Contrary to some beliefs, football at Paden City High School is alive and well.
In fact, the Wildcats are already looking forward to their prospects for the next two seasons.
"We might be OK this year, but realistically next year should be a pretty good year," Paden City coach Brent Croasmun said.
Paden City graduated just one senior from last season and have 20 student-athletes participating in summer drills. Almost enough to hold full scrimmages, and something that doesn't occur too often at the school.
Since there are no seniors on the roster, Croasmun plans to lean heavily on his juniors for their leadership.
"The juniors have accepted their role," Croasmun said. "It's not like they haven't played any football. They do have some experience because they have had to play since they were freshmen."
Zach Heasley returns for his third year as the starting quarterback, while Brandon Cross rushed for more than 900 yards as a sophomore.
Juniors Kane Pyles, who is one of the fastest players in the program, and Craig Allen figure to receive their share of carries out of what Croasmun describes as a mixture of the spread and wing-T offense.
"Our main objective is to make people defend the whole field," Croasmun said. "We don't want to let the defense sit back and key on one or two players when I think I have four to five guys who can make plays when they have the ball."
The one X-factor Croasmun feels he can utilize is freshman Hayden Hizer, who has qualities you can't teach. At 5-foot-7 and 125 pounds, Hizer will not only fill a role at running back but he is also slated to start at point guard on the Paden City varsity boys basketball team.
"I know what I saw when he played at middle school - he has football skills that are unbelievable," Croasmun said. "Four different times I saw him strip the ballcarrier and run it back for a touchdown.
"We may even have plays for him at quarterback depending how things turn out. He can makes plays anywhere on the field."
Several years ago, Paden City featured a senior-dominated offensive line. This season, the Wildcats have the makings of a similar outfit - starting with 6-2, 260-pound third-year player Denton Thomas. Dakota Gatian and Logan Carrol will join Thomas in the trenches, while the two remaining slots are still up for grabs.
Luke Cooper switches from an offensive lineman to tight end.
Defenisvely, Paden City brings back two important ingredients at inside linebacker in Carroll and Isaac Hall. Despite missing two games because of injury, Carrol led the team in tackles.
"Because we are another year older, I want to establish a better running game - that's one big goal of mine," Croasmun said. "We're in the beginning stages with this new offense. It may take us a year to really get accustomed and get comfortable. It's nothing too difficult for the kids and we're trying to make it easy enough for them to understand."
Contact Kerry Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org