PARKERSBURG, W.Va. — Lance Binegar remembers well the mood throughout the locker room during his first season as coach at Parkersburg Catholic in 2017.
The Crusaders began the season with only 14 players and were down to 11 by Week 3, forcing the program to call off a game against St. Marys. They went on to finish 0-8 and were outscored 291-64.
“My kids took a beating last year and they remember how losing felt every time they come out on the field,” Binegar said. “I tell them all the time, ‘We can’t go back to that losing way, because everybody was miserable.’”
Binegar’s message seems to be getting across to his team, which won its seventh straight game Saturday against Calhoun County, 46-6. The Crusaders (7-0) even hosted a game on campus for the first time, enjoying their field directly behind the school on Fairview Avenue.
There was plenty to see as Ty Sturm rushed for 314 yards and three touchdowns, while teammate Jeb Boice added 169 rushing yards and three scores to lead the way in their fifth win by 30 or more points this season.
“I don’t care how many yards I get as long as we win,” Sturm said. “This is just a very sweet win.”
A cohesive and physical offensive line has been a driving force behind the Crusaders’ success, helping lead the way for a run-oriented team to average 42.8 points per game.
The names haven’t changed nearly as much as the mentality, according to Sturm.
“It’s black and white. It’s a big difference,” Sturm said. “Last year, we were small and we were weak. Everyone from last year has stepped up big. We have one kid new, otherwise it’s the same team from last year. We knew it could happen. We just had to wait for it.”
Despite Parkersburg Catholic’s guaranteed winning season and potentially hosting at least one playoff game, there is an obvious reason skeptics remain and could question just how good the Crusaders are. Their only victory this season over a team with a winning record came in Week 2 when PC got all it could handle in a 32-28 win against Ritchie County.
Outside of the Rebels, the Crusaders’ other six opponents have a combined 8-31 record, with Gilmer County (2-4) and Valley Wetzel (2-4) the only other teams they’ve beaten that have more than one win.
“People do say, ‘Oh well look at who they play.’ My thing is, we’re beating the teams,” Binegar said. “It doesn’t matter who we’re playing. If they are teams we’re supposed to beat soundly, we’re beating them soundly. We’re doing what we need to do.
“It’ll all work out in the end. We’re going to have to start playing some people. Hopefully in the playoffs, we’ll get to show what we can actually do and when that happens, the whole state will have to see what we can do.”
The Crusaders will have further opportunities to prove themselves starting this week against Notre Dame (3-3), before they take on Williamstown (6-1) in week 9.
PC had a legitimate chance at picking up its only win against the Irish last season but fell short, 32-28.
Considering there are currently five other unbeaten teams in Class A and the Crusaders were tied at No. 6 in last week’s WVSSAC playoff ratings, at least one win in the next two games could go a long way toward improving the team’s playoff positioning.
“We know it’s going to be one of the biggest games of our season so far,” Sturm said of the contest that looms against ND. “They’re a pass heavy team and we just want to put in the work this week and get it done to be 8-0 going into Williamstown.”
Regardless of the opponent, Binegar knows his team needs to stay the course to continue to build on its success.
“We have a new tradition now and we’re starting stuff new and fresh. They know how bad it felt last year, so I tell them they have to keep striving or we’re going to go back there,” Binegar said. “And I always tell them you can’t let down just because a team’s record is not good. Because we’re going to get the best game that everybody has now.”