When Matt Kimes took over as Parkersburg’s football coach in March, he started to look over what the Big Reds had done well and where things went wrong during a 4-6 season in 2021.
One thing stuck out to Kimes above the rest.
“Defensively, we have to get better,” Kimes said. “We gave up over 33 points a game last year. Number one and foremost, that’s what we’re trying to stress is we have to be able to stop people first.”
Kimes spent the last three years as the head football coach at nearby Warren High School in Ohio and was an assistant for six seasons at Parkersburg South for six seasons before that.
But the 1997 PHS graduate has strong ties to the Big Reds, and over his first few months, Kimes worked to ensure his staff does, too.
“I was able to put a solid staff together and out of the 14 guys on staff, 10 of them are former Big Reds,” Kimes said. “That was important to me. Those guys understand the tradition and pride that we’re trying to instill in the kids and it’s been a good process so far.”
Kimes believes the benefit of having a coaching staff comprised of majority Parkersburg graduates is two-fold.
“There’s been separation from community and team a little bit, so getting the coaches that have lived it, been there and done it at a high level helped the community rally around the team a little bit better for whatever reason,” he said. “I don’t know the exact reason for that, but they trust the Big Reds that have been there before and done it, and been successful at it. The guys that are on staff have won state championships, played in big-time playoff games and they’ve seen it done at a high level. They know what it takes to get back there.”
A year ago, in what was Mike Byus’ fifth and final season overseeing the PHS program, the Big Reds finished No. 20 in Class AAA after allowing at least 28 points in all six losses and 34-plus points in an equal number of games.
The need for defensive improvement may not have been more evident in any game than Parkersburg’s final one of the season — a 56-52 victory at Musselman that prevented the team from finishing with seven setbacks.
“We’re trying to get our best guys on defense and change their mentality,” Kimes said. “When I first got there, I’d go talk to kids about what their positions were and a lot of them were offensive-minded only. I’ve been trying to change that concept of what they’re thinking to make sure we get our best guys out on the field defensively.
“We did pretty well in some 7 on 7s, but you guys all know, winning games down to blocking and tackling. We’ll find out here in a hurry whether we’re good at that, and that’ll tell us how good we’re going to be. If we stay healthy, I like our guys and I think we have a chance to compete.”
For as much as defensive improvement is necessary for Parkersburg to return to the postseason, the Big Reds also need to replace one of the more decorated players in program history in Bryson Singer.
Offensively, Singer primarily played quarterback, though his versatility allowed him to carry and receive the ball as well.
He finished as the program’s all-time all-purpose yardage leader, and Singer’s departure leaves a void on both sides of the ball as he was recognized for his defensive prowess by being named captain of the first-team all-state defense as a utility selection as a senior.
“They were kind of centered around one guy and that guy was pretty good,” Kimes said. “Anytime you lose your all-time all-purpose leader in school history, you have some holes to fill, but we’re going to kind of do it by committee. We have a lot of different guys that we can spread the ball around to.
“Our quarterback, David Parsons, is a talented kid. He has a big arm. He got to play some last year when they moved Singer around to receiver and running back, so he has some experience on Friday nights, which is important. We have a bunch of sophomores that played last year, so those kids are all juniors and they have some Friday night experience as well. I’m excited to see those guys go out and compete.”