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Plenty of local talent among 28-member signing class for Virginia-Wise

Kevin Mays • Feb 6, 2019 at 9:52 PM

Virginia-Wise football’s program has had a solid recruiting connection with Northern Virginia since its inception.

While the NOVA connection remained solid with the 2019 signee class announced Wednesday on national signing day, its evident the Cavaliers have also made the right move in building a pipeline to Northeast Tennessee.

Coach Dane Damron’s Cavs got plenty of signees Wednesday, including some of the top talent from the eastern part of the Volunteer state.

Dobyns-Bennett’s Lendon Redwine is one of three quarterbacks in the 28-member class who signed with Virginia-Wise Wednesday.

Sullivan South tight end Aaron Watterson is also among the Cavalier signees.

The Greeneville brother duo of running back Jaevon Gillespie and defensive back Jordan Gillespie have signed with the Cavs along with offensive tackle Tommy Taylor, who also played prep football for state champion Greeneville.

SOUTHWEST VIRGINIA SIGNEES

Virginia-Wise also picked up a couple of football’s top names in its backyard of Southwest Virginia.

J.I. Burton quarterback Houston Thacker and Gate City punter Drew Vermillion inked their intent Wednesday to join the Cavalier program.

Both Thacker and Vermillion are members of the 2018 Times News All-Southwest Virginia football team.

VIRGINIA-WISE BASEBALL OPENS SEASON SATURDAY

Weather permitting, Virginia-Wise opens its baseball season Saturday with a weekend series at King University.

Optimism is high for coach Hank Banner’s squad. Banner has one of his most experienced teams in his 23-year career at the helm of the Cavalier program.

The Cavs are blessed with experience at almost every position on the diamond.

Junior Greg Duncan returns after an All-Mountain East Conference honorable mention season to headline a pitching rotation that will also include redshirt senior Landon Faulkner — a transfer from Arizona who missed last season because of an injury — sophomore R.J. Vanvickle, along with freshmen Jacob Stuart, Devin Mathis, redshirt junior Trevor Nevill and sophomore Jake Osburn.

Former Wise Central star Nate Thompson is back as the closer for the Cavaliers in his junior year.

Joining Thompson in the bullpen will be sophomore Jimmy Vanosdale, senior Kellen Larkin, redshirt junior Dylan Luttrell and redshirt sophomore Will Stamper, of Lebanon.

A couple of NET freshmen — Jeremiah Ball, of Kingsport, and Garrett Stiltner, of Johnson City — could also see some time on the mound, along with freshman Tyler Hayes, of Knoxville, sophomore Anthony Wertz, freshman Josh Thomas and senior David Thomas.

When he’s not in the bullpen, David Thomas will see everyday play in left field.

Matthew Church, a redshirt senior transfer from Eastern Michigan, is the leading candidate in center field, while J.I. Burton grad Matthew Branham will be in right field as a starter for the third season.

In the infield, junior Tyler Blaum is back at catcher, while first base will be manned by senior Brock Smith.

Senior Brett Yates is back at second base with third base being occupied by junior transfer Tristan Peccerelli.

At shortstop, Jordan Turner, a junior, is back as a two-year starter. Dobyns-Bennett grad Isaac Whitehead will also see the field as a freshman after impressing coaches in the preseason.

Dawson Cagle is the leading candidate at the designated hitter spot.

BASKETBALL TOP SIX PICKS

The top six keep rolling both on the boys and girls’ side of the rankings.

Gate City stays at top of the heap in the boys’ rankings, while Grundy, which concludes its regular season with a record number of wins, stays at No. 2.

The girls’ rankings have Honaker staying on top of the list.

Ridgeview dropped two games to quality teams in Wise Central and Gate City over the past week. The Wolfpack drops from third to sixth.

Here’s a look at the Top Six Picks for both boys and girls. Included is the team, last week's ranking and record.

BOYS TOP SIX

1) Gate City (1) 18-3

2) Grundy (2) 19-1

4) Eastside (4) 18-3

3) J.I. Burton (3) 16-5

5) Graham (5) 13-5

6) Wise Central (6) 13-8

GIRLS TOP SIX

1) Honaker (1) 18-2

2) Wise Central (2) 17-4

3) Virginia High (4) 18-3

4) Lebanon (5) 17-3

5) Abingdon (6) 15-6

6) Ridgeview (3) 15-6

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