3:06pm: Hotline with Dave Weekley

As the Polar Bears move up to Class AAA, a fifth state title in seven years is in their sights

FAIRMONT, W.Va. — In a game where 97 points were put on the scoreboard, one defensive stop put Fairmont Senior over the top in winning last year’s Class AA state championship over North Marion. A defensive stand on a two-point conversion attempt in the final seconds gave the Polar Bears a 49-48 win and their fourth state title in six years.

“It definitely tests your stomach,” said Fairmont Senior lineman Trevor Bigelow. “It was a great game and fun on both sides of the ball. It definitely got interesting.”

While talented skill players could be found all over the field for the Polar Bears, the biggest improvement a year ago came on the offensive and defensive lines, units that will once again be led by seniors Kaleb Arbogast and Trevor Bigelow.

“We do feel there’s a good nucleus of those guys coming back, that they are, as a whole, at a better starting point than they were a year ago,” said Fairmont Senior head coach Nick Bartic.

“Trevor has done a good job getting everybody straight on both sides of the ball. Kaleb, our center, he definitely been more vocal. That’s one thing I have noticed, maturity throughout the linemen.”

“Everybody definitely took a couple steps up,” Bigelow said. “There’s a lot more team bonding that we have had in recent years.”

One of the state’s most experienced quarterbacks is entering his third full season as the starter. Senior Brody Whitehair passed for 2,903 yards and 37 touchdowns in 13 games last fall.

“When you have a quarterback that has this much experience and someone with the savvy that Brody has, you are able to then put more on to him versus necessarily trying to control everything,” Bartic said.

“Every single year he has been getting better and more mature, better throws and better everything,” Arbogast said.

Leading receiver Cannon Dinger is back after pacing the team with 56 receptions for 980 yards and 11 touchdowns. Leading rusher Dylan Ours has moved on to the college ranks but Damani Johnson returns. Johnson scored 11 touchdowns and accounted for 678 yards from scrimmage as a junior.

“It felt good. I was ready for it,” Johnson said. “Coaches told me it was a big year for me all year. I was ready to step up. I took the moment and embraced it.”

The Polar Bear skill positions will be bolstered by the additions of East Fairmont’s leading rusher Dom Fantasia and North Marion’s Brock Martin.

“It is probably our fastest group in terms of just raw speed,” Bartic said. “That has led to a lot of competition between those guys. Anytime you have good competition, you are going to get the best out of guys.”

“I have had plenty of athletes around me from throughout my freshman to now my senior year,” Whitehair said. “I would say it is definitely one of the more talented groups we’ve had probably in program history.”

Although even the most storied programs go through some ups and downs year-to-year, Bartic believes that consistency comes from waves of veteran leadership.

“We feel we have a proven winner in terms of method and approach to our program,” Bartic said. “The guys that have been here, the veteran guys, they understand what is expected of them. It is an easy buy-in for the new guys when the older guys are modeling what we expect on our culture.”

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