MORGANTOWN — University’s opening game kick off time has been pushed back to 8 p.m. The Hawks will travel 88 miles northwest to Moundsville to take on John Marshall in Week 1, but they’ll be a bit delayed getting out of Morgantown due to a busing issue.
The school bell rings at 2:30 p.m. and the University football team won’t be boarding the buses for the game until 5 p.m.
“They’re accommodating us,” UHS head coach John Kelley said. “There’s a long time before the kids are out of school and the game time. There’s not much we can do about that. It’s stuff out of our control.”
“We have to entertain them for two and a half hours. They need to be mature about it. It’s just some of the aches and pains of the profession that you have to deal with.”
Kelley knows all about the ups and downs of the coaching profession, now in his 36th year leading the Hawks. The UHS program has really been the benchmark for stability throughout all of West Virginia.
John Marshall, not so much.
The Monarchs are on their third head coach in the past three years and seventh since 2005, though that’s not to say the incoming coaching staff is inexperienced.
Mark Cisar takes over the program after having been an assistant for several years. He is also the head baseball coach at JM, so he is familiar with a lot of the athletes. Cisar was last a head coach in 2012 and he led the Union Local (OH) Jets for six total seasons. They earned two Ohio playoff appearances under Cisar.
He was a standout athlete at Magnolia High School, winning the Kennedy Award for best high school football player twice. He was also inducted into the OVAC Hall of Fame.
The Monarchs return several starters from last year’s team which went 6-4 under the direction of Justin Kropka, who resigned to take the Martins Ferry (Ohio) job.
Jacob Coffield is the quarterback after starting a year ago and his top target will be Demario White, as well as twin brothers Brennan and Braden Sobutka.
Running back Klypsan Wallace returns after rushing for more than 1,000 yards as a freshman.
“I think we’ll be able to do multiple things offensively,” Cisar told the Wheeling Intelligencer. “We won’t have to depend on throwing it every down. We have good numbers and we have some good-sized kids who will allow us to be able to run the ball effectively.”
Kelley has seen the Monarchs on tape and recognizes their offensive threat.
“They do some different things on offense, so I think they’re trying to find their identity,” Kelley said. “They appear to have a strong line and they like to run power football but they’ve also experimented with the spread. They have a speedy wide receiver and their quarterback is back from last year which is always a plus.”
Kelley also tipped his cap to the John Marshall fanbase and student section, who will be ready to greet the Hawks and get the season going.
“They have a great following up there so it’ll be a tough road match up,” Kelley said.
Cisar is also well aware of the pedigree of University. The team is coming off a 10-0 regular season with 11 starters back from a year ago.
“University is going to reload,” he told the Intelligencer. “They have athletes and it will be a challenge from the get-go. We’ll find out where we’re at Week 1.”
Kelley has seen tangible production in his own team as the summer sessions progressed and he liked what he saw in the Hawks’ two scrimmages, one against Musselman and Keyser and another against Laurel Highlands (Pa.).
“I was very pleased with both of our scrimmages,” he said. “I was pleased with the way we moved the football. The big thing will be special teams. Nobody has done special teams live.”
By MATTHEW PEASLEE