PADEN CITY, W.Va. — It’s been since 2001 that Paden City’s high school football team qualified for the playoffs.
If newly-hired head coach Zach Heasley has his way, that’ll change in the near future.
Heasley, a 2015 Paden City High graduate, officially became the Wildcats’ football coach earlier this month after he was approved by the Wetzel County Board of Education.
Heasley replaces longtime coach Brent Croasmun, who held the title for 20 years, but decided to step down.
Heasley is currently a senior at West Liberty University and the 22-year-old has been a member of the Hilltoppers’ football team the last three seasons after spending his freshman year at West Virginia Wesleyan.
“I’m very lucky. The fact that I can come home and be with my family, it means a lot to me,” Heasley said. “Being able to give back to my community what my community gave to me is important and that’s the opportunity to go to a great school and be involved with athletics.
“I thought it’d be great to share the knowledge that I gained from college and high school football and bring it back to try and win some games.”
Heasley, an athletic training major, will graduate from West Liberty in May.
He’s already familiarizing himself with next season’s roster and trying to instill the proper work ethic and values in his players.
“I go home twice a week during the school week for offseason lifting and people talk about winning is everything,” Heasley said. “But winning comes off the field as well, whether it’s doing the right thing in public or in the classroom. Winning is everything, but there are certain aspects to winning and they’re not always on the field.
“I implement that on the values I learned from being at Paden City and bringing that Paden City pride back from stories I heard from my grandpa of their success in the 1960s. I want to get back to the way things were.”
Heasley already has a full staff in place and said Paden City will utilize a run-pass option offense and a 4-2-5 alignment on defense.
“We want to utilize the entire field and make defenses work on both sides instead of favoring one side,” Heasley said. “Defensively, it’s almost like a 4-4 look and we’re hoping to bring a guy off the edge almost every single play.”
With no previous coaching experience but an extensive knowledge of football, Heasley believes his biggest adjustment will be managing game situations from the sideline with a headset.
“I’ll have to transition to what coaches do on the field and do from experience, like when to know when to take a timeout,” Heasley said. “Sitting on the couch watching a game, we know when to take a timeout. But getting on the field in a tight game situation with a million things running through your head, you have to know when to call a timeout or certain play.”
For a program that’s finished 2-8 each of the last four seasons and had only three years with a .500 record since its last playoff appearance, Heasley knows he’ll have his work cut out.
“I think I’m the guy to get Paden City back to where we were and I hope implementing the values of the town and people of this community helps,” he said. “If you know what and who you’re playing for, you play harder, and i believe that to 100 percent be the case.
“If you have eleven guys out here on the same page, you’re going to win games.”