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Paden City Will Call Off Football Season After Tonight’s Game

PADEN CITY — Zach Heasley is no different than any small-school football coach. He’s become accustomed to making the most possible from a roster that is limited in number.

The second-year Paden City coach was planning to do that once again and actually had for the first week when his Wildcats lost to Stewart Federal Hocking.

However, earlier this week, the Paden City roster reached the point where the safety and well-being of the student-athletes far outweighed any other aspect of the equation.

“It’s a tough pill to swallow both as a coach and as an alumnus of the school,” Heasley said.

After a player opted to leave the team during Tuesday’s practice, it left the Wildcats with just 11 players. Heasley met with the Wildcats’ administration, including principal Jay Salva and athletics director Robert Price, and it was determined that following tonight’s game against Van, the season would be called off.

Paden City opted to play this week to honor its senior players, band members and cheerleader.

“There was a thought of not playing this week, but we wanted to honor our seniors,” Heasley said. “(Playing) gives the players one more night, the cheerleaders one more night and the band members one more night. Plus, the parents can watch their kids one more time and the community can come out.”

Heasley is hopeful that the program can rebound and field a team in 2021, but realizes numbers will be low once again. Paden City is set to lose three seniors and it doesn’t field a junior high team after only seven players in grades six, seven and eight signed up. Of that number, just one or two are eighth graders.

“To be 100 percent honest, I’d like to be optimistic that our numbers will increase, but I just don’t know,” Heasley said. “It’s as simple as either kids are going to come back out (for the team) and we’ll have good numbers or they don’t and we won’t field a team again.”

The decision obviously creates a domino effect for the Wildcats’ remaining schedule. Area teams left now searching for a game are Bridgeport, Hundred, Cameron, Clay-Battelle, Beallsville and Valley.

Price informed the remaining opponents via email of the decision Wednesday evening.

Originally, Paden City had 14 players taking part in workouts during the summer. There were 12 Wildcats dressed for their opening game.

“We didn’t have to make a (sales) pitch to begin the season,” Heasley said. “(The administration) trusted we could make it through. We’d been in the situation with 14 kids before, but this was different in the regard that we had so many new kids.”

Once the decision was made, Heasley had the unenviable task of delivering the message to his team.

“The kids didn’t know it was coming,” Heasley said. “I’d never been so nervous to talk to the kids in my life. I was so upset that it took me a few minutes to even the words out.”

As expected, Heasley’s message wasn’t received well.

“We had guys in tears and absolute disbelief,” Heasley said. “I could tell they were crushed. It was like they had their souls ripped out of them.”

To their credit, however, after the Wildcats calmed down emotionally, they took Heasley’s message, which included telling them “control what you can control,’ and make the most of a situation.

“I commend our kids because after our meeting, they put their pads back on and went outside to practice (for Van),” Heasley said. “And I have to say, we had a good, fun practice. The kids didn’t let it get to them. I was concerned with telling them before practice because I didn’t know they would handle it, but (their reaction) says a lot about the type of kids they are.”

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