PARKERSBURG -Last year, Parkersburg South football fans had to buy a program in order to learn the coaches and the players on the Patriots roster.
That won't be the case this season.
Not only is head coach Mike Eddy and most of his assistant coaches back for their second season on the Patriots' sideline, but many of last year's key performers also return.
Parkersburg South head football coach Mike Eddy, right, speaks to his players before a team workout last season. The Patriots open the 2014 campaign against Ripley.
Return from a 2-8 team that looked impressive in its season opener versus Ripley, but then dropped eight of its last nine games.
Eddy likes what he sees in preseason drills. Communication between the coaching staff and the players is vastly improved from a year ago. Plus, this group of players has bonded with one another and formed an "us against the world'' mentality.
Now, says Eddy, those players must learn how to win. Win against one of the most difficult schedules in the state. A schedule that includes matchups with Three Rivers Athletic Conference rivals Morgantown, University, Wheeling Park, Brooke and John Marshall, as well as games against Ripley, Warren Local, Point Pleasant, Greenbrier East and the traditional season finale against crosstown rival Parkersburg High.
South averaged 28 points per game last season, so generating offense wasn't its Achilles heel. Once again, the Patriots should be productive offensively as not only are several key returners back, but they will be joined by some talented newcomers who should add even more weapons to South's arsenal.
Last year, sophomore quarterback Garrett Gilkeson threw for more than 1,000 yards. This year, he has looked impressive in 7-on-7 drills, including getting noticed by the learned eyes of Marshall University assistant coach Bill Legg during a session in Huntington.
He's got a pair of good-sized targets to whom he can throw in Cody Boggs and Cole Day, who will line up on opposite sides of the field in an effort to spread the opposing defense.
Running back Brendan Schwendeman, who set a school record by rushing for more than 400 yards versus Ripley last season, is back and is one of the team's captains and leaders.
Eddy also is encouraged by Matt Peters, who came out late last year and proved himself but with his ability and leadership.
The Patriots got a major boost and surprise when basketball standout Cody Monroe reported for camp, adding his athleticism to South's offensive arsenal.
Anchoring the line will be returning captain and center Luke Williams. Eddy tells his players if you want to know how something is done, "Watch Luke.'' Senior left tackle Tommy Hall, a standout wrestler during the winter, gives South another two-way lineman. He'll be joined up front by tackle Dane Mills.
South's kicking game will be in good hands as reliable senior Micah Boles returns.
"We're lightyears ahead of where we were at last year,'' Eddy said.