Pass the ibuprofen. Nitro High football coach Scott Tinsley must deal with the loss of Kennedy Award winner Josh Culbertson at running back and Chris Fulmer, one of the state’s top receivers.

Tinsley admits he has a lot of work to do as fall practice begins today.

“Obviously there’s some gaping holes,” Tinsley said. “Gaping is an understatement.”

In leading Nitro to the Class AAA championship game, where it lost to Morgantown in overtime, Culbertson set six regular-season and career state records, including 7,842 yards rushing. Fulmer broke the national record for career receptions last season, finishing with 329.

“You just can’t replace” them, Tinsley said. “You can’t do it. So we’ll have to go in some different directions.”

Michael Scott returns at quarterback and may be asked to throw the ball as many as 40 times a game.

The biggest concern is the lack of depth at running back.

“Chris Kilpatrick did a nice job of coming into games at the end of games, but he doesn’t have any experience” when the game is on the line, Tinsley said.

He said the odds are against Nitro making it back to the state title game.

“We’re just trying to get our six or seven wins, get in the playoffs and see what happens,” Tinsley said.

Nitro isn’t the only 2005 playoff finalist with potential problems.

A court challenge aside, Eric Meek can finally get back to his biggest task — rebuilding Class AA champion Weir.

Weir lost 19 seniors and all but three starters from the team that beat Bluefield 40-0 in the title game last December.

Among the heroes that are gone are running back Josh Smith, who ran for 215 yards and scored three touchdowns against Bluefield; running back Corey Lyons, who had 101 yards and a 22-yard fumble return for a TD; and the duo of quarterback Brandon Sperlazza and wide receiver Jason Gatto.

“We have a very, very young football team,” Meek said. “We do have a lot of work ahead of us. But these kids have worked very hard. They come in and it’s a ’yes sir, no sir’ approach. They want to do things the right way.”

Jordan Taflan, who spent time at wide receiver and cornerback last year, will move to quarterback in place of Sperlazza, who threw for 1,148 yards, ran for 450 more and was responsible for 23 touchdowns.

Taflan is more of a dropback passer who possesses great speed.

“We’re not going to hesitate putting him on the perimeter and letting him make some decisions,” Meek said.

Meek, now in his second year, retained his job after the Hancock County Board of Education settled out of court with a former assistant who filed a grievance when he was turned down for the position.

The board in the spring approved a $14,000 settlement with Bob Orlando, who in return agreed not to be a head coach in Hancock County for the next four years.

Across the state, there are plenty of new head coaches this year.

At Parkersburg South, Don Reeves replaces the retired Mike Devol, who led the Patriots to the 2003 Class AAA championship.

At John Marshall, longtime assistant Mark Hinerman replaces Mike Linsky, who died of cancer in May at age 55. Linsky coached John Marshall the past 23 seasons and won three state championships. Hinerman coached quarterbacks over Linsky’s entire tenure.

Last fall Linsky led John Marshall to an 8-3 record and its first berth in the Class AAA playoffs since 1999.

Gordon Carter is returning to Gilbert, which he led to the 1995 Class A championship. He coached at Gilbert for 12 seasons, posting a 100-39 record, before resigning in 2000. Carter replaces Larry Cook, who resigned to become an assistant coach at Westside.

Other new head coaches include Harold Michael at Greenbrier East; John Mess-inger at South Charleston; Mike Lucas at Ritchie County; Doug Ward at Williamson, and Dave Chipps at Buckhannon-Upshur.

And Hamlin’s John Shimp takes over for the debut season at Lincoln County, which is the consolidation of Harts, Duval, Guyan Valley and Hamlin.

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