The Start of a Legacy in Paden City
It’s always rather easy to see when something special gets started. Whether it’s a new restaurant in town or a newly elected official who really has the interest of the people.
Often times we hear people complain “it’s the same old same old,” but change comes quickly when the people come first.
That’s the way I am looking at it when it comes to Paden City football. Once the hotbed of Class A schools, where every student wanted to be a member of a team who found it hard to find anyone wanting to play them, to hitting rock bottom with no where to go. A school who almost lost their existence and barely could field a team now on the verge of building a Class A powerhouse.
Yes, I’m talking about the Wildcats. They turned some heads this season, ask anyone who played them. They were far from the pushovers of the past several years. This team had desire, motivation, work ethic, encouragement, support and ability.
While still hurting on numbers, the school and county did the proper thing and brought life back into the program, with the flick of a pen, former Wildcat athlete Zach Heasley, fresh out of college, was awarded the job as head coach. Just a few short years ago Heasley was lining up behind center as the Cats quarterback. A good athlete with a good knowledge of the game, he came home to the rescue.
Last season he was playing for West Liberty University, this season he was roaming the sidelines of Berger field as the General of a small but courageous troop of young men ready for action.
Recently he sat down in my office and gave me his details of success. “It all stars with desire. I lived in Paden City, grew up there and came to love the community and it’s people,” Coach Heasley said.
“I had a vision and a desire to give Paden City a team like I had always heard about. A team for the community to be proud of. I wanted to do something special to give back to the place that gave so much to me.”
In his first season as Coach of the Wildcats, Heasley got a pretty good start on meeting his goals. The Cats didn’t set the world on fire by any means, but for the first time in a long time they brought excitement.
Part of that excitement was scoring a lot of points. On a few occasions 50 plus and regularly in the 20’s and 30’s. Along the way they chalked up what is believed to be a school record 70 against Hancock, MD.
“Immediately upon being hired for the position, I started receiving congratulation calls and everywhere I went people in town were telling me they were happy to see me get the job,” Heasley said. “I knew I had a lot of work to do and I had to get started quick.”
“One of the first things we did was revamp the weight room. We then went to work on the facilities, there was just a bunch of stuff that needed taken care of and I received a lot of help from the community. My dad gave me a lot of inspiration along the way. He donated a few items to the weight room and encouraged me along the way when I felt a little frustrated.”
When things look bleak in Paden City that is normally when you see the people rise up and make a difference. This was no exception. There was painting to be done and a “heck” of a lot of cleaning. But the most important of all was finding kids to play the sport.
“I wanted to get a good idea what I was going to be working with as far as numbers were concerned. Once word got out I started receiving messages and calls from interested kids. We put together a summer weight lifting program and everyone bought into it.”
“What I found out was most of the kids didn’t understand a weight training program and really they didn’t know the proper way to lift, “added coach Heasley.
“Once we got that taken care of it was just a matter of getting them in the weight room consistently”
Heasley said he believes they used this season as a springboard to the future.
With the first year behind him and the community backing him, he believes it is just a matter of time before Paden City finds itself back in the WVSSAC playoffs.
“Our attendance this year was phenomenal, we had a few games where it looked like the whole town was there and that kind of support raised our level of play,” said Heasley.
“Even on the road we had a following and it wasn’t all just parents. We won just three games, but other than the first two, be were in every contest and with a few turn of events in our direction we could have won seven or eight.”
“Gone from this years team will be eight seniors who led the way for our younger kids. However, there are some great athletes coming back and some good ones coming out of middle school. I believe the future is bright, I’m going to start the kids training right away and by next season we will be ready for another opportunity to make Paden City great again.”
Heasley said every kid who goes out for football is important to him and he wants everyone to get a chance to play, however like every sport it won’t be handed to them, they have to earn it and that takes dedication, desire, hard work and determination.
“I believe in these kids! I know what they are going through, after all it was just five or six years ago I was in their position. And I want to say that when I stepped on the football field or basketball court or baseball field it made me proud to wear the Wildcat uniform, and that was something that my coaches instilled in me. I want my players to know they are representing Paden City high school at the highest level,” coach Heasley added.
Rest assured Paden City Coach Zach Heasley with the support from the Wildcat Boosters, the Community, and Alumni, the Wildcats will be back. Prior to the start of last season at the annual meet the team night, the support was evident when the Paden City Foundation presented Coach Heasley with a check for $7,000 to be used for Wildcat football.
That’s the kind of support which makes the difference in sports programs in small Class A schools.