Warriors training hard to rebound in 2010
The Pocahontas County varsity football squad worked hard over the summer and all signs look positive for a repeat of 2008's exciting playoff run. The Warriors hope to rebound from last year's disappointing 3-7 season and reclaim the glory from two years ago.
Morale is high and players are helping each other through rigorous late summer practices. Seniors have taken it upon themselves to renew teamwork, responsibility, hard work and espirit de corps. Teammates worked out together over the summer and the Warriors appear very fit.
This year's roster includes eight returning seniors and one new senior.
All-State punter Evan Rose (5'10" 225), All-State special mention running back Jesse Hoke (6'1" 205) and All-State honorable mention linebacker Seth Doss (6'0" 205) return, along with five other exceptionally talented seniors.
WR/DBs Tanner Graham (6'1" 185) and Noah Pugh (6'0" 170) return a bit taller and broader in the shoulders. Speedster David Kiner (5'9" 155), who moves to DB/WR this season, added an inch and bulked up over the summer.ﾠ Stalwart OL/DL Nathan Hamons (5'10" 270) trimmed down while adding muscle to his big frame. OL/LB Zach Chestnut (5'11" 175), who missed nearly the entire season last year with a broken leg, returns an inch taller and five pounds heavier.
Stocky OL/DL Bruce Giernan (5'9" 200) joins the team this season and is studying the playbook.
A group of experienced juniors must contribute for the team to reach its potential.
Skylar Knisely (5'11" 185) takes the helm at QB. FB/LB Hunter Grimes (5'10" 205) will be leading the way for Hoke. OL/DLs Zach Cassell (6'3" 290), Brandon Gloshen (6'2" 230) and James McComb (5'10" 240) will battle in the trenches and running backs Jesse Taylor (6'0" 170) and Matthew Arbogast (5'5" 160) will hope for some playing time behind the seemingly inexhaustible Hoke.
Head coach Mike Knisely said his seniors know what it takes to have a playoff caliber team.
"This group of seniors has been in the playoffs both their freshman and sophomore years," he said. "They were part of the undefeated season their sophomore year. They know what it takes. They know the expectations."
"We're expecting those guys to have the work ethic and they have high expectations," the coach added. "They look up there and see three wins from last year. They know how close it was to being five or six, but still - it was three - and that's what's in the record book. But they have expectations to get the win totals back up and get back in the playoffs."
Knisely said he expects Hoke, who rushed for more than 1,500 yards last season, to continue to be a major problem for the opposition.
"As long as he stays healthy, there's not too many teams that we play that can truly handle him," he said. "If we give him even half a hole up front, he should be able to break through the first tackler. He's just that big and strong. There's hardly anybody that could handle him last year."
Hoke attributed his success as a running back to his teammates and said he was confident they would not let him down this season.
"They worked real hard in the weight room all winter," he said. "They're mentally focused and ready to come back after a bad season last year.ﾠ They're mentally focused to have a good season this year. I'm going to do my best to push my players to their maximum and make sure they're not slacking and make sure I do my part, too."
Doss had more than 100 tackles last season and was named All-Conference on both offense and defense. The linebacker played basketball and ran track to help stay in shape for football season and said the entire team was in better shape this season.
"I've gotten stronger," he said. "The whole team has. We have two people that are in the 1,000-pound club - that's me and Brandon Gloshen. I feel better than I've ever felt for playing football."
Doss said he learned a lot about leadership last season.
"Last year, I learned what not to do," he said. "I learned that to be a leader, you don't put people down. You help people - you instruct - you be a leader. Fear is not how you lead. You lead with respect."
Hamons, an academic all-star as well as outstanding athlete, said teamwork had improved.
"So far in practice we've been acting as a team and I think we're going to progress from last year," he said. "We've been closer this year. We're pushing one another as far as we can push and we know that in order to be the best we can we need to go as hard as we can."
The big lineman said he urged his teammates to love the game.
"I encourage them - this isn't punishment - it's football - you should love it," he said. "That's what we're out here for so we need to learn to love the game together. Overall, that's what's going to make this year better than last year. It's a job, but it's a job we love."
Graham said last season's adversity caused the team to pull together and that morale was higher than he's ever seen.
"Way higher than any of the years I've been here," he said. "I think we're just trying to overcome the poor season we had last year."
The Warriors open the 2010 season with a road game on August 27, 7:30 p.m., at Tucker County.
The Mountain Lions were 9-3 last season, including a 40-27 victory over the Warriors and a playoff win against Clay-Battelle. Tucker made the playoffs three times in the last six years, but lost 11 seniors, including first team All-State utility player Brendan Miller, All-State linebacker Daniel Parsons and QB Taylor Gardner.
The Warriors play a scrimmage at Greenbrier East on August 14 at 11 a.m.