NEW MANCHESTER - Preston Murray has left his mark on the Oak Glen football program.
Murray, who played on both the offensive and defensive lines for the Golden Bears, was named First Team All-State in West Virginia Class AA by the West Virginia Sports Writers Association on Thursday.
Murray, who is a senior, was also named to the first team last year.
Oak Glen’s Preston?Murray (76) helps teammate Justin Stivason bring down Edison’s Chris Graziani during a game played Aug. 23 at Harding Stadium in?Steubenville. Murray was named First?Team All-State in West Virginia Class AA by the West Virginia Sports Writer Association Thursday. (Photo by Aaron Petchal)
This year, Murray was one of three Oak Glen players to receive all-state honors. Senior Clayton Flowers was named Special Mention All-State, and junior quarterback Bub Haddox was named Honorable Mention All-State.
Murray was a dominant force for the Golden Bears throughout his four-year career.
"He is relentless," first-year Oak Glen head coach Ian Whittington said. "He has a great motor. The kid goes 100 miles per hour full speed all the time. He has good size and good speed, especially with his size.
"He ran one of the fastest 10-yard sprints on the team. The kid is a machine as a defensive lineman."
Murray made the first team as a defensive linemen.
"It is a great for Preston to make it two years in a row," Whittington said. "We don't play too many West Virginia teams so it is hard to get exposure in the state. It is really great that he was able to get recognized considering the small amount of West Virginia teams we do play."
Though he made an impact as a freshman, Murray worked hard to improve himself all four years of his career.
"He has improved greatly," Whittington said. "He is the first ever freshman to start on defense at Oak Glen. The kid grew into an unstoppable player.
"He continued to get better. He got stronger and quicker as the years went by. He was a dominant force on defense year in and year out."
Murray rarely left the field for the the Golden Bears.
"It's going to be really hard to replace a player of Preston Murray's stature obviously," Whittington said. "He was such a good player. Also, he never left the field.
"We are definitely going to have some inexperienced players filling in for him next year, but they did practice against Preston and with him every day. It will certainly help they were able to practice every day with such a high talent."
Murray is currently undecided about his future plans once he graduates from Oak Glen in the spring.
Flowers, who is a senior, was one of the most versatile players in the area. Flowers played on offense, on defense and on special teams.
"Clayton is just 5-6, but he plays like he is the biggest kid on the field," Whittington said. "He is fearless. He has a big heart.
"Clayton was like a coach on the field. I would tell him one thing and he would absorb it, and he made sure all of the other kids knew what was going on.
"He is an extremely good athlete. He could do it all. He could catch the ball. He could run. He played defense. he played on special teams. He was a returner. He could do it all."
Flowers will be difficult to replace due to his ability to do so many things well on the field. More than one player is going to have to step up and fill the void left by Flowers' graduation.
"Exactly," Whittington said. "I think one of the biggest thing is we are going to miss his ability to call out the plays on defense. I trust him with everything. He could give the call and make sure all the kids were line up right.
"He was a playmaker out there. He was not afraid to come running up and stick his nose in there and stop the running back behind the line. He was able to cover people and come down with interceptions.
"He is going to be a huge loss on offense, on defense and on special teams."
Haddox, who is a junior, learned on the job this season.
"Bub is probably one of the most athletic kids in the school," Whittington said. "He has a mixture of great agility and good speed. He was one of the fastest kids on the field this year.
"It was tough for him because he had never seen a high school defense before or any real type of defense, but he was able to go out there and Bub surprised a lot of people. He is a great talent.
"I was not surprised with what he was able to do. I knew he was capable of making special plays."
Haddox replaced standout Lucas McDowell at quarterback.
"He had to step into Lucas's shadow," Whittington said. "We lost one of our best players, but he came out and performed well. He was able to use his legs to make plays, and he was able to throw the ball. Bub is also a great baseball player, so we knew he was able to throw the ball well.
"People were kind of surprised because he didn't know coverages. He didn't know a lot of defense, but he went out and played great."
With Haddox coming off of a strong junior campaign, even bigger things will be expected of him next year in his second season under center as the Golden Bears' signal caller.
"I expect big things from Bub," Whittington said. "He is a great athlete. He can do a lot more. He has learned about defense, and I think he will be able to go out there next year and be the playmaker he is."
Whittington replaced Tony Filberto as head coach this year. Filberto is the head coach at Weir.
"It's great," Whittington said about having three players named all-state in his first season as a head coach. "It feels good to have been able to coach such good athletes. I think there were a few more out there. I think there were a couple more who were deserving of the honor.
"It is a great honor as a head coach to coach such talented players as Preston Murray, Clayton Flowers and Bub Haddox."
The Golden Bears are already working hard and getting ready for next season.
"We are already building for next year," Whittington said. "We are doing our thing."