CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Maybe George Washington was just a year too early.
A year ago, the Patriots began the 2013 football season with a new decal on each side of their helmet, centered above each player's jersey number in the school's official burgundy and gray.
The decal was in the shape of a tricorn cap, though the shape was difficult to identify with a Patriots' hat being that it wasn't navy blue. To some, the design looked more like the bat signal of superhero fame. Before midseason, the team had reverted to its more traditional decal, an appropriation of the old New England Patriots logo.
As it turns out, GW's bold move might have been shelved too early. In the Kanawha Valley alone, five of 12 football teams will take the field with new-look helmets this year.
Nitro, St. Albans, Riverside, Herbert Hoover and Winfield will look drastically different at the top of every uniform. St. Albans, Riverside, Hoover and Winfield have changed the base color of their helmets. Nitro will go with its third different decal in the six seasons since 2007, this time with a simple but steady, red "N" on each side.
St. Albans' new look includes a large, black "SA" on either side of a red helmet, while Hoover employs a "double H" design in red on white. Winfield is utilizing the same design as in the past several years, but instead of green decal, the Generals will use the "W" resting atop a star in white. The team's helmet is now green. Riverside's helmet is black, and will feature a silver "R" on each side.
All the aforementioned schools, with the exception of Hoover, will also use black facemasks, a change mirrored at Hurricane. The Redskins are also one of five area teams that have moved to a matte finish on the helmets, giving them a sturdier, unpolished look.
The trend in the helmet changes reflects the one at the college level, where fashion leaders like the University of Oregon - with its wealth of funding from nearby Nike - have lured recruits and wowed fans with multiple looks and increasingly wild uniform designs.
Other schools, with less free money that gets thrown Oregon's way by Nike co-founder and UO alum Phil Knight, have followed suit. Almost every major college program from Arizona State to Wyoming has tinkered with new-look lids in the past few seasons in attempt to attract attention to its program by fans and potential recruits.
While not in pursuit of new recruits - recruiting is a no-no in high school sports - the new looks serve a variety of purposes. Everything from luring athletes out of the halls and onto the practice field to turning the page on program history can be used as solid reasoning for a new look.
Along these lines, Mingo Central will debut its third new helmet in as many years of the school's existence this season. Designed by rising photography and graphics arts standout Wes Wilson - himself a 2012 Mingo Central graduate from Williamson - the black matte helmet is emblazoned with the light blue "M" with a pickaxe atop, with a blue 'stripe' that tapers from back to front.
At the base of the helmet in back, a black map of the state of West Virginia rests.
"I thought it was time that we did something that was more of a tribute to what our mascot is, rather than just a logo," Wilson said. "The pickaxe with the 'M' that we use didn't come into use until last year, as we're slowly trying to push away from the Miner logo the school initially had."
The miner used in the school's original logo looked more like the Brawny paper towel guy than any mineworker West Virginians have seen.
"Every detail on the helmet has some sort of symbolization to the mining industry," Wilson said. "Starting at the front, the nose plate sticker reads 'Dig In', not only representing a crucial part of the game but also what the real miners do to mine the rich natural resource found in our area."
Wilson continued by noting the choice of a matte finish was made in order to represent coal dust.