“I looked at my calendar,” said Arvon, the superintendent of Berkeley County Schools. “What do we do every first Thursday in December? We celebrate a football championship at Martinsburg.”
That’s pretty much been the story for the last three years at Martinsburg High School.
The Bulldogs play for the West Virginia Class AAA state title on the first Saturday of the month. Then, they come home and show the spoils of the victors on the following Thursday.
State Championship Celebration, version 3.0, took place as about 700 fans, friends and family crowded into the home stands in Martinsburg’s gymnasium to applaud and say “Thanks” to the Bulldogs for their championship efforts.
The assembly was complete with cheerleaders, the inflatable tunnel the Bulldogs charged through to begin games and a championship video commemorating the 38-14 win over top-seeded Cabell Midland at Wheeling Island Stadium.
Many of the speakers thanked the Bulldogs’ fans and the community for their support.
The hallway was lined with photos of the season hanging from the ceiling, escorting the fans to the cafeteria for cake and an autograph session with the players.
The pride of accomplishment was still there, but this time, there was a different feeling about it all.
“This past season, the expectations were high ...” said Martinsburg athletic director Greg Reed. “But no one thought this team would be in this position.”
The 2010 and ’11 victories were accomplished by what was considered the perfect storm of a team. The Bulldogs were filled with top-line talent, so much so that anything less than a title would have been hard to swallow.
This year’s team was just as dominant, but won using different methods.
“Ten years from now, the rings and trophies will be on a shelf, but you will remember the camaraderie, working together and the relationships you formed,” said Martinsburg principal Trent Sherman. “They will carry you through your life.”
It was a different approach to get to the same destination.
“I want to thank you guys. You did an amazing job this year. We lost a lot of seniors last year, but I knew we were going to win it again,” said Martinsburg coach David Walker, with a half-smile. “I knew we were going to be pretty good. I was just concerned about our leadership.
“Our motto this year was, ‘Get better everyday.’ We did it and showed it in the playoffs.”
The numbers didn’t lie.
The Bulldogs rolled up nearly 5,900 yards of offense during their 13-1 season. They scored 101 touchdowns — about seven a game — to average 51.5 points per game. Meanwhile, Martinsburg’s defense allowed just 11 points per outing.
Martinsburg finished with 32 takeaways and 31 sacks. The Bulldogs outscored opponents 214-7 in the first quarter and led by an average of 31-4 at the half.
The leadership funnels down from the top through Walker. In the process of his third straight championship season, Walker became the state’s all-time leader in playoff victories and playoff games coached.
“One of the things about winning in the playoffs is the coaches have to go to Parkersburg every Sunday,” Reed said. “... (Walker) has made that trip more than anyone in West Virginia history.”
To top it off, Walker completed his 14th year at Martinsburg by taking the Bulldogs to their seventh state final in 12 years. The Bulldogs became the first team in 42 years to win three straight titles, a run that accumulated a 41-1 record.
The team was honored with proclamations from Martinsburg Mayor George Karos, State Senator Joe Manchin (presented by his representative Christine Hewett) and Berkeley County Sheriff Kenny LeMaster.
“You have been great ambassadors for the school and the community,” Karos said. “Now, people everywhere know where Martinsburg is.”
Reed called Martinsburg’s three-year run of championships “the greatest era in Bulldog Nation history. ... Don’t stop here.”
If it’s up to Walker, the football team won’t be messing with the first Thursday of December on Arvon’s social calendar anytime soon.
“I don’t see why not?” Walker said. “I want to meet you guys here again next year.”