With a roster in the low 40s, eighth-year Wirt County head football coach Jason Hickman entered camp this year with a different feel.
That's because prior to last year's 4-6 record, which included three setbacks by a combined nine points, the orange and black had made the Class A playoffs five straight seasons.
Photo by Jay W. Bennett
Wirt County sophomore quarterback Mike Burns looks for a receiver during a preseason practice. Burns will join senior Kyle Windland as part of a two quarterback system this fall for the orange and black.
While a trio of offensive linemen - Walker Siers, Skylar Snyder and Dylan Pickrell - return to anchor things in the trenches, the Tigers once again will have a new starting signal-caller. Actually, make that two.
"We're going to have a two quarterback system," said Hickman, who is expecting big things from Trent Hardbarger and Cam Nelson in the running game along with projected top wideout Jared Blair.
Hickman said sophomore Mike Burns will handle the "under center and running our base and our 'I' stuff and all that" while senior Kyle Windland will handle the spread attack "because he's just a little jitterbug, kind of a dual threat type kid and Mike is more of a prototype dropback passer. So far it's working out well. They understand their role."
Wirt County, which will don new helmets this year featuring a flat-black look that includes chrome orange stripes and chrome Tiger paws outlined in white, will have its first scrimmage at 10 a.m. Saturday in New Matamoras against Frontier. At 7:30 p.m. the following Friday, the Elizabeth based squad will cross the Ohio River to take on Belpre.
"It's too early until you play somebody else," Hickman admitted when asked how things were looking early on. "But, at the same time our kids are working hard and have a good attitude. We just hope we can get back on track and hopefully have a couple things go our way this year.
"We're due after the season like last year where we had so many close calls. We just made mistake after mistake and in years past we kind of found a way to win a game and last year it seemed like we could find a way to lose one pretty easily."
Parkersburg High fans who want to get an early look at the Big Reds will get an opporunity to do so on Saturday, when the Big Reds conduct a scrimmage against Winfield, beginning at 10 a.m.
It will mark the first home scrimmage for Parkersburg in three seasons.
This will be the only time PHS will be at home until the second game of the regular season on Sept. 12 against Cabell Midland.
Parkersburg's second and final preseason scrimmage will be at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 23, when it meets Spring Valley in the Mountain State Athletic Conference Grid-O-Rama at the University of Charleston's Laidley Field.
PHS opens the regular season on Friday, Aug. 29, at Warren. If PHS wins that game, it will accomplish an historic victory as Parkersburg goes into the season with an overall record of 799 wins, 323 losses and 39 ties. A win over the Warriors and the Big Reds would become just the eighth high school football program in America to achieve 800 wins.
After the Warren game, PHS is taking its bye week and thus will have two weeks to prepare for the home opener versus Cabell Midland.