CHARLESTON, W.Va. - As impressive as Ross Comis was in 2012, the Madonna senior quarterback might not even possess the most eagerly awaited Class A curtain call in this season.
That might take place just about 20 miles south of Weirton on Route 2, and belong to Wheeling Central senior quarterback Parker Henry.
Henry (6-foot, 185 pounds), who guided the Maroon Knights to the 2011 Class A state championship as a sophomore and was a Daily Mail Preseason All-State selection a year ago, tore his ACL in a scrimmage against Tucker County last August and never played another down in 2012. C.J. Burch - a converted running back - played quarterback for Central last year.
Henry's back, and larger and stronger than before.
"He's ripped, raring and ready to go," Central coach Mike Young said this week. "Having him back definitely gives us the ability to open up our attack. We can throw and run with both of those guys."
Henry ran for 1,259 yards and 17 touchdowns on 185 carries his sophomore season, while completing 32 of 75 passes for 696 yards, 11 touchdowns and one interception.
Central enters the season as the slight favorite to win the small-school title, although 2012 runner-up Madonna, defending champion Wahama, 2012 semifinalist Magnolia and Greenbrier West should make things interesting as well.
Perennial power Williamstown and 2012 semifinalist Tucker County could challenge, as could an experienced St. Marys.
"Ross Comis in a quality student-athlete. He's one of the best," Young said. "We know we're going to see him, and we're going to see Bishop Donahue, Williamstown, Magnolia, all of them along the way.
"We've got nothing but challenges ahead of us, but that's the way it's supposed to be. We'll know where we stand, but at the same time those teams will know where they stand too."
Comis (6-2, 210) already was a household name among small-school fans, but became a big-ticket item when he scored six touchdowns in the Blue Dons' 43-42 loss to Wahama in overtime at the Super Six last December. He is second among returning Class A passers having completed 95 of 147 passes for 1,452 yards, 18 touchdowns and six interceptions a year ago. He also ran the ball 193 times for 1,591 yards and 27 TDs, putting him in the top five of returning rushers.
In all, he accounted for 3,043 yards and 45 touchdowns. Comis is the only Class A player named to the 6th Annual Daily Mail Preseason All-State team, where he is listed as an offensive utility player.
Central finished 7-4 and was ousted in the playoff quarterfinals by East Hardy last year while using Burch (5-11, 170) as a season-long fill-in for Henry. Burch rolled up 1,637 rushing yards and scored 21 touchdowns at QB, but will return to his natural position at running back for his senior season in 2013. Burch completed 44 of 94 passes for 763 yards, nine touchdowns and six interceptions.
"Chris Burch is a team player. He always has been, going back to his freshman year," Young said. "He's been a leader. He moved from running back to quarterback and just went about his business."