Dave Walker couldn’t win a football game when he first became the head football coach at Martinsburg High in West Virginia.
Now he can’t lose one.
Walker is in charge of a Martinsburg juggernaut that has won three consecutive West Virginia Class AAA state championships and seven of the last nine titles in the Mountain State’s biggest division.
Friday, Martinsburg will put a 49-game win streak on the line when the Bulldogs visit undefeated Salem in the Spartans’ first game ever against an out-of-state opponent.
Salem will return the favor in 2020 with a trip to Martinsburg, which is located in the far northeast corner of its state, just across the Virginia state line by Winchester.
Walker has seen both sides of the coin.
His first team at Martinsburg lost its first nine games.
“We didn’t have a weight room, the facilities were bad, we didn’t have nice equipment,” Walker said. “They didn’t have any offseason program. That’s the first thing we really got going, just trying to get the kids to invest time in it.
“It just started clicking.”
Martinsburg is 122-7 in its last nine-plus seasons under Walker, who is 241-46 overall in his 23rd year on the job.
The Bulldogs are averaging 59 points per game with their closest tests a 49-12 win over H.D. Woodson (D.C.) and a 37-0 triumph over VHSL member Sherando.
Martinsburg has scored 50 or more points 28 times during its recent run of dominance, capped each of the last three years by a win in the state final over the same team — Spring Valley.
Understandably, Martinsburg’s schedule often changes. This year Walker already has played two teams from Washington, D.C., and one from Pennsylvania.
The Bulldogs were more than willing to take on the challenge by Salem.
“We’re always looking for games,” Walker said. “When they called us wanting to play, we were excited because I know they’ve got a great program and great facilities.
“It will be a great experience for our kids just to see the stadium and play against those guys.
Walker knows plenty about the Roanoke Valley.
He brought his 2010 team down to play Patrick Henry, winning 22-10. The previous year, Martinsburg edged PH 14-9 at home.
He knows plenty about PH too. Patriots coach Alan Fiddler was Walker’s roommate when the two played football at Glenville (W.Va.) State in the mid-1980s.
Walker was 23 when he was hired as head coach at East Hardy High in West Virginia, where his first team went 0-10.
Martinsburg is one of only 29 Class AAA schools in West Virginia, where the enrollment in the state’s biggest division ranges from 1,965 down to 913. Enrollment in Group AA football in West Virginia ranges from 871 to 460.
Martinsburg’s enrollment of 1,313 is comparable to Salem’s and would put the Bulldogs in Class 4 in Virginia.
Walker said his top players are defensive linemen Ty Lucas and Matt Bednarski, receivers Jarod Bowie and Teddy Marshall, and quarterback Elijah Banks, who runs the spread offense.
“We’ll have an occasional [FBS] kid come through here, but we just have a good bunch of high school football players that love to play,” Walker said. “They get after it.”
While Friday’s game is Salem’s first against a team from outside Virginia, old Andrew Lewis High in Salem routinely played teams from North Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia in the 1960s.
Salem officials are expecting a large crowd for the 7 p.m. kickoff.
Martinsburg fans have a 3 1/2-hour trip to the Roanoke Valley.
“I think we’ll travel pretty well,” Walker said. “We’ll have a good crowd for this one because it’s getting a lot of attention.”
Patrick Henry to induct 6 into athletic hall of fame
Patrick Henry has announced a six-member class of inductees into its sports hall fame including the late Bill “Tank” Stephens, who was a co-captain on the school’s first football team in 1961.
Stephens, also a two-time Virginia state wrestling champion at PH, played football at Clemson and had a tryout with the Los Angeles Rams.
He later became a high school football and basketball official and a golf club champion at Hunting Hills Country Club:
The other inductees are:
- Carrington Cole Madden (class of 1989), who set PH girls swimming records and was named a YMCA National All-American before serving as captain of the swim team at Princeton University.
- Lang Wedemeyer (1990), the Timesland boys soccer player of the year in 1989 and a two-time Group AAA all-state selection who helped PH to its first regional victory in program history.
- The late Tuan Reynolds (1992), who was voted PH’s most valuable player in 1990 and was selected for the VHSCA All-Star game as a senior. Reynolds played at Marshall University until he became paraplegic at age 20 as the result of an accident. He died March 27 after an illness.
- Louis Booker (1997), who ran the nation’s fastest high school indoor track and field times in the 500 meters and 300 meters in 1997, and was a member of PH’s 800-meter relay team that won the Group AAA indoor title in 1997.
- Kate Norbo (2009), who captained soccer, basketball and cross country teams and was named Timesland female athlete of the year and Northwest Region girls soccer player of the year in 2009. She was a starter on the NCAA semifinal team at Virginia, where she is tied for playing in the most career games.
The new inductees will be honored at banquet Nov. 2 at Hunting Hills. They will be introduced during Patrick Henry’s home football game against Pulaski County on Nov. 1.