KINGWOOD, W.Va. – Don’t doubt the Preston High football team this year.
The 2019 season didn’t end the way it had hoped, but after making it into the Class AAA state playoffs bracket in the No. 16 spot, the Knights are returning 15 seniors, one of its largest classes in recent history, and with them, a core group of underclassmen. Eight starters return on offense and seven on defense, most having three years of playing time.
“We’re really excited,” coach Jonathan Tennant said. “We’re very experienced, senior-laden team. This group is the most experienced and deepest we’ve had here because even our second team has some experience playing varsity football.”
Gone is Colten Rosenberger and Jesse Gribble, but returning are junior quarterback Trevor Thomas, last year’s leading rusher and senior Jeffrey “J.J.” Townsend, senior fullback Ayden Bishoff, senior receiver Jaxson Lewis and senior linemen Caleb Shrout and Timothy “T.J.” Wiles.
Player interest is also good, with players at practice in the 40s, 10 more than last year’s full roster.
“It’s exciting to have more options and depth, and some of the kids coming out are really talented,” Tennant said. “Jaxson is going to make some noise. He’s not as fast and quick as Colten, but he’s very competitive and will have a big year.”
After ending their season at the hands of Martinsburg in the first round of the playoffs, the Knights’ goal is obvious: Make it back. With the group he has returning, Tennant believes his chances of doing so are pretty great, even if COVID-19 has already thrown a wrench into the cogs.
Per WVSSAC Executive Director Bernie Dolan’s directive, football’s opening date has been postponed by one week and will now start Sept. 3, as opposed to Aug. 28. Preston’s season opener is now Sept. 4. Without a Game 1 against Hampshire, Tennant decided to fill his Week 6 bye with a game against Woodrow Wilson. There will be no open week for Preston, and likely any team this year, as to maintain a 10-game season.
“Our schedule is the same, but now we don’t have Hampshire and traded Woodrow Wilson,” Tennant said. “Last year, we had some expectations of making the playoffs. This year, the expectations are even higher because of everyone we have coming back. We’re really excited and the kids understand the last week and a half they’ve been coaching themselves because they know what they’re doing. This will be the third year with the same defense and scheme, and second year with the same offense. The kids know what they’re doing, we’re just hoping and praying we’ll be able to play.”
As for the players, they’re just excited to be back. It was told time and time again in the spring the biggest heartbreak was for senior athletes, and that same fear is understandably hanging in the late-summer air. But Tennant focused on the good side of things: Right now, football is going to be played.
“They’re excited to get back to work,” he said. “This has been a pleasure to have them because it’s a senior-led group and they’re helping the younger kids. We’re having a lot of fun right now.”