WHEN THE high school football season started, it was swarming with intrigue regarding the top teams in the state.
But when it came to discussion about the top player in the state, there was hardly the same level of fascination.
Running back Ryan Switzer of GW took the Kennedy Award as the state's best player as a junior last year, winning the voting in runaway fashion, much like one of his touchdown bursts, and hardly anyone expected that to change this season.
And then it happened.
Switzer went down with a concussion and shoulder injury early in the first quarter of GW's opener and, in effect, missed two full games. Suddenly, the Kennedy Award wasn't such a slam dunk anymore.
Maybe Switzer wouldn't come back in top form, or maybe the time he missed would penalize him in the eyes of the voters, who are members of the West Virginia Sports Writers Association.
Well, here we are six weeks later, and at least one of those questions has been answered resoundingly. Switzer has indeed returned to form.
The senior, who has committed to the football program at North Carolina, has run for 1,523 yards and 19 touchdowns to spark GW to a 6-1 record and the No. 4 ranking in Class AAA.
In fact, he's ahead of the pace he set last year when, through seven games, he'd gained 1,255 yards on the ground with 17 TDs. (He ended with 2,796 yards and 40 TDs).
If you want to discount the two games he missed (subtracting the 69 yards he picked up in two carries in the opener against South Charleston), Switzer is averaging just about 291 yards per game with 18 rushing TDs in five games. Through his first five games last year, he averaged 192 yards rushing with 12 TDs.
Clearly, he's outdoing himself on the field. And in a way, it doesn't hurt his chances that in the one full game he sat out - against Kentucky power Ashland Paul Blazer (8-1) - GW suffered its only regular-season loss over the last 33 games.
So if Kennedy voters turn in their ballots at the end of the regular season, as many are wont to do, it probably won't matter that Switzer has played in what amounts to eight games as opposed to 10 for most of the other candidates.
That seems to be the overriding sentiment around the state, too. An informal check with a few other sportswriters put support squarely behind Switzer.
Shawn Rine of Wheeling considers Switzer "the front-runner,'' and said "his numbers are astronomical as they stand today.''
Chris Johnson of Clarksburg said Switzer is "still at the top of the list,'' and Grant Traylor of Huntington added, "for me, it is still Ryan Switzer's award to lose.''
As always, there are deserving Kennedy candidates popping up all around the state: