University Poised for a Deep Postseason Push
By CODY TOMER
MORGANTOWN–In 2015, veteran head coach John Kelley and the University Hawks suffered their first losing season since 1995, but they rebounded in amazing fashion in 2016.
University sent a message to its opponents that it was back in full force by turning in an 8-2 record and reaching the playoffs.
Kelley is in his 31st year with the Hawks and knew exactly what needed to be done to get his team back to its winning ways.
“We did a lot of things differently,” Kelley said. “We still had a young team last year but we just had a re-adjustment of work ethic and we had a culture change.”
The adjustments worked as University stunned a very athletic Wheeling Park team by a 28-19 final for its biggest win of the season to help secure a spot in the postseason, where the Hawks were eliminated in the first round of action.
“We were 8-2 but we were beaten in the first round last year,” Kelley said. “We are not going to sneak up on anybody this year but I would like to make the playoffs and win a few games once we are in. That is how you establish yourself.
“The schedule is also more challenging this year, as well. Teams like Brooke and John Marshall were down a bit last year and should be much improved this year.”
University opens its season with back-to-back home games with the Monarchs and Parkersburg South before hitting the road to face Brooke and Wheeling Park.
Although University lost 10 seniors from last year’s squad, filling those shoes should come a bit easier due to the fact that 21 seniors make up the 2017 roster.
“We have 21 seniors this year,” Kelley said. ” That is probably why everyone is expecting us to have a great year.”
Along with a monstrous senior class, all eyes will be on wide receiver and safety Amir Richardson. A junior who has already received three college offers, including West Virginia and Marshall.
“With the group that we have coming back, Richardson is our best player,” Kelley said. “He started at wide receiver and safety last year for us and has three division I offers right now.”
Richardson hauled in 40 passes last year for 575 yards and seven touchdowns. He did his part on defense as well as he collected three interceptions.
Senior quarterback Clay Bailey did his part through the air and on the ground as he passed for 1,102 yards and 14 touchdowns and completed 82 of his 143 passes.
His legs provided another weapon as he scampered for 294 yards on 66 carries and found the end zone on six occasions.
Nobody spent more time in the end zone than senior running back Trevor Barnhart, who scored eight touchdowns, while rushing for 281 yards on 64 totes.
Alongside Barnhart was senior tailback Robert Sanders, who carried the load for Kelley’s Hawks. He was handed the ball 118 times and garnered 608 yards and four touchdowns.
When Richardson wasn’t making plays at receiver, it was seniors Kobe Turlington and Owen Zeiders providing the excitement.
Turlington gathered 13 receptions for 146 yards and a score and Zeiders turned in 10 catches for 151 yards and three touchdowns.
Junior Hunter Cottrill’s season was cut short due to injury but he made his four games count as he caught four passes (all for touchdowns) for 87 yards.
Barnhart (LB) and Zeiders (DB) will be playing both ways as they return as University’s top leading tacklers.
Also on the defensive side of the ball is returning second team All-State defensive end, Hayden Starcher.
The kicking game looks strong as well for the Hawks with the boot of junior Jonah Phares splitting the uprights. Phares was a perfect 38 for 38 on extra point attempts last year and he added three field goals as well. Freshman Ryan Niceler will also provide a strong leg if needed.
Also looking to help get the Hawks back into the playoffs include seniors Austin Myers (WR/LB), Buddy Leach (WR/DB), Kory Washington (RB/LB/DE) and Colton Arnett. The senior linemen include Will Gurtis, Joey Brydges, Lucas Wilson, Dalton McDaniels, Joshua Ritchie, Dakota Goldsmith, Dylan Frankhouser, Tyler Meadows, Tim Carte, A.J. Adams and Kyle Darr (OL/DL).
The junior class is 17 deep and includes Rodney Bucklew (QB/DB), Steven Busch (WR/DB), Jackson Summers (FB/LB), Chase Miller (WR/DB), Evan Parow (WR/DB), Brayden Lial (RB/LB), Ben Gribble (RB/LB), Christian Evans (C/OL/LB) and Derek Richardson (WR/DB). Junior lining up in the trenches are linemen Clayton Murray, Thomas Sherlock, Liam Scardina-Fowler, Brandon Burnes and Adam Hart.
The 10 sophomores vying for playing time this year are Anthony Williams (RB/DB), Jacob Spearen (WR/DB), Joseph Williams (WR/DB), Clay Maholic (RB/LB), Logan Raber (RB/LB), Jace Stockett (RB/DB), Tyler Wisenbaler (RB/LB), Paul Harwood (OL/DL), Joshua Sanders (OL/DL) and Evan Mellett (WR/DB).
Joining Kelley on the coaching staff will be Eric Snyder, Jeremy Zeiders, Shane Ziats, Andy Alden, Zach Turner, Ryan Cain, Tony Richardson and Mark Holvanik.
Aug. 25: John Marshall 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 1: Parkersburg South 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 8: at Brooke 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 15: at Wheeling Park 7 p.m.
Sept. 22: Fairmont Senior 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 29: at St. Albans 7 p.m.
Oct. 6: Hampshire 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 13: at Buckhannon-Upshur 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 20: at Preston 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 27: Morgantown 7:30 p.m.
Win 8, Lose 2
A.J. Adams, Colton Arnett, Clay Bailey, Trevor Barnhart, Joey Brydges, Tim Carte, Kyle Darr, Dylan Frankhouser, Dakota Goldsmith, Will Gurtis, Buddy Leach, Dalton McDaniels, Tyler Meadows, Austin Myers, Joshua Ritchie, Robert Sanders, Hayden Starcher, Kobe Turlington, Kory Washington, Lucas Wilson, Owen Zeiders
Rodney Bucklew, Brandon Burnes, Steven Busch, Hunter Cottrell, Christian Evans, Ben Gribble, Adam Hart, Brayden Lial, Chase Miller, Clayton Murray, Evan Parow, Jonah Phares, Amir Richardson, Derek Richardson, Liam Scardina-Fowler, Thomas Sherlock, Jackson Summers
Paul Harwood, Clay Maholic, Evan Mellett, Logan Raber, Joshua Sanders, Jacob Spearen, Jace Stockett, Anthony Williams, Joseph Williams, Tyler Wisenbaler
David Barbabella, J.T. Brown, Drew Burton, Seth Coombs, Randy Hannah, Joseph McBee, William Miller, Andrew Myers, Ryan Niceler, Cassie Osbourn, Max Parow, Coby Renner, Max Robertson