ELIZABETH, W.Va. — Since taking over the Wirt County football program, head coach Jason Hickman has taken the Tigers from a middle of the line Class A team to a playoff contender and now to a consistant postseason club.
Hickman guided the Tigers to the semifinals of the playoffs in 2010 as they’ve been aiming to get back at that level since.
“Just getting in the playoffs isn’t good enough for our program,” Hickman said. “We want to get back to winning playoff games. It’s the little things that we need to do better than everyone else — taking care of the ball and gang tackling on defense.”
The end to last season, though, certainly was painful for Hickman’s bunch. Wirt County was able to overcome a three touchdown deficit against St. Mary’s in the regular season, but got dominated in the opening round of the playoffs by the Blue Devils, 40-14.
“They manhandled us in the playoff game,” Hickman said. “We lost that game on the line of scrimmage.”
But that loss to St. Mary’s has added fuel to the fire for Hickman heading into 2013.
“We’ve been on our linemen all summer in the weight room, not just for the St. Mary’s game, but anytime we play a good team,” he said. “We need to do better up front.”
A rematch between the two teams is set for early this season on September 6th.
“I think they have revenge on their mind in the playoffs,” Hickman said. “That’s definitely been something we remind our kids about on a daily basis.”
But plenty will have changed, at least for Wirt County, from last year to this year.
The Tigers must replace three lineman and their three team captains — Jake Bell, James Ellison and Scott Lowe. Also, junior quarterback Josh Trembly transferred to Parkersburg after being named an all-state honorable mention as a sophomore.
“All that stuff was pretty easy for him to pick up,” Hickman said. “We are very pleased with his progression.”
Rhodes will have plenty of playmakers, both in the backfield and on the outside. Jake Linville, Cody Ferguson and Wes Valentine will all see carries, while Trenton Hardbarger, Justin Joy, Jared Blair and Austin McVey will be the primary passing targets for an up tempo offensive squad.
“We are fortunate to have enough depth at the skill positions that we can rotate a good bit,” Hickman said. “We have some kids coming back that produced for us last year and hopefully we can fill in the pieces we lost.”
While the St. Mary’s game looms large for Wirt County, three straight road games to end the season could ultimately determine the Tigers playoff destination.
“I like who we’re playing, but I don’t like when we’re playing them,” Hickman said. “If it’s the same way as two years ago, it’s everybody’s senior night — you’re getting that good effort senior night. It’s that point in the year where you’re trying to solidify a playoff spot and try to better your seed. It’s not a fun task that’s for sure.”
The last three games of the season for Wirt County will be Calhoun County, Roane County and South Harrison.
2013 Football Schedule
|1||08/30/13 07:30PM||H||VALLEY (FAYETTE)||-|
|2||09/06/13 07:30PM||H||ST. MARYS||-|
|3||09/13/13 07:30PM||H||GILMER COUNTY||-|
|4||09/20/13 07:30PM||A||DODDRIDGE COUNTY||-|
|5||09/28/13 07:30PM||A||PARKERSBURG CATHOLIC||-|
|9||10/25/13 07:30PM||A||CALHOUN COUNTY||-|
|10||11/01/13 07:30PM||A||ROANE COUNTY||-|
|11||11/08/13 07:30PM||A||SOUTH HARRISON||-|
- Wes McKinney