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ALBRIGHT: Tanner, company deserve community’s support

Brandon Penn is back home after a successful surgery.

It is a development inserting another happy note on the best Parkersburg South football season since 2003.

More good times arrive in a few weeks. The release of the Kennedy Award, where Penn is in the running, and the Class AAA all-state lists, where several Patriots are likely to be featured, conclude the festivities.

After the announcements, the business of keeping the program among the state’s elites begins for head coach Nate Tanner and the entire Patriot community.

Business should be booming.

The proof is in the pudding.

Feeder schools, parents, administration, staff and players supporting each other can help the blue and white with a touch of red beat Martinsburg. Tanner knows this as he said as much Monday night during an evening interview.

“It is a four- to five-year process to build something like Martinsburg,” said Tanner.

Is he in this for the long haul?

“I will be around as long as they will have me,” said Tanner.

If year one was any indication, Patriots fans should want him around for a long time. Even the thought of the playoffs at the beginning of the season seemed a long shot. Two returning starters on offense and one on defense meant a lot of growing and experimenting.

I am willing to bet many fans and alumni enjoyed the results. An 11-2 record with a run to the state semifinals? Those are results any school or team should be happy with at season’s end.

Blennerhassett and Edison Middle School coaches need to throw out any plans of winning the county championship. Your job, as it should always have been, centers around the preparation of your players for the high-school level. If those schools win the county championship, great. Winning with Tanner’s system is the top priority. Basic formations, language, and expectations from the South program now makes up your entire coaching diet.

This goes double for any rec programs on the southside.

Though it might sound unappealing, the truth is high school football matters more in every city.

“When everyone buys into one thing something special can happen. You can change the culture of a school and the community,” said Tanner.

Why wouldn’t all Patriot supporters want to keep this train going as long as possible?

The proof of success with this method slapped everyone in the face Saturday in the Eastern Panhandle. Dave Walker’s Bulldogs kept scoring even after the first-team offensive unit left the game against South’s top unit. Everyone buying in to what the coach is selling works. Martinsburg is a nationally-ranked program and as another example the Bridgeport Indians are chasing their fourth state championship of the aughts.

Future Indians running the BHS plan from the time they start youth football leads to minor tweaks at the high school level. This means Bridgeport’s staff hits the ground running every season.

Walker and his staff’s strength programs stretch back to the sixth grade.

Because of this planning, anyone can earn a shot with the Bulldogs and Indians. Jarod Bowie, Martinsburg’s best wide receiver, playing in the state championship game his freshman season worked out well.

I was at that game and saw him catch several impressive passes from now NCAA Division II quarterback Tyson Bagent. Bowie was the No. 2 choice on my Kennedy Ballot this season.

Freshman Cyrus Traugh shows the magic closer to home. He consistently stood out as one of those impact youth for the Patriots.

His message of achievement is a simple one: If a player shows up and proves their worth, there is always a spot for them on any team. No one can guess when an injury occurs or the time is right for someone to make a big play.

Tanner went out of his way to install this culture in the program in a hurry. Some upperclassmen in the second scrimmage this season complained about playing time. He nipped it in the bud fast.

“It is not going to be a part of our culture and if they don’t want to buy into that they can turn their stuff in,” he said.

For those curious if Tanner and his staff are taking a break this offseason, they are but just until after Christmas. His teaching position means he can scout talent at the school. Constantly recruiting in the hallways is a perfect avenue. The players also will pass the word along to inquiring friends.

“The only way to get to the top is by working the process the way it is supposed to be worked and having program alignment. It you want to be in the final four or top two every year this is what you have to do,” said Tanner.

This sure sounds a lot better than hoping and praying before the beginning of the season.

One big shoutout goes to the Martinsburg Bulldogs football team. Groups of players visited Brandon Penn in his hospital room shortly after his surgery Sunday at Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown.

It was a classy act by the Bulldogs. Coach Walker and his staff deserve a round of applause for how they have raised the young men in their care.

Contact Joe Albright at jalbright@newsandsentinel.com.

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