Finishing .500 is a big deal in Paden City.
With only 18 players in uniform, this is the same football program which conducts practice in an area behind the stadium bleachers within claustrophobic dimensions.
"Finishing .500 is a major accomplishment for our program," Paden City coach Brent Croasmun said. "We have no seniors on our team, so we just need to get these kids to all play again next season. We had five eighth graders on our middle school team, so we are hoping all five stay with it.
"There are no guarantees, but we have created some excitement. The goal is to be in the playoffs."
Last Friday at Valley (Wetzel), they rallied from an eight-point deficit in the final five minutes to win 24-20. In game No. 9, Paden City trailed South Harrison 25-13 at halftime before posting a second-half shutout and winning 26-25.
"Maybe the turning point in our season was our win against Conotton Valley because the kids gained a lot of confidence after that game," Croasmun said. "We had lost 20-19 to Cameron the week before and I could sense the kids were hurt from that loss. It seemed like every game we won after that, the kids immediately said 'what if we had defeated Cameron.'
"Early in the year we didn't talk about playoffs - we talked about getting better and being competitive. But when we won against Conotton Valley, we started talking about the chance that with six or seven wins we might be in the playoffs."
Unable to line up 11 against 11 in practice, Croasmun figured his team needed time to get acclimated to what type of offense best suited the Wildcats. As the season progressed, Paden City discovered that a passing game worked wonders.
Quarterback Zach Heasley finished the year throwing for 1,676 yards. A total of five players (Brandon Cross, Luke Cooper, Deven Price, Hayden Hizer and Craig Allen) each caught a minimum of 12 passes. Cross led all receivers with 46 receptions for 578 yards and seven touchdowns.
"Before our first game, we had some ideas what we wanted to do offensively," Croasmun said. "We thought we would be more of a running team. After the third game, we knew we had the receivers and good skill people to throw at.
"In Zach's case, he finally started to understand how to play quarterback. He got to a point where he would look at the defense and know where to go with the ball. He was really good at extending plays when there was pressure on him, and he made some real nice runs and throws."
The offseason will shift to the linemen, and making them stronger so that Paden City can toss in the run to go with the pass.
"I told the kids it's too bad we are not coming in Monday and preparing for another football game," Croasmun said. "We're ready for this to start all over again."
Contact Kerry Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org