Fair to say, Weir must play its best come Friday night
By RALPH COX
Football Xtra Writer
WEIRTON — The Weir High football team will be going from the frying pan to the fire this week.
Reeling from a 13-7 loss last week to unbeaten Union Local, the Red Riders will celebrate homecoming with the invasion of fourth-ranked Fairmont Senior Friday at Jimmy Carey Stadium. The opening kick is 7 p.m.
The Polar Bears invade Jimmy Carey with a 5-1 record, the only loss by two points to top ranked Class AAA powerhouse University.
“We choose to play a tough schedule because we want to be challenged,” veteran Weir coach Tony Filberto said. “We play three AAA teams and a couple of tough AA teams with a challenging schedule. I feel that will make us battle ready if we make it to the playoffs.”
The Red Riders have plummeted in the state rankings to 13th with two losses in the last three games. They opened the season at 3-0 and were tied for second in the first WVSSAC poll of the year.
A loss to Fairmont Senior likely will put the Red Riders on the outside looking in at the top 16 that make it to the playoffs in West Virginia.
“That was a good football game last week,” Filberto said. “They are undefeated for a reason, and we went into that game at 4-1 for a reason. I thought both teams played pretty well defensively. We had a couple of turnovers, but we finally got things going in the fourth quarter. By then it was too late. Union Local stopped our run better than I thought they could.”
Now turning his attention to Fairmont Senior, which beat Weir twice last year (20-3 in the regular season and 30-15 in the Class AA quarterfinals), Filberto is concerned about the Polar Bear running back and several big linemen.
He said the Polar Bears’ line is led by senior Dante’ Stills (6-5, 280 pounds). Along with his brother, Stills played a huge role in the success of the Polar Bears in 2016. Stills’ father played football at West Virginia University, and his brother is now a freshman on the WVU football team.
Senior Bryson Gilbert (6-1, 215) gave the Red Riders trouble last year, breaking a couple of long runs. Filberto said he’s back and better.
“Gilbert is a special kid,” Filberto said. “He has good size and is physical, but he also has a lot of speed. The Fairmont quarterback last year is gone, but he has been replaced by a good one. He is Connor Neal (6-1, 185). They also have another running back that is pretty quick and a good pass receiver.”
That would be junior Caleb Walker (5-9, 170).
“We will be challenged up front,” Filberto said. “They have some other big kids besides Stills, and their running backs are extremely fast. Their overall run speed is strong. Fairmont Senior is as good as anybody in West Virginia and Class AA.”
Filberto went into the season without a lot of depth and now has even less. The Red Riders will face the Polar Bears missing starting quarterback and defensive end Tyler Komorowski, a junior, for the third straight week. He injured a knee in the loss at Keyser and definitely will not see action against Fairmont Senior.
Filberto added that the Red Riders also had a couple of linemen “dinged” in the loss last week. He was forced to insert a freshman and a couple of sophomores into the offensive line that already starts two sophomore tackles.
“We’ll see this week if those linemen will be available next Friday,” he said.
Sophomore Sebastian Spencer has filled in capably for Komorowski. Spencer has completed 12-of-26 aerials for 215 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.
Junior Chad Custer leads the running game with 462 yards on 49 rushes and eight touchdowns. Senior Tyler Mack has 316 yards on the ground with 40 carries.
Filberto said he always likes to see his players enjoy the festivities of homecoming.
“Some think homecoming is a distraction, but I’ve always felt it is a big part of being a high school student,” Filberto said. “We caution them that the most important thing about homecoming weekend is the football game, and they need to focus on that. Homecoming is a lot more fun when the football team wins.
“We have to play our best game of the year. We can’t have turnovers like we did last week, and we have to be very consistent both running and throwing the football.”