— Story by Taylor Kennedy
CHARLESTON, W.Va. – With high school football right around the corner, teams across the state are beginning to become hopeful for the upcoming season. Teams are continuing to grind during the offseason, despite knowing the outcome of next season.
“They are ready to get outside to compete and learn. It has been since March since we were last together. They really have been excited to be together and to be a team. That is really fun to watch. We have a great group of guys who get along really well. I give them a lot of credit due to the uncertainty,” says Nitro head football coach Zach Davis.
That energy has become evident for Davis over the last few years. Davis took over the job in 2018. That season, the Wildcats finished 3-7. Last season, Nitro did something that had not been done in 13 years. The Wildcats finished with four wins. That mark had not been reached since Davis was still in college.
The energy that has been contagious among Wildcat players has led to tremendous numbers in the scheduled three-week workout period.
“Our attendance has been awesome! I have an assistant coach that has been here longer than I have, and he is shocked by the attendance at our workouts. We usually have 35 to 40 kids on our team, and we are averaging right at 25 kids a workout, which is the max and that works out for us,” says Davis.
The still ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has fans and players wondering whether or not the season will start on time in September. Davis remains optimistic, despite the rumors. He thinks that by playing football this season it will help kids stay positive and around people that make them comfortable.
“I think we should get these kids back in school, and back in athletics. Give them something to look forward to. The world will keep going. We need to get these kids back to a sense of normalcy, and get them back with their friends and people that care about them, especially kids in the state of West Virginia. We got kids that come from rough home lives, and they need to be around people that are positive,” says Davis.
Davis volunteered to take additional students in his class if that is what it takes to get athletics back into communities. He said that he would learn all the necessary curriculum.
Whether or not there will be a season is still up in the air. Davis’ expectations remain solid as a rock. He expects nothing but competitiveness, heart, and perfection from his Wildcats team that is bringing back a big number of juniors.
“I think for the first time in three years, we have a chance of winning every game we play in next season. We are going to be very competitive. I think we can win all of our games. I’m not saying anything negative against our opponents because we play a lot of great teams. I just think we can walk into every game with the mindset that we can win this football game,” says Davis.
Those expectations are what drive fan bases into a frenzy. Fans get excited when head coaches speak highly of the upcoming team. There are communities across West Virginia that thrive on high school football, especially in the town of Nitro.
The town of Nitro has around 6,500 residents. Davis thinks that high school football is extremely important for people in Nitro.
“It is a big community event, especially when we play St. Albans at home this season. That game alone will fund my football for the year, and other programs as well. It brings the town out and it gets people involved, and people really look forward to it. High school football is the life blood of any high school, especially in West Virginia. I have always been told that as a head coach that how the football season goes is how the school year will go,” says Davis.
Davis also thinks that if football does not happen that there will be a vibe that will not be evident across the school. High school football brings the best out of people. As Davis said, it brings communities together in ways that are unexplainable.