WHEELING - The underlying theme for this year's Super Six? How about: Being there sure counts for something.
All three state football champions - Martinsburg (Class AAA), Wayne (AA) and Wahama (A) - were no strangers to Wheeling Island Stadium, which doubtlessly helped their fortunes over the weekend.
All three schools had interesting tales to tell following the games, and the weekend sort of came full circle with outstanding efforts tying in the past (Martinsburg), present (Wahama-Madonna) and future (Wayne).
Martinsburg matched Charleston High (1968-70) as the only schools to ever win three straight AAA crowns since that division came into play in 1958.
Oddly, it was only a few short years ago that the Bulldogs were on a run the other way, having matched the Buffalo Bills streak of Super Bowl futility by losing four straight times when they made the finals (2001, '03, '04, '06). To some, their program appeared cursed.
"I thought that myself,'' said Martinsburg coach Dave Walker. "But I'm a firm believer that if you work hard enough and that if you keep doing what you think is right, good things will happen for you. I think this is a good example.
"I've been blessed to be able to be around some great people, and our kids have worked extremely hard and we've got a great staff. If you do it long enough, you'll see it all. I just hope, well, I don't want to see the other end of it for a while.''
Martinsburg's roster included 25 seniors who ended their careers on top three straight times.
"I don't know how to explain it,'' said lineman Eugene German, one of those seniors. "It's just hard work and dedication is in that three - hard work and dedication.''
Walker said he couldn't pick and choose which titles felt better.
"They're all in a special place,'' he said. "All the kids have been great, and we've had some great ones here. We've got some great ones coming, too, as long as they continue to work to be successful.''
Some wonder if Martinsburg, with its growing population area, won't become an annual visitor to Wheeling.
"This thing runs in cycles, man, in high school football, and up there in Martinsburg, it's a big area and they're going to be tough to compete with for a good while,'' said George Washington coach Steve Edwards Jr., whose team fell to the Bulldogs 63-14 in the semifinals.
"[Walker's] got a good deal up there from the looks of the kids he's running in and out and putting in the ballgame. He's been pretty loaded. I don't look for them to fall off any. People talk about them being not as good as last year ... I think they're more athletic than they were last year. They're solid. Bigger schools with bigger numbers make it hard for everyone.''
On the other side of the field, Midland (13-1) was left to console itself with the knowledge that it advanced farther than any team since the program began in the fall of 1994. The Knights were the final unbeaten AAA team in the state and earned the No. 1 playoff seed for the first time with their initial 10-0 regular season.
Midland became the 18th Mountain State Athletic Conference team to make the AAA title game in the 19 years the Super Six has been staged in Wheeling. At least one MSAC team has played for the crown in 15 of those 19 years.
"These kids are buying into what we've been teaching,'' said second-year Knights coach Luke Salmons. "It's all about them. They've created a program. We played a lot of kids today and they did a good job.