MORGANTOWN — Last year’s University High football team completed an unblemished, 10-0 regular season, and every time a team heads into the postseason with a zero in the L-column, it’s magical.
However, for venerable head coach John Kelley, the magic of coaching at UHS for 36 years doesn’t really come on fall Fridays — it comes right now, during the preseason.
“Don’t get me wrong, we love the challenge of winning football games,” he grinned, “but I think my favorite part of coaching is rebuilding, finding out the best way to put your team together to give them the best chance to be successful. Game prep during the season can be so fast and hectic, but in the preseason, you are more focused, more concise with what you’re accomplishing.
“It’s very satisfying to watch a player or a unit or even a whole team go through the irreplaceable, critical process of defeat, respond to that challenge and then improve. I know the previous two years were tough ones, but look at what we were able to do last season when all those upperclassmen with all that experience learned how to get the job done together.”
A solid core of 11 starters returns for the Hawks, and Kelley sees the offensive and defensive lines as the strengths of both units.
“Games are won and lost in that small, three-yard gap,” he said, “so we’re glad to have experience, talent and depth up front. We graduated a lot of talent, especially at our skill positions, but we’ll still be explosive and quick offensively. Our secondary has several good players — we just need to sort out the proper roles for them. And we need to stay healthy, because experienced, veteran depth could become an issue if we have to go far down the depth chart.”
While a veteran coach might have a more relaxed attitude heading into games, players like senior lineman Gavin Powroznik often have a bit more emotional response to the upcoming season.
“I think that we are absolutely not satisfied after last year, not at all,” Powroznik said. “It’s a new year, with new players, and now we’ve got a target on our backs. But the seniors remember 3-7 two years ago, and besides, we didn’t finish the way we wanted (a semi-final playoff loss to Cabell Midland). We’re still hungry, and we have a lot to prove.
“We are going full-metal jacket every day in practice because we all have learned or are teaching the new guys that it’s the only way you get better, the only way you can prepare yourself for fourth quarters late in the year. Every day in practice is a game-time scenario, and we know it’s gonna pay off.”
Quarterback Chase Edwards stepped away from football for health reasons, while wide receiver and DB Sage Clawges transferred to St. Thomas More in Connecticut.
Luke Hudson is the favorite to win the starting quarterback job. He played last season when Edwards was injured.