University High football coach John Kelley can’t wait to be home.
After a tough back-to-back road trips that saw the Hawks open their season 1-1, UHS returns to Mylan Pharmaceuticals Stadium against OVAC rival Brooke. It’ll be the first time the Hawks have touched their home turf for a game since bowing out of the quarterfinal round of the 2017 playoffs.
“The fact that we’re playing at home means a lot because we’ve opened up with two tough road games. The travel is difficult because of the itinerary and you have to sit on the bus on the interstate on delays,” Kelley said. “When you get there what kind of mental state are you in? Are you ready to go, how long will it take you to wake up?”
Perhaps the biggest factor when the Hawks are at home is the “U-Zoo” – the loud and rowdy student section at UHS that is well-known for bringing life to the stadium and keeping opponents off-kilter from the moment they take the field.
“I believe last year in that undefeated season that student section helped us win at least two or three games. They kept the enthusiasm up and got into the opponent’s heads,” Kelley said. “They help keep us fired up, they get the rest of the crowd into it, they get the band into it – it’s not just a bunch of kids getting together and acting crazy. It’s a major contributing factor.”
WVU commit and senior safety and wide receiver Amir Richardson recalls a moment – one he claims is his favorite of high school football – which demonstrates just how impactful the “U-Zoo” is.
“My sophomore year, Wheeling Park was here and they were down on the goal line,” Richardson said. “[The student section] was so loud that Wheeling Park had to call a timeout to regroup. When things are going well they’re keeping things excited. I love having them out there.”
Brooke enters with just one game under their belt, a 66-12 Week 1 loss to Wheeling Park. Kelley isn’t fooled by the blemish, though, and sees a similar threat to Week 1 opponent John Marshall in the upcoming foe.
“They can line up with a full house backfield and run power football very effectively. I think they’ll look at our John Marshall game and see that they had success and do that. I think that’s everyone’s blueprint right now,” Kelley said.
“If they can do that, that concerns me. Then they can milk the clock and keep our offense off the field. Hopefully they can do what they did last week and we can shut that down.”
Keeping the offense on the field as often as possible is a major focal point in the UHS camp, as the trio of Logan Holgorsen, Amir Richardson, and Evan Parow have made quite clear just what they’re capable of with the ball in their hands.
“Adding Logan has made this offense electric. It’s similar to what we had last year with Clay [Bailey],” Richardson said. “The offense and defense, we feed off of each other. When the offense makes a good play, the defense goes out and knows they need to make a play, and vice versa.”
“We try to help each other out. A lot of guys go both ways, and that energy from offense will carry over onto the defensive end.”