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Mark Martin's Notepad

Six teams set to enjoy Wheeling feeling
November 28, 2012

Mark Martin It's time for a little Undo's, featuring some of the best Italian food money can buy.

I tested out Undo's back in 1994 when the West Virginia high school football championship games – known as the Super Six – ventured to the state's Northern Panhandle to Wheeling Island Stadium.

I interviewed Herk Sparachane, whose father, Anthony “Undo” Sparachane, founded the restaurant in 1953 along with his wife, Jenny, for a story prior to the 1994 title games.

Undo's fed the six teams coming to Wheeling and has been doing so ever since. They've also been feeding a lot of football fans who have made their way to the Island for championship football since '94.

There are four locations. My favorite, though, is the original in Benwood. I love making the trek down Main Street passing house after house until coming upon Undo's at the very end.

Oh, yes, there is some football being played this Friday and Saturday in Wheeling.

CLASS AA: The Wayne Pioneers are back for a shot at winning a second straight state crown. The Pioneers will bring a perfect 13-0 record into the contest Friday night at 7:30 to launch championship weekend.

Wayne entered the playoffs as the No. 1 seed in Class AA. Tommy Harmon will be taking his sixth different Pioneer team to Wheeling while seeking a third title, the first was in 2006.

The opponent will be the Keyser Golden Tornado. Keyser was the No. 2 seed in Class AA and has steamrolled its opposition to reach its first title game since 1969 when that KHS team topped Winfield, 21-20.

Keyser's head coach is Sean Biser, a former WVU football player and KHS graduate. Biser has been at the helm of Keyser football since 2004.

After his college days, Biser played some semi-pro football in Charleston. He was the center for a quarterback by the name of Major Harris on the Capital City-based team.

CLASS AAA: History is on the line in the big schools showdown at high noon on Saturday.

Martinsburg will try to become the first Class AAA team since old Charleston High (now a part of Capital) to win three straight. CHS did it in the seasons of 1968-70.

What adds to this storyline is the fact Martinsburg head coach Dave Walker played at Glenville State College under the late Frank Vincent, who was the leader of those Charleston High teams.

Saturday's game will be Walker's seventh trip to a title game and his 200th overall as a head coach. He was the head coach at East Hardy straight out of college and held that job for nine years before moving on to Martinsburg, where he's worked for the past 16.

Meanwhile, Midland is looking for its first title. This is the first trip to the a title game for the school.

One-time Ravenswood High three-sport star and former Marshall lineman Luke Salmons has done a masterful job in just two seasons at the school, formed back in the 1990s with the merging of Barboursville and Milton. Barboursville played for state titles in 1983 and 1985, falling to Morgantown and Bluefield, respectively.

Before coming to Midland, Salmons, the 1999 Hunt Award winner as the top lineman of West Virginia high school football, coached at Lawrence County High School in Louisa, Kentucky. His first team didn't win a game but the next season the Bulldogs went undefeated and won a pair of playoff games. It was labeled the greatest turnaround from season to the next in the history of Kentucky High School e.

Salmons says there are many things making the trip to Wheeling special. He says one is the fact that on the same weekend he guns for a title in West Virginia Nate McPeek, a close friend and former fellow lineman at Marshall, will be trying to win a championship in Kentucky as the head coach at Fairview High School. The Eagles, based in Westwood near Ashland, are 14-0 and will play 13-1 Mayfield on the campus of Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green for the Bluegrass State's Class A title. Like Midland, Fairview will be going for its first football championship in school history.

CLASS A: Each year the Class A championship serves as the final football game in West Virginia. This year, No. 4 seed Madonna and No. 3 seed Wahama will handle the honors of being involved in that last contest.

Both the Blue Dons and White Falcons had to earn their trips to Wheeling by winning on the road in the semifinal round. Madonna topped Tucker County in overtime while a field goal was the difference in Wahama's contest with Magnolia.

This marks Wahama's second trip to the Island in the span of three years. The White Falcons lost to Wheeling Central two years ago in what was then the school's first-ever state championship game appearance. Wahama again comes to Wheeling with an unblemished 13-0 record.

Madonna lost just once this season and that was in week two to Wheeling Central.

Blue Dons head coach Doug Taylor is in his second season as the school's football leader. He succeeded Bob Kramer, who led Madonna to a state championship win in 2009. Kramer's 2004 and 2008 squads also played for titles but had to settle for the runner-up trophy.

RALPH RETIRES: A coach who knows all about winning state championships has retired. Ralph Hensley recently stepped down as the head coach at Riverside High School following a six-year run with the Warriors.

Hensley had been an assistant for eight years at Riverside when the school was formed back in 1999 with the consolidation of DuPont and East Bank. Hensley was the offensive coordinator on that first Riverside team that fell to Parkersburg for the Class AAA state championship.

Before the Riverside consolidation, Hensley was the head coach at East Bank for 20 seasons and guided four different Pioneer teams to state titles. His 1989, 1990 and 1993 teams won championships in Class AA at Charleston's Laidley Field. His other win came at Wheeling Island Stadium in 1996.

Hensley enjoyed 176 career wins.

CIGNETTI'S QUEST: In case you missed it, the Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) Crimson Hawks are still alive in the NCAA Division II playoffs. The head coach is Curt Cignetti, the son of former WVU head coach Frank Cignetti.

IUP defeated Shepherd, of the West Virginia Conference, and New Haven to reach the quarterfinals. IUP plays Winston-Salem State this weekend.

The younger Cignetti was an outstanding high school quarterback at Morgantown, where he graduated in 1979. He was then a part of the WVU program, under both his father and Don Nehlen.

After leaving WVU, Frank Cignetti became the head coach at IUP and led the program to great success including two national championship games.

Curt has coached at several D-1 schools before getting the shot to be his own boss. He was under West Virginia native Nick Saban at Alabama before coming to IUP. His younger brother, Frank Jr., is the quarterbacks coach for the NFL's St. Louis Rams.


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