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Countdown to Kickoff (Point Pleasant): Big Blacks out for perfection once again

Point Pleasant has enjoyed four straight undefeated seasons and will look to keep it going in 2017.

POINT PLEASANT (WCHS/WVAH) - One of West Virginia's most successful football programs the past several years has resided in Point Pleasant. Big Black football has enjoyed four straight undefeated seasons with thee of those in Class AAA. Now it its second year back in Class AA, Dave Darst's program will gun to keep things going in a positive direction.

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One thing to note right out the gate is Point's schedule, starting with defending state champion Mingo Central and followed by James Monroe, the team that sidelined Point in the second round of the postseason a year ago.

"Sometimes I think teams need to be challenged a bit," said Darst. "And this football team we were a little complacent last year. I think it's time for us to take on some new challenges."

One of Point's top returning players is junior quarterback Cason Payne.

"He's just a good quarterback," said Darst. "Got a lot of interest from colleges. Fantastic student, great teammate. You couldn't ask for a better teammate. I have just been truly blessed in my time here with quarterbacks."

Senior lineman Brian Gillispie said of Payne, "All-around good quarterback. Good guy, great guy. Communicates well with us linemen. We always know what's going on. He's just a very smart guy."

As a first-year starter last season, Payne feels he grew up quite a bit and is more than ready for the challenge in 2017.

"Last year I learned a lot," he said. "First year starting, I learned a lot from M(Cody) Mitchell (who is now at Marshall as a tight end) and last year it was my time. I didn't have experience needed, but this year I feel a lot more comfortable getting behind the line. I'm ready to go."

Payne is just one of the many standouts returning. Keshawn Stover was an All-State receiver last season. Alex Smith and Justin Brumfield are ready for more carries this season at running back.

"When you've had Cody Mitchell and Grant Safford the last six years, a lot of guys have had to wait. So these guys are ready to roll. I'm excited for them," said Darst. "Brian Gillispie is my center. Alex Gibbs my tackle. Travon Franklin is my guard. These guys are all returning off of last year's team. I think we return eight starters offensively."

On the defensive side, the Big Blacks will rebuild a bit. But overall there's excitement once again. Especially with the recent success of the program.

"Everyone works hard," said Stover. "The confidence in the team, everyone gets along, everyone helps each other out."

Darst added, "We're a small community down here on the river. There's not a whole lot to do here on a Friday night. That's what we tell kids. Get involved in something at our school. Our kids enjoy the football program. Our support we get from our community, be hard not to want to come out here on a Friday night with 4,000 people in the stands."

Again Point will open the season at home on August 25 against Mingo Central.

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