Catholic only loses four players from 7-3 season

PARKERSBURG – Despite posting a 7-3 record last year, Parkersburg Catholic’s football team missed out on making the Class A state playoffs for the second straight season, A calamity? Not really, although PC is used to playing in the post-season with certain regularity, having made the playoffs 17 of the past 20 seasons.

Hopes are high in Crusaderland this fall as PC lost only four players from that 2013 squad, whose only losses were to playoff teams in St. Marys, Valley (Fayette) and Williamstown.

The first obstacle Jeff Campbell’s Crusaders are facing before the 2014 campaign even begins, though, is a schedule that currently has only nine games.

There’s a home-game opening on Saturday, Oct. 4, but also Catholic has a bye week the following weekend, so a game could be wedged into that spot if necessary.

“Danny (Tennant, PC’s athletic director) is still working on getting us a 10th game,” said Campbell, in his fourth year at the Crusader helm. “But if you play just nine games, you divide by 9 instead of 10 when it comes to the point totals (to determine the WVSSAC ratings).”

Campbell, a former assistant under Tennant, remembered that “maybe eight, 10 years ago, we had nine games one year. So I don’t think I’ll feel any different pressure if we do only play nine games, not 10. The schedule’s hard enough already.”

This year, Pocahontas County, Calhoun County and South Harrison are off the schedule, replaced by Clarksburg Notre Dame and Belpre so far.

“Notre Dame made the playoffs last year and Belpre’s good; they should be awfully strong this year,” said Campbell. “Buffalo’s got everybody back, they were awfully young last year. And Valley (Fayette) always has a nice team.”

Then there’s the usual tough LKC rivalries with St. Marys, Wirt County, Williamstown, Doddridge County and Gilmer County. “So there’s no week off with that schedule; it could be pretty tough,” said Campbell. “That’s why I’m not too excited if we have two weeks open.”

Campbell thinks his team’s numbers this fall will be in the low 20s, at 22 or 23 -“so about where we’re usually at,” he said. “But for us, we do have a decent amount of seniors, seven or eight, who have all played at least three years and some all four now. And overall, we do have a fair amount of kids back this year, so have a core group returning.”

The key replacement part Campbell is looking for this year is a new starting quarterback to take over for southpaw-throwing Payton Sturm, a two-year starter.

“Right now, we’re looking at three different kids who will be given some reps at quarterback, and then we’ll see how it shakes out in August,” said Campbell. The possibilities are sophomores Alex Hinton and Christian Tallman, and senior Jake Boice. “Between those three, hopefully one will separate himself and I’m sure the other two, if they’re not at quarterback, will be somewhere else.”

Hinton and Boice were both backups last year to Sturm, who, Campbell said, was “literally like having a coach out there on the field.” Hinton “has the basic knowledge of the position, but needs a little more confidence in himself,” said Campbell. “Christian got a lot of reps in the three-week coaching period in June. But Jake, I’d like to not have to put him there (at QB). Because he’s a good receiver and good running back, I’d like to be able to use him other places.”

Campbell and his coaching staff used the three-week period in June to basically have his players, especially the first-year and younger ones, “really learn our schemes. We are so dependent on them learning how to play more than one position. Because with our numbers, injuries are the bane of our existence.”