New opponents and opportunities await Marion County football teams

Aug. 31—FAIRMONT — The first week of high school football is in the books, and the second is about to begin.

Fairmont Senior starts the new week by hosting Robert C. Byrd at East-West Stadium for the Pepperoni Roll Bowl, as Head Coach Nick Bartic calls it.

Last week, the Polar Bears traveled to Lewis County and successfully shutout the Minutemen 42-0. Overall, Fairmont Senior performed well, and after reviewing film, Bartic thinks his defense played better than he initially thought during the game.

"I felt like some guys that we rotated on defense played a little more sound than I initially thought they did live," Bartic said. "You see how they went about, maybe making a mistake, but also things that were correctable."

Bartic said the Polar Bears could always improve communication and added he'd like to see his team make quicker reads, win at the line and rotate quicker on defense.

Robert C. Byrd comes to East-West Stadium after a road loss to Keyser 28-0. Bartic isn't underestimating the Eagles in this yearly "intense rivalry game."

"You can't let a big play derail what you're trying to do and your game plan," Bartic said. "They have some guys with some speed and athleticism, and you have to contain those guys and not let a big play beat you."

While the Polar Bears enjoyed the win over the weekend, Bartic said they have to focus on the next game and continue to improve for the long season ahead.

North Marion and East Fairmont opened the season together at Roy Michael Field last Thursday. The Huskies took down the Bees 55-24 to open the new season.

The Huskies controlled the game from start to finish, but their level of control fluctuated throughout the game. Head Coach Daran Hays wants his team to keep up the effort that got them the lead and not slow down once the game was decided.

"The effort defensively in the second half really slipped," Hays said. "We talked with them all week about letting the scoreboard dictate your effort, and the respect for the game demands more than that. If you're on the field you need to play as hard as you can. I didn't feel like we did that once we felt the game was in hand."

Hays also said his team needs to keep themselves from making costly penalties. He said East Fairmont had four drives continued by penalties committed by North Marion, including a roughing the kicker on a fourth and 31 punt.

North Marion hosts the Preston Knights Friday. Preston blew a 12 point lead in the fourth quarter in its last game, losing to Hampshire 34-33.

Hays told his team to focus more on itself than the opponent it faces.

"It's more about us and our execution and what we have to do," Hays said. "We have 12 goals for the week, and none of them really have anything to do with who the opponent is. Some of them are obviously game-time goals, but they really revolve around our execution versus who we're playing."

A focus for the season is to continue to build depth, according to Hays. The team doesn't have any sophomores starting, but they get playing time at the junior varsity level. And for a team with fewer than 50 players on the roster, depth is key to its success.

For East Fairmont, last week's loss showed some of the youth and inexperience of its players, according to Head Coach Shane Eakle.

"Kind of deer in the headlights a little bit," Eakle said. "Part of it is North Marion being a pretty good football team, and part of it's us just kind of having a brain fart, for lack of better words. We've got to not have those miscues, and that's a big point of emphasis for week two, fixing those things we know we can fix."

Some of the miscues, according to Eakle, included miscommunications between the quarterback and receivers, among the offensive line and even problems lining up on defense.

East Fairmont hosts Grafton for its home opener at East-West Stadium Friday night. Grafton fell to Philip Barbour 56-27 last week in the Arch Coal Bowl.

For the Bees, this upcoming game against the Bearcats is a clean slate for them, and Eakle thinks Grafton improved as a team since last season.

"I think they're better than they were last year," Eakle said. "They got some skills guys, and they put 27 points on the board last week. We just got to treat this like its our next opportunity."

Reach Colin C. Rhodes at 304-367-2548