POCA, W.Va. —¬†Hearing the Poca Dots discuss the next step is a clear indication that the 2018 season¬†was something special.

“Last year the whole goal was to be playing meaningful games in October and into November and we did that,” said Poca head coach Seth Ramsey. “Now we have to take the next step. Now we have to play smarter. We have to play harder.”

In the six years from 2012 to 2017, the Dots won just five games and at one point they lost 39 consecutive contests. Last fall, Poca jumped out to a 9-0 start, earning the #5 seed for the Class AA playoffs.

“This was something the community needed,” said Poca junior running back/linebacker Ethan Payne. “It was definitely special to be a part of. It was the first time we made the playoffs in a long time.”

Sixteen years removed from winning three consecutive state titles, elevated expectations have returned to Dot Way.

“They expect a lot more out of everybody,” said Poca senior lineman Trey Sams. “We get pushed a lot harder than what we normally do.”

“There was a bad taste in our mouths after the last two outings when Wayne put it on us pretty good and when Weir put it on us pretty good… and at our home field no less.” Ramsey said. “I think that has motivated some of them. They didn’t like that and it didn’t sit well with them. And that is good.”

The Dots welcome back some of their top skill players from a year ago. Junior Jay Cook tossed fifteen touchdowns against just six interceptions last fall.

“This will be Jay’s third year playing quarterback so we will put a lot more on his shoulders,” Ramsey said. “We will give him a lot more options within the offense that we have. We will not necessarily break things up into this half of the field or this half of the field, but we will open things up for him and give him more of the keys to everything he sees at the line of scrimmage.”

In an injury-shortened sophomore season, Ethan Payne rushed for 17 scores and 1,083 yards. He averaged 9.9 yards per rush.

“We have some guys that can give Ethan a break when he needs it,” Ramsey said. “We have some guys that can do different things. We can move him in the slot. We can move him out wide. What we will try to do is find matchups we like.”