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By Staff | Feb 27, 2019

Paden City High School lost a good alumus last week with the passing of Rodney Hizer. I remember watching Rodney quarterback the Wildcats; I heard people say he was undersized and couldn’t take a hit. He sure proved them wrong when he filled in for injured All-State quarterback Jeff Fox (probably Paden City’s finest quarterback ever) and guided the 1979 Paden City team to the West Virginia Class A state championship over a favored Bishop Donahue team. He played for coach Steve Deem, who was 22-2 in his two seasons with the ‘Cats. It was players like Rodney that made that record possible.

That was 40 years ago, yet it still seems like yesterday. Rodney will be missed by a lot of Wildcat fans, but those great memories of his accurate passes and timely runs will not be forgotten. Hizer displayed a toughness that you don’t see much of today. He was one of those types who would get his bell rung, yet jump right back up and make a big play on the next down. Reminds me a lot of how his nephew Hayden played for the Wildcats most recently.

Last week, while watching the Wildcats beat the Hundred Hornets, I got a glimpse of Hayden in his little brother Brandon, who made a couple big plays near the end of the JV game to give the Wildcats the win. Anyway, it’s always sad to hear of the loss of one of our own Wildcat athletes. God bless the Hizer family during their loss.

I’ve been keeping a pretty close eye on the teacher situation in the state. I’m not sure I completely understand all the problems they face, but I know, without a doubt, they deserve to be well compensated, and they need job security. We have been lagging behind in education in West Virginia far too long. I also know that you will never get everything you want, so you have to set priorities. Compromise will have to come at some point; it takes both parties working together to reach a binding agreement.

State-wide, there are many problems – ranging from roads, slips, education, a drug epidemic, plus social and economic issues. Politically we are more divided than I’ve ever seen in my lifetime, and it seems there is no cure for any of these problems. The whole country is out of control; everyone has a different opinion on everything.

Once it hits the gossip station – the vent channel and the real fake news place – Facebook, it’s all over. We have everyday housewives who now want to be our news source, because they have scanners tuned in to the 911 centers. We have the weather watchers, the town know-it-alls, the sports freaks, and the Facebook stirrers. It’s much deeper than that though. Some go as far as posting traffic and accident results before families are even made aware. Nothing is getting done, because everyone is addicted to their cell phones. It’s a rat race to see who can get the news out the quickest. I can see them, sitting at their table and listening and hoping for something to happen. A scanner is on the stand; a computer screen is on the table, and a cell phone is stuck to their face, as they are waiting waiting to be first to let everyone know what’s going on.

At a local ball game the other night I had to change seats to watch the game; a mother of one player was on her phone the whole game. She kept saying, “Where did it happen at? What time will it be? Did you call 911?” After the game she turned to another lady and asked her who won. She responded, “I think the other team.” They both had kids playing; they paid to get in, and neither one knew who won the game!

The high school girls and boys basketball teams are in the middle of playoffs to see who makes it to the state tournament in Charleston. For those who have been knocked out, it’s on to spring sports. The ball fields are going to be worked on shortly. The season starts in a couple weeks. I think the first games start on March 13, and that’s not far off – just two weeks. Track season starts shortly after, with the first local meet taking place the last week of March.

Paden City and Magnolia put on one heck of a ball game on Saturday in New Martinsville. The Blue Eagles led most of the way, until the scrappy ‘Cats decided they’d had enough. They came from 10 down in the fourth quarter to send the game into overtime on a nice 3-pointer from Matt Saxon that touched nothing but net. Paden City went up six in overtime, but the Blue Eagles got 12 points from Jake Gamble in the extra period – including a three at the buzzer to extend the game four more minutes.

The Blue Eagles scored the first five points in the second overtime and held a six point lead with 1:12 to play, but the Wildcats scored five points to pull to within one with 2.7 on the clock. They inbounded to Saxon, who attempted a three, but was hammered on the try and went to the line for three free throws with .3 on the clock. Down 68-67, Saxon sank the first two attempts and missed the third without hitting the rim. Magnolia took the ball out, but a desperation toss fell short – giving the Wildcats a big 69-68 win.

An old coach once told me he spends more time with his players than he does at school and home combined. He said he studies his players as if they were game films. It was his belief that to be successful, he had to know his players and know them well.

He said your success as a coach comes from time spent around your kids on and off the playing surface. His idea was to build a dynasty with what he had to work with and not worry about the other schools.

“Kids talk,” he said. “If they know you really have an interest in them, that you care personally about them, they will respond with effort.” More kids will see what’s happening and want to be part of it.

He said, as a coach, you might be the only outlet your player has; many need someone to talk to. Be that someone; just talk to them, and let them know they can talk to you. We have a lot of kids in our area like that. The men and women coaching sports and teaching school can make a difference in a kid’s life.

I have seen coaches who spend time working to build a program and never give a thought about what’s going on with their players. I often hear we don’t have the kids, or no one wants to play anymore. Those are lame excuses. Kids fail, because they are often labeled bad kids by coaches who don’t want to take the time to be a real coach. I’ve said it before: a coach makes a lasting impression on their players, one they will carry with them the rest of their lives. Think about what how you want to be remembered by the youth you were responsible for. It might make a difference, whether you actually want to coach or not. At least be willing to put in the time it takes.

Sports are great, because it’s important for some kids to have people in their lives who will put effort into them and show them they can become something they don’t think they can become. Most people put their priority on wins; that’s the bottom line: wins-vs-losses. Put more attention on developing winning people, and you will see a winning program.

The Silver Knights’ girls had a tough time on Friday night at Magnolia. They struggled once again with the Blue Eagles’ height. Rebounds, and turnovers killed them.

They play tomorrow night against Wheeling Central on the road. Do I think they can win? Absolutely. Will they win? That’s up to them. I think they are good enough to beat Wheeling Central, but it has to be an all-out do-or-die effort.

Go for the loose balls; take the charge, and box out for rebounds. Go to the basket, and take care of the ball. Play defense; move quickly to cut off the open shooter. The Knights have had a good season with 14 wins. One more, and it’s on to Charleston. Leave it all on the floor. You can do it! eparsons@tylerstarnews.com