BY MATTHEW PEASLEE
MORGANTOWN — The standard is the standard at Morgantown High. That cliche is used with many sports programs but the Mohigans truly mean it. The 2021 season is about getting back to the standard of success that the team has been used to for years.
“They’re definitely hungry,” second-year head coach Sean Biser said. “We talk about not just getting a golden ticket to make the playoffs. We have to work our way there and earn it. That’s our mentality. They’ve really embraced that.”
Last year, the Mohigans went 3-3 in an unconventional COVID-shortened season. The team is searching for its first winning season since 2016 — the last time the Mohigans won a playoff game.
Biser, who came to Morgantown after a long stint coaching at Keyser, is preaching progression to his sizeable team. He is in the early stages of rebuilding a program that last won a state championship in 2005 and had a sustained run of deep playoff runs a decade ago.
There are more than 120 boys out for football this season and 80-some are freshman and sophomores.
“This off-season, the guys have done a good job of keeping things positive as they were looking forward to getting back at it this year,” Biser said. “It’s a little refreshing to be a little more normal this season. I can’t say it’s 100% normal now, but we are as close as we’ve been in a long time.”
Biser was named the new head coach at MHS on Feb. 25, 2020. After hosting a meet-and-greet and sign-up session, he held the first after-school weightlifting in early March. The next day, the world changed with lockdowns and quarantines.
“That was the first and last time I saw them for months,” Biser said.
This summer, he has taken advantage of the time he can spend with his players, as well as their family members. He is trying to make up for lost time in what was such a weird first year for him in 2020. That’s part of his process of bringing the program back to its glory days.
“Last year was a lot of adapting and overcoming,” Biser said. “You try to handle everything they’re throwing at you. I can’t tell you how many times we had to change plans and adjust what we were doing. We had requirements to meet and we had to make sure everyone was safe. It seemed like every day there was something we had to change.
“Even though we had to deal with all that, I think we established a good, solid foundation. Last year, we were able to build something into what we’re trying to do now. We’re trying to create a culture and that can be accomplished this year.”
Seeing improvements in the weight room and hearing chatter amongst the senior and junior leaders has Biser confident the program is on the right track. Having the numbers the Mohigans do, too, is the biggest sign of encouragement.
The team has been running three practice sessions a day, every day, with three separate groups for varsity, JV and freshman.
“We have a lot of depth and we’re still battling in every position,” Biser said. “Because we’ve been running with three different sessions, that’s just made it more competitive. We do have some talented kids at skill positions.”
Keonn Mallet, Broderick Washington, Davon Eldredge and Alec Duley are some of those key skill players. Junior quarterback Sebastian Dalton steps up with a year of experience under his belt. The offense will also have depth with Braedon Brooks and Charlie Nennebi potentially running the ball.
“They’ll be seeing more playing time this year,” Biser said.
The biggest benefit for the Mohigans may be that they are returning most of their experienced offensive lineman, including Sammy Teets, Nathan Hagan, Eli Stahara, and Jiavair Howard.
Biser was an offensive lineman for WVU in the early 1990s.
“Those guys up front are strong and experienced and we got guys behind them who want a shot,” Biser said. “We’re pretty deep and I expect us to rotate players.”
Defensively, the Mohigans will stick with their eight-man front, though they will employ multiple fronts.
Jaiden Evans and Marquis Mauney are two-way players to look out for, as well as Jarrett Lawrence and Preston Harman.
“Just out of necessity, we had to be more simplistic last year,” Biser said. “We can expand our playbook on both sides of the ball this year.”
Morgantown hosts the first game of the year at Pony Lewis Field on Aug. 27 against South Charleston.
“The kids have really bought into our mentality and they’re fired up,” Biser said. “We’re not where we need to be yet but I’m really proud of their work ethic and commitment so far.”