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Following theft of helmets, Hannan excited to get going with new ones

ASHTON, W.Va. — Kellie Thomas was just about ready to start her second season as head football coach at Hannan High School.

Hannan players showed up to the school July 29 for a flex day of conditioning and to be fitted for helmets in anticipation of the start of preseason camp one week later.

However, there would only be conditioning that day as Thomas quickly discovered her team’s helmets had gone missing.

“It had been a few days since we had been here and we came in on the 29th looking to get the kids fitted and the helmets were gone,” Thomas recalled. “We went a couple of weeks into practice without helmets.”

Hannan ordered new helmets August 6 and they arrived last week, giving the Wildcats a chance to play catch up on the contact part of their practices.

“It was like Christmas morning for these kids when the new ones came in,” Thomas said. “They helped load them into the truck and took them around back. It was a feeling of, ‘Oh my gosh, we have helmets.’ They were really, really excited.”

Nobody has been charged in the theft of the helmets. Thomas was impressed with the response from the community as the school’s athletic department was forced to drain its budget to order new helmets.

“We had several people send in dontations and even some from out of state,” she said. “It’s been a blessing for those people to spend money to help replenish our accounts. You have stuff like field paint and balls that you have to purchase and we were pretty thin monetary wise.

“People really stepped up to send in donations and we’re very grateful there are good people out there.”

Not long after the helmets were discovered missing, Thomas got her team together to share an important message and she’s been impressed with the response.

“I told them whenever I found out they were gone, ‘We’ll have a season.’ If I had to take out a bank loan to get new helmets, it was going to happen,” Thomas said. “This whole thing has kind of fueled their fire and made them work harder, but they’ve come to practice every day like nothing was wrong and overcome it.”

Now Thomas, the first female high school head football coach in state history, is hoping her team’s excitement carries over to the field. Hannan will scrimmage Saturday at Point Pleasant in a “Grid-O-Rama” event hosted by the Big Blacks.

“This will make us better in the long run,” Thomas said. “We’ve already had to overcome adversity early on.”

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