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2019 Kennedy Award winner Ethan Payne set to run with the Herd

(Story by Taylor Kennedy)

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Former Poca Dot Ethan Payne leaves behind a storybook career at Poca, and he is now beginning his next chapter under a new coaching staff at Marshall University.

Former Thundering Herd head football coach Doc Holliday was a big recruiter in bringing Payne to Cabell County. Payne had committed to Marshall last July expecting to play under Holliday. Holliday had been told earlier this year his contract would not be renewed. Charles Huff, former Alabama associate head coach, was announced as the new Thundering Herd head coach 13 days after Holliday left.

“I was set,” stated the Curt Warner Award winner on if the thought of leaving came up. “I never thought about opening my recruiting back up. I knew Coach Huff came from a good program in Alabama. Once I got down here, I could tell he came from Alabama because the practice was intense. We are in good hands right now.”

When Payne and Coach Huff officially met for the first time, they immediately hit it off.

“It was special,” noted Payne. “He wanted to run through a brick wall while talking to me. That is when you know that is who you want to play for.”

Payne rushed 93 times for 806 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns in only four games his senior season with the Dots. He will be competing against bigger and stronger players in college.

“My flexibility,” Payne stated on what he wants to improve on this offseason. “I did not realize how flexible our guys are. That will help me going into the season.

“That happens by adjusting to different offenses and more calls.”

Payne spent the bulk of his prep career in the backfield. He excelled at the running back position running for over 5,700 yards and 83 touchdowns. 

“I have the speed to break long ones and the power to run over somebody,” Payne noted on what he brings to the table.

Payne held one offer to play college football last summer. That one offer came from the Thundering Herd. Payne announced his decision last July with an unclear answer as to what recruiting would look like his senior year.

“I had no idea if I would be recruited because we could not have a football season,” said the 2019 Kennedy Award winner. 

Payne helped lead the Dots to the state football playoffs two of the four seasons. Poca only lost two games in Payne’s last two seasons. He missed the end of his sophomore season due to an injury. 

“If I did not get hurt my sophomore year, I would have dreamed it like I did growing up,” said Payne on his career with Poca. “Growing up and watching high school games, I told myself that I wanted to do that and achieve this and that. I set my goals my freshman year, and I pretty much achieved them all.”

Ethan played three seasons with his younger brother Toby on the gridiron and hardwood. Toby is heading into his senior season, and he holds 12 offers, including Marshall.

“It was special,” noted Payne. “You won’t think about it until it is over with. Hopefully, I will see him in green next year.”

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State Fair of W.Va. ready to go with no restrictions

FAIRLEA, W.Va. — A year after they were forced to cancel for 2020 due to the pandemic, organizers of the State Fair of West Virginia said they cannot wait until this year’s even gets started. Fair week in Greenbrier County is set for August 12-21 and Fair CEO Kelly Collins said it will largely be a normal event with very few restrictions.

“We’ve worked closely with the health department and the Governor’s office, so we’re pretty comfortable at moving to open at 100 percent capacity and masks will be optional,” she explained.

There will be a couple of pandemic effects still noticeable. Collins said they’ll still be doing enhanced cleaning and fair goers may find some of the exhibit halls will feature only one way traffic.  The aim is to cut down on congestion and allow for natural social distancing. She said anybody in a high risk group is advised to consider precautions.

The Health Department will also be on the fairgrounds every day offering free Covid 19 vaccinations to anybody who may not have received them.

Collins expected there will be a huge turnout on every night.

“From looking at other festivals across the state and across the county, there’s been great attendance. People are pent up, there’s a lot of pent up demand and people are really looking forward to getting out. So we’re looking forward to a really good week and probably a busy week,” she said.

Organizers are still looking for a grandstand act for Wednesday night and expect to have an announcement in the coming days. The rest of the fair’s grandstand lineup was announced a few weeks back and features one of the most diverse entertainment selections ever.

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Photo gallery: Point Pleasant edges Logan in regional opener

LOGAN, W.Va. — Photos from Point Pleasant’s 5-4 win at Logan in the opening game of the Class AA Region IV tournament. Logan rallied to take game two, 7-3 Tuesday. The decisive game is set for Wednesday at 6 p.m. in Logan.

(Photos courtesy of Boothe Davis/Captured by the Moment Photography)

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DHHR Wednesday report: Active COVID-19 cases down, hospitalizations back up

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Hospitalizations due to COVID-19 in West Virginia rose on Wednesday while active cases lowered in the daily report by the state Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR).

Active cases stand at 2,673, a drop from Tuesday’s 2,710 reported. That’s the lowest active case total in West Virginia since September 5 of last year with 2,610. 90 news cases were confirmed Wednesday.

Hospitalizations due to the virus are at 125 patients, up 10 from the 115 reported on Tuesday. Tuesday’s figure was the lowest number of COVID-19 patients since Aug. 4. Patients in the ICU are 37, the lowest since July 2020.

DHHR confirmed five new deaths on Wednesday including an 85-year old male from Kanawha County, a 66-year old female from Raleigh County, a 77-year old female from Tyler County, an 85-year old male from Greenbrier County, and a 71-year old male from Greenbrier County.

“We mourn the loss of these West Virginians and send our deepest sympathies to their loved ones,” said Bill J. Crouch, DHHR Cabinet Secretary. “Please honor these families by protecting yourself and others with the COVID-19 vaccine.”

Vaccination numbers from the Centers for Disease Control show 50.3% of those 12 and older in West Virginia have been fully vaccinated, 784,131 doses. More than 61% of that age group have received at least one dose of vaccine, 955,964 people.

Cases per county: Barbour (1,512), Berkeley (12,796), Boone (2,171), Braxton (1,001), Brooke (2,246), Cabell (8,862), Calhoun (381), Clay (541), Doddridge (636), Fayette (3,544), Gilmer (881), Grant (1,307), Greenbrier (2,882), Hampshire (1,919), Hancock (2,839), Hardy (1,567), Harrison (6,140), Jackson (2,225), Jefferson (4,776), Kanawha (15,454), Lewis (1,280), Lincoln (1,592), Logan (3,271), Marion (4,626), Marshall (3,533), Mason (2,048), McDowell (1,612), Mercer (5,117), Mineral (2,971), Mingo (2,722), Monongalia (9,390), Monroe (1,204), Morgan (1,224), Nicholas (1,893), Ohio (4,303), Pendleton (724), Pleasants (959), Pocahontas (681), Preston (2,954), Putnam (5,314), Raleigh (7,057), Randolph (2,841), Ritchie (755), Roane (659), Summers (857), Taylor (1,271), Tucker (545), Tyler (741), Upshur (1,959), Wayne (3,180), Webster (543), Wetzel (1,386), Wirt (456), Wood (7,923), Wyoming (2,040).

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Evidence continues to be provided to defense in W.Va. man’s U.S. Capitol siege case

Evidence is still being turned over to defense attorneys for George Tanios, the West Virginia man accused of participating in the assault of police officers at the U.S. Capitol.

George Tanios (Central Regional Jail)

Tanios, a Morgantown sandwich shop owner, and co-defendant Julian Khater participated in a status hearing today before U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan in the District of Columbia.

Much of the process involves going through the mountain of evidence collected around the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. There are almost 500 defendants in a variety of charges from that day.

Gilead Light of the U.S. Attorney’s Office today told the judge that progress is being made in turning over evidence to the legal teams for Tanios and Khater.

“We have made good progress. We expect that progress to continue over the next month,” Light told the judge.

He alluded to the broad issue of sorting out common evidence over so many interrelated cases.

“I believe we’ve been able to get substantial discovery in the hands of both defense teams, and we will continue to do so,” he said.

Public access to the hearing was cut short when a conference call failed, dropping reporters and observers from the line.

Lawyers for Tanios have argued that evidence to charge and hold Tanios, including video from the Capitol, has been cherry-picked. They contend a broader set of video could tell a different story about Tanios’s activities that day.

In court documents submitted so far, Tanios’s lawyers contend that at an earlier detention hearing the government’s evidence was not strong.

“The government presented no physical evidence. The government presented no statements by Mr. Tanios and no written or recorded statements by the co-defendant, Mr. Khater,” the defense attorneys wrote.

Most evidence presented so far has been video clips from the Capitol that day.

“The video clips fail to show any intent to harm officers, knowledge that officers would be injured or any agreement by Mr. Tanios to do harm,” his lawyers wrote. “The video clips fail to show Mr. Tanios use any weapon, chemical spray or inflammatory agent.”

Tanios is accused of obtaining and carrying extremely strong pepper spray, and Khater is accused of spraying it at the officers, causing them to be injured and resulting in a distraction that enabled others to breach a bike rack barrier outside the Capitol. One of the officers, Brian Sicknick, later died but a medical examiner ruled the chemical spray was not the direct cause.

The mob storming the U.S. Capitol disrupted the constitutional duty of counting Electoral College votes and prompted the evacuations of representatives, senators and Vice President Mike Pence. One woman was fatally shot while trying to climb into the chambers, three others died from “medical emergencies” and more than 100 police officers were injured.

Of the thousands of protesters in Washington, D.C., that day, about 800 went into the Capitol, police have said. More than 400 people have been charged so far.

Tanios and Khater have been held in jail while awaiting trial, which could be months and months considering the many cases. Judge Hogan in D.C. and U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael Aloi each have rejected requests to release the two from jail.

Tanios and Khater each are challenging the latest bond ruling in U.S. Appeals Court for the District of Columbia.

Tanios has proposed abiding by several conditions including home detention with electronic monitoring, 24-hour video surveillance, a restricted list of visitors, designated visiting hours, abstaining from use of smart phones or social media sites and reporting daily to pretrial services.





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Supreme Court rules against charter school’s challenge to its rejection

The state Supreme Court has ruled against a charter school’s challenge to its rejection in Monongalia and Preston counties.

Justices issued a memorandum decision on Tuesday afternoon, siding against the arguments brought by West Virginia Academy, which last year proposed a new school serving Monongalia and Preston counties. All five justices signed the decision.

Oral arguments in the case were May 4.

The charter school applicant contended the counties didn’t follow the proper process, that they missed a deadline, that missing the deadline meant the application should have automatically been considered approved, and that the state Department of Education should have stepped in to facilitate the approval.

West Virginia Academy’s suit is against the Department of Education, contending it had the final say, rather than against the counties.

The justices concluded the Department of Education did not have that obligation and that the law did not spell out their ability to do so.

“After reviewing the parties’ written and oral arguments, as well as the submitted record and the applicable law, this Court concludes that the Department does not have a legal duty to do that which the petitioner seeks,” justices wrote.

Later in the memorandum, they elaborated.

“WV Academy could have sought legal redress against the two county boards of education in this matter but did not do so,” justice wrote. “In essence, WV Academy is seeking to have the Department serve as an appellate tribunal to decide whether or not a county board of education authorizer properly and timely conducted its application review.”

But such a process isn’t included in the law established by the Legislature in 2019, justices wrote.

The Department of Education contended that the two counties don’t believe they missed the deadline and so there’s no clear way for the state to intervene.

Deciphering the actual deadline is a point of confusion.

State law gave county boards 90 days from the date of a charter school application to decide whether to approve. If no action was taken, an application would be considered approved by default.

West Virginia Academy submitted its application July 24.

That would have made the deadline for a decision Oct. 22.

Monongalia and Preston did not meet that deadline.

However, there was a different way to interpret the deadline. Rules established by the state Department of Education for the first year established an August 31 deadline covering all charter school applications.

And that rule established a deadline 90 days after that, Nov. 30, for authorizers to approve or deny applications.

Lawyers for the state Department of Education wrote that there was a reason for deadlines that would be consistent for all applicants. West Virginia had limited the number of charter schools to three the first year, and there was anticipation that multiple applicants might be competing against each other.

“The underlying public education policy supporting this rule is to prevent a scenario in which the first charter school applications in the door get acted upon merely because they beat everyone else to the punch on the calendar,” lawyers for the state board wrote in their brief to the Supreme Court.

The Monongalia and Preston County boards met Nov. 30 — the exact day of that deadline — and rejected the charter school application.

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WVU Medicine Unveils Surgical Theatre Virtual Reality Suite in Martinsburg

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — It’s a never-before seen view into the brain, giving surgeons and patients a detailed look into where tumors and spine malformations are and the best ways to approach them for treatment.

Dr. Jonathan H. Sherman is the Director of Surgical Neuro-Oncology at WVU Medicine Berkeley Medical Center.  “The system that we have allows us to reconstruct the highways in the brain. Those are the important connections from one part of the brain to the other. We can relate those highways to the critical tumor or the other thing we need to remove. Sometimes it’s an aneurysm that we need to clip that might have bled. Sometimes it’s a tumor, sometimes it’s a stroke that we need to deal with.”

The Eastern Panhandle location recently became the first hospital in West Virginia to acquire Surgical Theater’s Precision Virtual Reality® platform for neurological surgery. That means Berkeley Medical Center is among fewer than 10 percent of facilities in the country that have the system.

The system uses “a reconstructed, 360°VR model based on the patient’s CT and MRI scans” to create an in-depth picture of the brain that can be customized so the surgeon can pinpoint where a tumor might be and which path through blood vessels is best to take. It also allows surgeons to give a picture to their patients of not only what is going on inside their head or spinal column, but also how the surgical team will tackle it.

Sherman says it’s a game changer.  “Better patient engagement so they can better understand what they’re dealing with and why they have the symptoms they have – so that’s one way. And then once we’re in the operating room, not only have we planned it, we’re actually using that reconstructed image versus the traditional 2D image, and it so well correlates to the real anatomy that it makes it safer and the patients do better,” Sherman said.

Sherman says he’s been in the Eastern Panhandle since the end of August. In that time, he’s used the technology in at least 300 consultations and diagnostics. He’s used it in the OR 15 times.

Getting a clear picture of the inner workings of the brain is key, as Sherman says as much as 20 percent of patients see a doctor for something that has a neurological connection.

“Surgical Theater will allow our patients to better understand the location of their tumor and why they are having the associated symptoms,” Sherman, said. “It allows us to show patients how we are going to safely remove the tumor, plan the surgical resection using a combination of virtual and augmented reality, and then use the system in the operating room during the actual tumor resection.”

Patients can put on a Virtual Reality headset and go as deep into the image of their brain as they care to go using the technology.

Berkeley Medical Center has equipped its neurosurgeons with a dedicated virtual reality clinic room where patients can interact directly with their 360°VR models. By simply slipping on a VR headset, Precision Virtual Reality® empowers both surgeons and patients with the technological ability to walk into a 360-degree virtual reconstruction of the patient’s anatomy. When utilized during the surgical consult, this personalized, immersive VR view leads to enhanced patient experience, education, and satisfaction.

Sherman says the system will be invaluable in the training of medical students and residents.

Surgical Theater resources at Berkeley Medical Center also includes SyncAR, an augmented reality visualization hub that gives surgeons the ability to see hidden anatomical and vascular structures, pathologies, and DTI white matter tracks synchronized and aligned to the surgeon’s operative view. With SyncAR, the patient’s 360°VR model is overlaid onto the anatomy of the patient and viewed through the oculars of the microscope, allowing surgeons to never take their eyes off the patient.

The effort is part of the WVU Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute (RNI)

For more information, visit or

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MetroNews This Morning 6-16-21

Governor Jim Justice say West Virginia Day on Sunday will be a big day. Covid 19 figures continue to decline in West Virginia. The state’s pandemic unemployment benefits program will end this weekend. The DNC defends the election of embattled West Virginia Democratic Party Chair Belinda Biafore. In Sports, the state baseball and softball tournaments are starting to take shape. Those stories and more in today’s MetroNews This Morning podcast.

Listen to “MetroNews This Morning 6-16-21” on Spreaker.

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Logan collects 14 hits, takes Point Pleasant to the limit in regional

POINT PLEASANT, W.Va. — Logan scored four runs in the fifth inning to break a 1-1 tie as the Wildcats kept their season alive with a 7-3 win at Point Pleasant in the Class AA Region IV tournament.

The decisive frame was started with some ‘small ball’. Garrett Williamson led off the frame with a bunt single. Tyler Fenwick followed that up by reaching on a bunt as well. A throwing error allowed Williamson to score all the way from first base and the Wildcats kept the lead the rest of the way.

“That’s what we do. Can we hit? Sure we can. We can run like crazy. We’ve got seven guys in our lineup typically that are sprinters,” said Logan head coach Kevin Gertz.

“We bunt and put pressure on people. And in high school ball, that is tough to defend.”

The Tigers scored three more runs in the fifth take stretch their lead to 5-1. Point Pleasant cut the deficit in half with a two-run sixth inning. However, the Wildcats answered with two more runs in the seventh.

Logan (24-6) pounded out 14 hits in the contest. Fenwick earned the win for the Wildcats. He pitched into the sixth inning, scattering six hits while striking out five batters.

“He gutted it out. And it was tight for a long time. But he just wasn’t giving in.”

Chad Burnette collected the final four outs for the Wildcats, retiring four of the five batters he faced.

The regional series shifts back to Logan Wednesday at 6 p.m. for the decisive game. The winner will advance to the state tournament. Gertz’s starting lineup on Tuesday included six sophomores.

“For a year and a half to two years, they have killed themselves in the weight room. So our sophomores are as strong as a lot of juniors or seniors. That has made a huge difference.”

Konnor Lowe went 3-for-4 for the Wildcats with three RBI. Korbin Bostic, Dawson Maynard, Fenwick and Aiden Slack also had multi-hit games for Logan.

Tanner Mitchell went 3-for-3 with an RBI for Point Pleasant (21-9). Riley Oliver and Joel Beattie also drove in runs for the Big Blacks. Point defeated Logan 5-4 Monday evening in the series opener. They had won three consecutive postseason games by one run.

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The Politics of Boundaries

The 2022 election in West Virginia will be about campaigns, fund raising, political ads, debates, and policy disagreements.

But now, the election is about boundaries, as in the lines that separate the political districts within our state.

Every ten years, each state uses new Census data to reapportion congressional and legislative districts based on population.

West Virginia’s process is underway.  The House of Delegates and the Senate have appointed bipartisan committees—24 members from the House and 9 members from the Senate—to do the work.

Lawmakers are expected to hold a series of public hearings across the state.  Citizens will have an opportunity to give their input on anything associated with redistricting, such as which communities should be included in a district or divided into separate districts.

By late August, the Census should have delivered to the state preliminary population figures broken down into Census blocks.  These are the smallest population units.  West Virginia had over 135,000 Census blocks in the 2010 Census.

The final numbers will not arrive until late September.

Once those figures are available and the public comments have been taken, staff members in the House and Senate will begin drawing their respective districts. The staffers will use specialized mapping software called Maptitude.

The company says its software allows users to “visualize data in new and different ways, unearth geographic patterns hidden in your data, and convey that information in a straightforward manner.”

The Senate mapping may be just simple tweaking. The House redistricting will be more complicated since it is moving to all single-member districts, increasing the number of districts from 67 to 100.  The process could be particularly contentious in Monongalia and Kanawha Counties where multi-member districts will be split, likely pitting incumbents against each other in the next election.

Meanwhile, a joint legislative redistricting committee will redraw the congressional boundaries. West Virginia is losing a representative because of population decline so the state will be bifurcated.  That will produce a head-to-head primary election battle in 2022 if all three Republican incumbent members of Congress run for re-election.

Lawmakers will gather in special session later this year to consider, potentially change, and ultimately approve the new boundaries. They are facing a tight deadline.

The 2022 election is on November 8.  The state Constitution requires that a Delegate or Senator live in the district they serve for at least one year before elected to the seat.  So, the legislature wants to finish redistricting before this November in case an individual needs to relocate to be eligible to serve.

Marking lines on a map of our state is not very compelling political news.  But how and where those boundaries are drawn will ultimately have a significant impact on the political makeup of our state.


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