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MetroNews This Morning 8-19-22

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — MetroNews This Morning is a 15-minute podcast from MetroNews, the Voice of West Virginia, getting you up to date on what’s happening across the Mountain State.

Listen to Friday’s podcast here.

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Keyser focusing on finishing in practice and games after 5-5 season

KEYSER, W.Va. — Keyser’s ten-year streak of playoff appearances came to an end last fall when the Golden Tornado finished at 5-5. KHS posted wins over playoff teams in RCB and Moorefield. But a two-point loss to Class AA No. 3 seed Point Pleasant and an overtime loss to county rival Frankfort kept Keyser outside the top sixteen. Head coach Derek Stephen says a main focus in training camp is to complete every task in the hopes for better results late in games.

“We’ve got to be able to finish drives, to finish blocks and to finish games,” Stephen said. “One of our main things this year is to finish. That’s the big thing we are going to work on this year is finishing everything, whether it be a snap, a drive, a run, a block, whatever it be. We are going to work on finishing for sure.”

Several veterans and multi-year starters return for the Golden Tornado. Senior Gabe Ryan led the team in tackles last fall.

“He gives you a guy on the line that isn’t afraid of anybody and isn’t going to back down from anybody. He brings a presence not only on the field but in the locker room and in the weight room. He commands everybody to give their best.”

Fellow senior Caden Youngblood finished second in stops and he is expected to provide leadership in the middle of the Keyser defense.

“He’s another one, another senior leader. He is one of the smartest kids. I think he scored a 1,300-something on his SATs. He’s a smart, bright kid. He is able to read plays and diagnose plays a little quicker than some of the others.”

Quarterback Seth Healy returns to lead Keyser’s traditional run-heavy offense. He accounted for eight total touchdowns in 2021.

“He played a little quarterback for us last year but he helps us more on the defensive side. He comes through and again, he is a multi-year starter. He has been here through the ups and the downs. He has seen what we are capable of doing. He is another one that has picked right up and is helping lead the team.”

Stephen has posted a 12-7 record in his two seasons since taking over for Sean Biser. Keyser has one of the largest rosters in the state for a Class AA team with over sixty players in camp.

“I think we have 62, 63 out this year, which is about 10 to 12 more than we had last year. The numbers are slowly coming up. What we are going to try to do is build on the hundred-plus years of Keyser football, keep the numbers up and keep the tradition going.”

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Police investigate double fatal crash in Wheeling

WHEELING, W.Va. — Two people were killed in a single-vehicle crash in downtown Wheeling Thursday evening.

According to Wheeling police, the wreck occurred at around 6:20 p.m. at the intersection of 16th and Main streets when a car crashed into a utility pole on the Main Street Bridge.

The driver and passenger in the car both died.

The names of the victims were not immediately released.

Wheeling police are continuing their investigation.

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Mountaineers, Indiana battle to scoreless draw in season opener

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia’s women’s soccer team was hardly threatened by Indiana in Thursday’s season-opening match at Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium.

Unfortunately for the Mountaineers, they couldn’t muster any offense themselves and the teams battled to a scoreless draw in their first meeting.

“Indiana came out with a great game plan, and unfortunately we didn’t have urgency until the 70th minute of the game,” West Virginia head coach Nikki Izzo-Brown said. “We need to do a better job with that.”

West Virginia had 12 of the game’s 15 shot attempts, including four of the five that made it on goal. Hoosiers’ keeper Jamie Gerstenberg was up to the task all evening, however, and had four of the game’s five saves, with the other going to WVU keeper Kayza Massey.

One of the Mountaineers’ better scoring chances came with just outside 15 minutes to play when Chloe Adler and and Taylor White worked a give and go. Adler initially fed White just outside the 18-yard box, before getting the ball back at close range, only to not get much on a shot that Gerstenberg stopped with little difficulty.

Aaliyah Scott later had a quality chance from in close off a crossing feed, but didn’t get the shot off clean and it missed the mark by a wide margin.

“At some point, we want Chloe Edler to take that [initial] shot. You don’t want a give and go inside the 6, but she created the opportunity for us, so coach is happy about that. Aaliyah Scott, being a senior, has to bury that one, but she extended her run and made the effort. Those two I’d like to get back. I think those were two goals.”

West Virginia forward Dilary Heredia-Beltran generated several scoring chances for her team and led all players with three shot attempts, while consistently using her speed to maintain possession.

“The way they were playing really allowed some space on those ends and she took it really well and has such confidence to get forward and create chances,” Izzo-Brown said. “I’d love to see her mileage tonight.”

As for what Izzo-Brown viewed as a lack of urgency from her team for much of the match, the veteran head coach wants to see the Mountaineers become more consistent in their approach.

“I said to the team, ‘you guys worked hard and two things I’m going to leave you with — did we compete for every ball and did we have urgency to do our job?’ It wasn’t consistent enough and that’s the hunt. To win games, you have to be consistent and finish those chances.”

West Virginia doesn’t have to wait long for its next opportunity, which comes at 1 p.m. Sunday when the Mountaineers welcome Saint Joseph’s.

“I look forward to Sunday, turning that around and getting back out here,” Izzo-Brown said. “What a great crowd tonight. Hopefully we didn’t disappoint them and they saw a good match.”

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Supreme Court takes over Hope Scholarship appeal, promises hearing soon, says no to stay

West Virginia’s Supreme Court has taken over consideration of whether a scholarship for students leaving the public school system violates the state constitution.

A majority of justices rejected a motion to stay a lower court’s decision to halt the Hope Scholarship, but the Supreme Court did agree to consider the issue swiftly. Justices set oral arguments for Oct. 4.

The issue had been the first big case before West Virginia’s new intermediate court of appeals. Now the Supreme Court will hear the appeal instead.

Those decisions were expressed in an order released this afternoon by the Supreme Court.

Lawyers representing the families suing to keep the scholarship from going into effect praised the Supreme Court’s order, saying it now means courts at all levels have agreed that the scholarship should not be implemented while its constitutionality is in question.

Supporters of the Hope Scholarship had asked for the money to flow, pending appeal and expressed disappointment over the Supreme Court’s order today because it means that money still won’t go to families at the start of this school year. More than 3,000 students had been awarded the scholarship, which could have been used for education expenses this fall.

Judges on the intermediate court earlier this month rejected the request for stay, so the scholarship dollars have remained on hold. Today’s order released by the Supreme Court indicated two justices, Tim Armstead and Haley Bunn, supported the stay — but a majority of justices ruled otherwise.

The Legislature passed and the governor then signed a bill establishing the Hope Scholarships in 2021, providing money for students leaving the public school system to use for a variety of financial costs.  West Virginia’s program also allows students old enough to enter the school system for the first time to be eligible immediately.

The conservative publication the Federalist concluded “West Virginia just passed the nation’s broadest school choice law.” That’s because eligibility in other states with similar programs is more narrowly defined.

Hearing a challenge to the Hope Scholarship in early July, Kanawha Circuit Judge Joanna Tabit declared it null and void. Tabit concluded the scholarship violates the state constitution by diverting funding away from the public education system.

The plaintiffs, parents of students in the public school system, argued that Hope Scholarship violates the state Constitution’s Article XII, Section 1 duty to provide for “for a thorough and efficient system of free schools.” They contend that means the Legislature can’t “exceed this mandate by publicly funding private education outside the system of free schools.”

An attorney for the plaintiffs today praised the Supreme Court’s decision to keep the injunction in place while the full appeal is being considered.

“We are pleased to have the opportunity to present our clients’ case to the Supreme Court and urge it to affirm the trial court’s ruling that the voucher law violates the constitutional rights of West Virginia’s children and must be struck down,” stated Tamerlin Godley, partner at Paul Hastings LLP and lead attorney for the plaintiffs in Beaver v. Moore, the case challenging the Hope Scholarship.

On the other side, Andrew Clark, the executive director of a foundation called “yes. every kid.” expressed disappointment over the Supreme Court’s decision to keep the scholarship dollars halted for now.

“We are devastated by today’s ruling. More than 3,000 West Virginia students made decisions expecting to be able to take advantage of the Hope Scholarship program and had the rug pulled out from under them, just weeks before the start of school,” Clark said.

“We had hoped the Supreme Court of Appeals would rectify that wrong by staying the lower court’s injunction while the appeals process played out. Instead, this ruling further blocks students from accessing educational opportunities that work best for them.”

But Clark said his organization is pleased by the timetable set by the Supreme Court, saying “we remain optimistic that the program will ultimately be upheld by the high court and are encouraged that the Court recognized the importance of taking the case immediately so that it can bring this matter to a final resolution before the end of the fall semester.”

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Ajayi adjusts quickly as he hopes to make mark in first and final season at West Virginia

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — It all came about quickly for Rashad Ajayi.

Two weeks after he entered the NCAA Transfer Portal in early May, Ajayi made the decision to use his final year of college eligibility at West Virginia, joining a program in need of veteran defensive backs.

“I wanted to be somewhere before summer started,” Ajayi recalled. “It was a quick decision for me.”

Ajayi credits West Virginia defensive backs coach ShaDon Brown for helping sell him on the Mountaineers, and although he also took a visit to Cal, the Atlanta native was all in on WVU after visiting Morgantown.

“There were a lot of teams trying to get me to come and look at the place, but coach ShaDon seemed very genuine over the phone, so I wanted to come out and see how it was in person,” Ajayi said.

Having only worked with the team throughout summer and over the first three weeks of preseason camp, it remains to be seen how heavily Ajayi factors into the defensive game plan in two weeks when the Mountaineers open their season at Pitt. Considering, however, that West Virginia lost both starting cornerbacks from the 2021 season opener as well as versatile defensive back Jackie Matthews to the transfer portal, Ajayi at the very least has a chance to be a key player on the back end.

Thus far, Ajayi’s acclimation to West Virginia has included learning more zone schemes than what he was accustomed to during his time at CSU, which spanned 2018-2021.

“Coming from Colorado State, I played played a lot of man coverage — probably 80 or 90 percent of the snaps, I was in press man,” Ajayi said. “Here, I have to play off more, look at more things, more key zones in my zone coverages. That’s probably the biggest adjustment I have to make learning this new defense and getting comfortable.”

Ajayi is far from the only veteran in the secondary learning a new system. The unit also added transfers Wesley McCormick (James Madison), Marcis Floyd (Murray State) and Jasir Cox (North Dakota State).

“It’s never really a challenge learning, because I want to learn,” Ajayi said. “It’s kind of fun getting a chance to learn a new defense.”

Perhaps the transition to West Virginia has been made easier for Ajayi after some of what he experienced at Colorado State.

In addition to playing for two head coaches — Mike Bobo and Steve Addazio, the latter of whom was fired last December — the university conducted an investigation into allegations of racism and verbal abuse within the athletic department and football program in 2020.

“I was cool with all my teammates, all the staff and academic staff, too,” said Ajayi, who noted he never saw or experienced any of what was looked into. “I felt like I was always adjusted, but there was always change and a lot going on these past four years.”

Even with constant change and off-the-field distractions during his time at CSU it wasn’t easy for Ajayi to leave behind his former school.

“It was very difficult to leave. I’d built a lot of trust and friendships out there with teammates and coaches,” he said. “But they had a coaching change and felt like they needed to find a new guy to do the job that I was there to do. Finding a new place for my last year was kind of challenging, but it’s been a good turnaround for me.

“I love the people here and my teammates. I’ve already built a lot of great relationships. My coaches are great, so it’s been very good.”

The 5-foot-11, 182-pound Ajayi started 35 games over his four seasons as a Ram.

Now he’s hoping to show he can measure up while playing at a higher level in his final season of college football.

“I always saw myself playing at a Power 5 school. I never received an official offer from West Virginia out of high school, but it was always a place of interest for me,” Ajayi said. “Especially growing up watching Tavon Austin play, he was just crazy. Watching him, I was like, ‘I wonder what it’d be like to play at that school or that level.’”

Ajayi will have his answer soon enough.

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Update: Former WVU quarterback Jarret Doege enrolls at Troy

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Four days after leaving Western Kentucky, Jarret Doege has found a new home at Troy University. Doege is officially listed on the roster at Troy and he reportedly practiced with the Trojans on Thursday afternoon. WVU head coach Neal Brown recently led the Troy program in 2018.

In addition to Doege, six other quarterbacks are listed on the Troy roster. Five are freshmen or redshirt freshmen.

Original story from August 15:

Multiple published reports indicate that former WVU signal caller Jarret Doege has entered the NCAA transfer portal for a third time.

Doege started his college career at Bowling Green in 2017 and played two seasons with the Falcons. In 2019, Doege transferred to West Virginia and he played in four games that season. By playing in just four games, he preserved a redshirt season. Doege emerged as the starting quarterback in 2020 and he held the job for two seasons. He left WVU for Western Kentucky in January.

Doege was in a battle with West Florida transfer Austin Reed for the starting spot at WKU. Doege has one season of eligibility remaining as a graduate transfer.

In his five-year college career, which included the COVID-related free season of eligibility of 2020, Doege has passed for 10,494 yards with 79 touchdowns and 34 interceptions.

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Three indicted in the 2018 murder of Whitey Bulger at Hazelton prison

CLARKSBURG, W.Va. — Three men have been charged in the 2018 Hazelton federal prison murder of one-time Boston crime boss James “Whitey” Bulger.

Whitey Bulger 2011 mugshot

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for Northern West Virginia announced Thursday three men, who were inmates at Hazelton federal prison in Preston County at the time have been indicted in Bulger’s death.

A federal grand jury indicted Fotios “Freddy” Geas, 55, Paul J. “Pauly” DeCologero, 48, and Sean McKinnon, 36. They’e each been charged with conspiracy to commit first degree murder.

Geas and DeCologero are accused of killing Bulger by hitting him the head multiple times in the October 2018 attack on Bulger. Geas and DeCologero have also been charged with aiding and abetting first degree murder and assault resulting in serious bodily injury.

Bulger, 89, was found dead in his general population cell. He had been at the Hazelton prison for less than 24 hours at the time of his death.

Geas faces a separate charge for murder by a federal inmate serving a life sentence.

McKinnon faces a separate charge of making false statements to a federal agent.

Geas is still incarcerated at USP Hazelton. DeCologero is no longer being held at USP Hazelton but remains housed in the federal prison system. McKinnon was on federal supervised release at the time of the indictment and was taken into custody in Florida.

Bulger left Boston in 1995 after being tipped off that authorities were going after him. He was on the run for 16 years. He was arrested in California in 2011. He was convicted on various charges in 2013 and sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison.

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Medical examiner called to scene in Harrison County I-79 crash

ANMOORE, W.Va. — For the second time in three days the medical examiner has been dispatched to the scene of a crash on I-79 southbound.

At 3:46 p.m. Thursday, first responders were called to the southbound exit ramp at the Anmoore exit in Harrison County for an accident involving a pickup truck.

Anmoore police and fire, the Harrison County Sheriff’s Department, police departments from Clarksburg Bridgeport, Shinnston, Nutter Fort, Animal Control and the DOH were called to the scene.

 

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Lewis County murder suspect denied bail, indictment remains sealed

WESTON, W.Va. – The suspect accused of murder in a sealed indictment in Lewis County has been denied bail.

Benjamin Blake

Benjamin Blake, 67, was indicted following the July grand jury term, but details in the case are few.

Blake has a pretrial conference in Lewis County Circuit Court set for Sept. 29 and a trial scheduled for Oct. 17.

Blake is being held in the Central Regional Jail.

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