WEIRTON - One of the great rivalries in the Ohio Valley will be renewed Friday night when winless Weir High plays host to Oak Glen (2-3) at the new Jimmy Carey Stadium. Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m.
The rivalry perhaps has a little more meaning this year for two reasons - Tony Filberto this year moved from Oak Glen to Weir High as head coach, and there is a brand new Carl Hamill Trophy at stake. The Golden Bears, under Filberto, defeated the Red Riders the past three seasons and retired the Hamill Trophy last year.
The teams have played each other since 1965, two years after the schools were built. Weir High has the edge in the 48 games played to date winning 33 of them.
"Yeah, the Carl Hamill Trophy is important to us. We have a lot of pride," said Filberto. "A lot of these kids know each other. They go to school together at the John D. Rockefeller Career Center."
Meanwhile, Ian Whittington, who took over the reigns at Oak Glen when Filberto moved south, also feels it is a "huge rivalry game."
"I think perhaps it is a little more so this year because of coach Filberto," Whittington said. "We're taking this week seriously. Of course, we don't want to get so high that we can't play the game. We've been telling the kids that every game is important, but this one is special.
"We'd love to restart the new Hamill Trophy with a win and Oak Glen's name engraved on it. Also, we want to respond to the challenge and get back on the winning track."
The Golden Bears opened the season with two impressive wins over Edison and Wellsville, but have dropped the last three contests. Oak Glen lost at home to Steubenville Catholic Central last week, 28-6.
The Golden Bear defense held a Central offense that was averaging more than 300 yards passing to just 132 yards through the air.
"We basically shut down their passing and executed our game plan, but we couldn't do much offensively primarily because we didn't have Bub Haddox," Whittington said.
Whittington said the junior quarterback, who is a key to the Golden Bear offense, came down with pneumonia a couple of days before the game. He said Haddox has clearance to play against the Red Riders.
Filberto said injuries have created a monster for his Red Riders.
"Our entire stable of backs is out with injuries," said Filberto. "We planned to go with no running back, use the jet series and have our quarterback, William Larch, use his talent, but he went down in the first half. Now that really knocks the heck out of a game plan."
Larch, who is Weir High's leading rusher, returned in the second half, but was limited to passing for the most part and the Riders lost its fifth straight to Clarksburg Liberty, 37-6.
"We made a lot of progress in the first four games, but there was no progress last week," Filberto said. "We had nobody on the field but young kids. We were forced to play four freshmen and three sophomores.
"I've always been opposed to starting freshmen in varsity games until I started Preston Murray at Oak Glen. He's so good that he was third in the balloting last year as a junior for the Hunt Award, which is emblematic of the best lineman in West Virginia."
Murray leads a veteran Oak Glen team that posted 10 wins last year and made it to the state playoffs for the second year in a row. Oak Glen lost just six seniors off that team and returned all but one player from its offensive and defensive fronts.
"Each Sunday the coaches meet to go over films and prepare for the upcoming game," Filberto said. "Part of that is a session where we evaluate the opposing team's personnel. That session was very short this week because it is obvious that Oak Glen has outstanding strength up front."
Whittington, who isn't taking Weir High lightly, says the same.
"We need to use our size to our advantage. That's our strength," he said. "We have to get our running game going because that opens up our play action. If we get it going, it will be a long night for Weir High. If we can't, it will be a long night for us."
Filberto said there is a chance one of his starting running backs, sophomore Phillip DiGirolamo, who has nursed an ankle injury for the past three games, could return this week to help out his depleted backfield.
Meanwhile, Whittington, who also has been hit by the injury bug in his backfield, said the Golden Bears could be at full strength there this week. He said Tyler Steed, who missed the first three games with an injury, got back last week and has assumed the starting running back job. Also, fullback Zack Staley is back, but senior wide receiver, defensive back and kicker, Josh Weltner, will miss his third straight game this week.