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Martinsburg's top 'Dog

By | Gazette-Mail High School Huddle
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Ron Agnir
Martinsburg quarterback Malique Watkins has run for 19 touchdowns and thrown for 14 despite missing two games.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Mention the name Malique Watkins to a football fan around West Virginia, and you'll likely get two responses - often in the same breath.

  • First, he's one heck of an athlete who's guided Martinsburg to yet another spot in the Class AAA state semifinals, this one coming Saturday against Capital.
  • Second, isn't he the guy who's been in trouble with the SSAC?
  • Watkins was actually declared ineligible by the state's governing body for high school sports in September, only to have that decision reversed about three weeks later. In the meantime, Watkins continued to play after receiving a court injunction.

    When he has played, he's been lights out.

    Despite playing a receiving position prior to this season, Watkins has taken to the quarterback role in a big way. He's completed 59 percent of his passes for 850 yards and 14 touchdowns with just six interceptions. He's only been sacked five times all year.

    The 5-foot-9, 170-pound senior also tops the team in rushing yardage with 1,688 on 207 carries with 19 TDs. For good measure, he also returns punts and brought one back 44 yards for a touchdown last week in a 54-28 quarterfinal win versus Cabell Midland.

    "He's just an excellent football player,'' said Martinsburg coach Dave Walker. "He's an excellent athlete and the transition from receiver to quarterback has been pretty smooth for him. It's not been that big a deal.''

    Watkins is sure to be the No. 1 priority for Capital's defense on Saturday when it takes on Martinsburg at 1:30 p.m. at Cobourn Field in Berkeley County.

    Capital coach Jon Carpenter, who has his own elusive athlete in junior running back Kashuan Haley, said Watkins shares some similarities with Haley.

    "He tries to run it all over the place,'' Carpenter said of Watkins. "He's a lot like Kashuan. The difference is they snap it directly to him and they let him run.

    "He's a great football player, no doubt. But our defense, they get to see some fast guys out there this week [in practice] so we can simulate that a little bit better than most, maybe. He's probably better than anybody we've faced, but it still comes down to you've got to beat the block in front of you. Just do your job.''

    For the most part, Capital has done a solid job against some of the top running backs in the Mountain State Athletic Conference:

  • Princeton - Tahj Sho-Johnson managed 77 yards on 14 carries, but did score two TDs;
  • South Charleston - A.D. Cunningham had his second-highest rushing total of the season, 24 carries for 131 yards and one TD;
  • Huntington - Held Charles Crawford to seven carries for 10 yards in Capital's lone loss;
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