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The Press Box For September 16

By Ed Parsons - Editor | Sep 16, 2020

The much anticipated 2020 high school football season has ended disappointedly for the Paden City Wildcats. After starting the season with only 13 players the Wildcats found themselves down to 11 heading into their second game this past Friday at home vs Van. The decision to cut the season short came early on Wednesday last week when second year coach Zach Heasley made the annoucement that in the best interest of everyone involved the Van game would be their final one of 2020.

The tradition at Paden City over the years has been a good one, but the Wildcats have fallen on hard times over the past several years with an average of 16-20 players at the beginning of each season and falling due to injuries to even lower numbers as each season would progress.

Heasley took over the program last year with the retirement of longtime coach Brent Croasmun and expectations were high that he could revive the pride of Paden City and possibly bring it back to it’s glory days of past years. However, to do so you need numbers no matter who you are. Heasley an ex-Wildcat athlete worked extremely hard getting the weight room in shape and recruiting athletes to help turn things around.

Paden City Principal Jay Salva had this to say, “This season several players Coach Heasley was counting on failed to return to the field, leaving Coach with just a handful to work with.”

“We made the difficult decision to end our varsity football season after the home game on Friday. We had already planned that the first home game would be senior night, we just never imagined it would be our last,” added Salva.

“Unfortunately, we can still only allow household members into the game. We will livestream the game on YouTube on the Paden City High School Channel. I think Coach Zach Heasley summed it up well. We are hopeful that next school year that we will have more students wanting to play.”

“It’s a sad day to be a Wildcat. Unfortunately, due to low numbers (11), our season will end this Friday at the conclusion of our game against Van. We are all very sad about this situation, but it’s like I told the boys “control what you can control”.

These fine young men have a bond that can never be broken. We always play for this great community of Paden City, but it will be even bigger on Friday,” said coach Heasley

“I want to thank you all for your constant support of our staff, players, and program as a whole. The support has been unbelievable and I can’t thank you all enough.”

Heasley added, “our mission is to build young men while creating a championship mindset, and I believe we have done and are currently doing that. I am so proud of the constant, consistent hard work these fine young men have put in. The love and care our staff has for these players is immaculate. I just can’t be more proud of our work up to this point.”

“With that being said, I expect outside of those fences Friday to be PACKED to cheer on our Wildcats one last time this season. Like I told them, let’s cherish this moment, have fun, enjoy each other, and WIN!!”

Many of us look back to the 1960’s and 70’s, a time when the school was thriving and the community provided good paying job opportunities for local families. It was a great time to live within the small local towns up and down the Ohio Valley. Paden City was feared by their opponents and fought hard to bring excitement and pride to the town. Several of our former athletes went on to play ball at Division 1 schools.

We sent players to places like Sryacuse, West Virginia University, Ohio University, Ball State, and others, not only in football, but as baseball and basketball players. An athlete from the early years of the 60’s was in town last year to speak with the football team. He had played some for the Wildcats and later was an All-Pro member of the Chicago Bears.

At one point in the 70’s we had former athletes competing against each other in the Sryacuse and WVU football game at Mountaineer field. Those were glory days, never to be forgotten.

Today is a different stage in history and small town schools are often lucky to survive, let alone field a high caliper high school football team. Yet as Wildcats, Paden City has come to expect high school football on Friday nights.

Even with admission to the Wildcats game being limited on Friday night, it didn’t stop the hometown faithful who turned out in droves to watch through every nook and cranny behind the fence to support the team on senior night. Despite restrictions allowing only family members and media into the game. Wildcat supporters set up chairs and ladders along the North fence line to get a look at their team for the last time this season. Along the outside fence on the east side of the field tailgating and scrambling for position took place among the large crowd which blocked off the alley behind the fence.

It was a welcome sight for all to see as alumni and community members showed what football means to small schools in West Virginia.

As the Wildcat band played the fight song and the alma mater rang load, you could feel the emotion in the air. Some cheered when the band played and others sang along with the band. As time expired the scoreboard showed defeat for Paden City, but my guess is we will see a revival as the Wildcat spirit will roam the sidelines while work behind the scenes brings life back to Berger field in the years to come.

This may be the end for 2020, but don’t bet against the return with a vengenge of the Wildcats in 2021. They may be down but they are not out! eparsons@tylerstarnews.com