NEW MANCHESTER - The Oak Glen football team has a couple of reasons to be anxious this week as they resume play following their mandatory bye week.
The Golden Bears draw a difficult assignment this week taking on Point Pleasant, the No. 11 Class AAA team in West Virginia with a 6-2 record.
The game will have an air of playoff football because the Big Blacks invade the Bears Den Saturday with a 1:30 p.m. kickoff.
One of the reasons the Golden Bears are anxious to get back onto the turf is because they haven't blocked and tackled anyone but themselves during two weeks of practice.
"We worked on the mental aspect during our two weeks off especially with things like eliminating dumb penalties," said first-year Golden Bear coach, Ian Whittington. "We also worked on our run game. We had a pretty good run game early in the season, but we kind of got away from it lately."
The Bears have lost four of the last six games and don't appear to be a candidate for the tournament this year. However, Oak Glen is not mathematically eliminated.
Whittington said some of his players that were nursing nagging injuries along with bumps and bruises had an opportunity to heal. One of his starters, Josh Weltner, who damaged a knee early in the season, is practicing and should be ready to go at wide receiver and corner back.
He is the Oak Glen kicker and has been able to do those duties the past three games, but Saturday will be is first game back playing his offensive and defensive positions.
The other reason for anxiety on the part of the Golden Bears is that they will be seeking revenge from the 66-40 licking the Big Blacks put on the Golden Bears in the 2011 Class AA quarterfinals of the playoffs.
"That game was close till the fourth quarter and we had several chances to win it, so the guys who played last year in that game are looking forward to getting revenge," Whittington explained.
The Big Blacks have increased enrollment so they moved up to Class AAA this year, but they continue to win. With a 6-2 record, Point Pleasant sits in the No. 11 spot of the state AAA rankings.
"They are a wing-T team that has decent size," said Whittington. "However, I think their biggest attribute is that they know how to win."
Whittington said that while the Big Blacks use the wing-T offense, they occasionally go into the shotgun spread.
"They are predominantly a run team, though," he said. "They mix in the play action pass and try to hit their tight end over the middle. They aren't afraid to pass by any means, but they primarily want to run the football."
He said the Big Blacks have a couple of speed blacks that can score from any place on the field.
"We have to get back to our basics of establishing the line of scrimmage and win the battle up front," Whittington said of his keys to victory. "We've had some difficulty with that lately. If Point Pleasant gets penetration on us, we'll have a long night. Our key to victory will be running the football. We have to establish the run."
Whittington said he's hoping the week off has given his team the opportunity to get their legs back under them and also that they get the mental part of the game back into it.
"I think we have the enthusiasm back," he said. "We had a spirited practice on Tuesday and I think we'll be ready to go at Point Pleasant Saturday."