Pioneers open on the road tonight

Photo courtesy of Glenville State College Glenville State College senior defensive lineman Austin Hill is hoping to help the Pioneers rebound from a 4-7 campaign a year ago. The G-men have their season opener and begin Mountain East Conference play at 7 p.m. today with a road trip to Virginia-Wise.

GLENVILLE — Senior Austin Hill wants to put last year behind him.

The Glenville State College defensive lineman will get that chance along with his teammates come 7 p.m. today when the Pioneers open their campaign against Mountain East Conference foe Virginia-Wise at Carl Smith Stadium.

A year ago, the G-men suffered through a 4-7 campaign and that included having an early lead in the season opener inside the friendly confines of Morris Stadium versus the Cavaliers before falling 41-29.

“Slow start obviously,” Hill said of last season. “We had a lot of young guys coming in and being inexperienced at the college level we didn’t have very many retuners and that didn’t help either.

“We didn’t send those seniors out last year like we wanted to. I would hate to be in their shoes going out 4-7 and that’s kind of the motivation this year. It’s my last ride. I want to do everything I can do to make it a lot better than 4-7.”

Hill, a physical education and health major, was a first team all-state Class AA selection coming out of Nicholas County High School.

He went to Marshall University, was redshirted and then found his way to Gilmer County.

“It’s been really good,” Hill said of his experience as a Pioneer. “I went to Marshall and it was a lot bigger, but coming back here I like to compare it to Nicholas County.

“Small town and pretty well everyone knows everybody. My overall experience here is great. I wouldn’t change anything about it.”

Once again this season, the G-men have experience in spots and are still young in other places. Of course, Hill and his teammates have been working hard since the spring and through preseason camp with hopes of starting off the 2018 campaign with a bang.

“Not a lot of returners (on defense), but the ones we do have they are young, but they did have some playing time last year,” added Hill, who had 46 total stops, 9.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, four pass breakups, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries as a junior. “They do have confidence in what they are doing.

“They are able to run the plays they are given. They know our defense for the most part. We’re figuring everything out and solidifying spots. Overall, I think we are going to be OK defensively. Offensively, we are the same way. We are young up front. We are all pretty young across the board.”

GSC senior wide receiver Austin Ratliff is a game-time decision for the tilt, but the G-men have a bevy of talented wideouts ready to haul in passes from Jaylen McNair, who last fall led all Division II freshman quarterbacks with 20 TD tosses. The Pioneers should have a solid run game with returning tailback Thomas Boles and ex-Florida State Seminole Mario Pender.

“He’s a tough guy to bring down,” Hill said of Pender. “I’m not going to lie. He’s a very solid running back, a quick learner and he runs downhill well.

“He’s obviously experienced at the DI level. I like him better on our team than playing against him.”

Having suffered a number of tight setbacks in 2017, Hill is hoping the Pioneers’ fortunes will turn the other way this season.

“We’re definitely due for some wins,” he said. “We had plenty of close games that we didn’t pull out at the end. I’m really hoping we can pull through the fourth quarter. The fourth quarter was really what killed us last year.

“So far so good. I definitely trust the guys behind me. I don’t really care how old they are. They’re going through practices and I know they can get the job done. As long as they trust me as I trust them and we get our jobs done then I think we’ll be just fine.”

Of course, many components and intangibles make up a gridiron season, which is something not lost on Hill.

“I’m hoping with the guys we do have back and have playing experience, if we can come out against these teams and play all four quarters, if we play all four quarters, we are good enough to win games,” Hill added.

“If we can just keep building off the wins and then (keep) confidence. I think we started losing (last year) and our confidence level would die and it would kill us in the long run.”