy that we get from one another just can’t be beat,” Evans told MetroNews.

Evans also remembers where she was in July when she heard Wykle’s daughter, Delaney, died in a helicopter crash in the Bahamas.

“I was golfing with two of my children. We were on the seventh hole at Grandview and got a text from the mother saying, ‘My baby died today,” she said.

“My kids and I left the golf course immediately … I’ll always remember where I was and what was going on when I heard the news. Things like that are game changers for everyone’s life and especially her family’s life. It was very devastating, and still is,” she said.

Delaney Wykle was among the seven victims of the Independence Day incident. The helicopter crashed into the Atlantic Ocean, killing everyone on board.

More than two months later, friends of the Wykle family are doing something to honor Delaney Wykle’s life; they will dedicate a garden honoring her on Wednesday.

The garden is located at the Paul Cline Memorial Soccer Complex along the Grey Flat Trails.

Delaney Wykle, who was 22 when she died, graduated from West Virginia University in May and planned to work as a registered nurse at Raleigh General Hospital.

Evans said Delaney Wykle was an “exceptional lady.”

“She was a beautiful young lady, but her heart was as pretty as she was. She was just very kind, caring and compassionate,” she said.

“She also loved adventure,” Evans added. “When the word adventure came up, she was usually up for it. She was just a really special lady.”

A sign at the garden reads, “In loving memory of Delaney Wykle, planted in memory of a life so beautifully lived …a heart so deeply loved.” Evans said she hopes Delaney Wykle’s family and friends find comfort when they visit the site.

“Sometimes, you’re dealt things that are really difficult to deal with, but hopefully, with the help of friends and family, you’ll get through it,” she said. “This garden signifies everything that was beautiful about Delaney and a lasting tribute to her family.”

The formal dedication ceremony will begin at 6 p.m. Evans noted the reason the ceremony is on Wednesday is the day marks what would have been Delaney Wykle’s 23rd birthday.

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First summit held regarding dangers of misusing drugs

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Thousands of students and educators packed the WVU Coliseum on Tuesday for the first of two youth opioid summits scheduled for this week.

The West Virginia Secondary Schools Activity Commission helped organize a speaker series to help students understand the dangers of misusing drugs.

Around 7,000 high school students attended the summit.

Erin Parsons, who teaches at John Marshal High School, said the event served as a valuable learning opportunity for students.

“I see for our students a lot of them are dealing with problems at home that many of us in the educational field may not have familiarity with,” she said.

Former NBA player Chris Herren and Rhonda Sciortino were among the speakers; Herren speaks at engagements across the country about his addiction to opioids, and Sciortino grew up in a household affected by addiction.

The event also had a “speaker for the dreamer,” Shaun Derek.

“We really want to let them know that we care about them, there are things they can do about it and most young people are drug-free,” he said.

“Young people are what we call ‘sober curious.’ They want to know how to be more sober and do healthier activities instead of things that are harmful for their future.”

A similar summit will take place Wednesday at the Cam Henderson Center in Huntington.

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Former WVU running back Crawford pleads guilty to child molestation

Former West Virginia running back Justin Crawford will spend the next 12 years in prison after pleading guilty to charges of child molestation and sodomy in his hometown of Columbus, Ga.

Crawford pleaded guilty in his Tuesday appearance at the Muscogee County Superior Court, as reported by the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer.

The sentence calls for 20 years, with the final eight to be on probation. Crawford will also have to register as a sex offender at the end of his sentence and stay away from all children under 18, including his own three children. The prosecution dropped three additional felony charges as a result of Crawford’s guilty plea.

Crawford was arrested on Oct. 13 of last year after admitting to having sex with a 12-year-old girl who was sleeping on the couch at his home. Crawford’s justification for his actions when speaking to police was that it was “the girl’s idea.” The child told police that Crawford woke her up and asked for oral sex before engaging in intercourse.

Crawford played for West Virginia from 2016-17 after transferring from Northwest Mississippi Community College. He rushed for 2,237 yards and 11 touchdowns in his two seasons with the Mountaineers. Despite only having two years in the program, his rushing total ranks 11th in West Virginia history.

Crawford’s 331-yard game against Oklahoma in 2016 is the third-best rushing performance in WVU history.

Crawford signed with the Atlanta Falcons as an undrafted free agent, but was cut just days before the start of the 2018 regular season.

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