NEW MANCHESTER, W.Va. — Oak Glen may have taken many people by surprise with their 2019 season that produced a program-record twelve wins and their first appearance in the state semifinals. The Golden Bears however, had a pretty good idea that a postseason which included wins over Wyoming East and unbeaten Poca could happen.
“I think our kids knew last year that things had turned around,” said Oak Glen head coach Ted Arneault. “I think the record and the playoffs and everything kind of indicated that to maybe everybody in the state. But we really felt like last year that we had a pretty solid team.”
After falling to eventual state champion Bridgeport in the semifinals, a quick look at the roster indicated that the Bears would be top contenders in Class AA in 2020.
“This is great because in the past three years we had to put kids in that weren’t so experienced in many situations. So having veteran guys out on the field really feels great because you can’t replace Friday night experience. There is nothing like it.”
Oak Glen’s deep and experienced offense welcomes back three-year starting quarterback Nick Chaney.
“Nick has five thousand total career yards. So he has been in the game for a while. We have a good relationship. He works hard. He is a grinder. He is a gamer. He is the type of person that understands and communicates very well when it comes to crunch time.”
Hunter Patterson is the team’s leading rusher and receiver. He accounted for 2,055 yards and 24 touchdowns. Patterson is joined by versatile threats Paxton Shuman and Gage Patterson in the backfield.
“We are a lot more prepared,” Gage Patterson said. “We have been lifting and getting a lot stronger. Our routes got a lot better. We are getting a lot faster. Every rep is getting better for us.”
“We are more experienced, stronger and faster,” Shuman said. “We have better routes now. We are very prepared for this year.”
The Bears lost the state’s top defensive back Michael Lemley to graduation after picking off fourteen passes.
“That stings a little bit,” Arneault said. “We lost all of our inside linebackers. We lost Preston Brown, Seth Mozingo and Conner Adams. Those were three kids in our three-stack defense that really progressed.”
Oak Glen’s schedule underwent an offseason upgrade with road trips at perennial playoff program Point Pleasant and Class AAA contenders Wheeling Park and Spring Mills.
“They are going to be teams that will make us work,” Arneault said. “They are going to be teams we have to be up for the challenge for to compete with. We wanted to add teams that were going to give us stress throughout the year so that we can be prepared for the playoffs.”
“We were able to see the semifinal game with Bluefield and Fairmont Senior last year in person. And then obviously playing against the state champion in Bridgeport last year on their home field, I think they are starting to get it, and that we have to raise the bar.”