Red Riders sit back, relax and wait for playoff fate during bye week

FINDING ROOM — Weir’s Chad Custer fights for yards against Brooke on Friday. (Photo by Michael D. McElwain)

WEIRTON — The Weir High football team completed the 2017 seasons with three straight wins for an overall 7-3 record and locked up it’s fourth straight trip to the playoffs .

With the 40-7 win in the season finale last Friday over rival Brooke, the Red Riders moved up one spot to 15th in the Class AA rankings and must spend this week, the mandatory bye, in a holding pattern while many other teams in the state complete their seasons.

The veteran coach of the Red Riders, Tony Filberto, has always favored the old school football season of 10 straight games with the bye week on the 11th week. Sometimes, like this year, a bye week earlier in the season is helpful to take a breathe and heal the injured, but Filberto said he doesn’t worry about that.

“These kids genuinely care very much about each other,” Filberto said. “We aren’t showing any one person as a star. In last week’s win over Brooke, we had 11 kids run the football, six caught passes and three threw passes. We are spreading things around, and it has been a total team effort like that all year long.”

One of the things Filberto mentioned when asked what sticks out in his reflections of the past football season is his team managed to get through adversity and still post a respectable 7-3 record. By adversity, Filberto meant mostly playing through injuries to several key players on a club that didn’t have a lot of depth.

“I think the bonding into a team is one of the things that comes to mind,” Filberto said. “To begin with, we have to look at the big picture. We had to replace eight people on offense, and the kids coming in were able to replace those that graduated very nicely.

“I think that shows that our program is on solid ground. Our jayvee team is 6-1-1, and after a slow start the middle school team finished with three straight wins. Also, the Weirton Little Steelers made it to the midget football league finals, so that all bodes well for our future.”

Last week was senior night, and when Filberto put in the reserves in the fourth quarter, the nine seniors came off the field as a group holding hands. Those nine seniors were the catalysts for leadership. They are Jaylon Bridges, Frank Ty Hudacheck, Garrett Johnson, Tyler Mack, Zach Martin, Caleb Rea, Mason Rice, Will Rupert and Josh Taflan. All but Taflan, who transferred to Weir from Brooke, the seniors are the first class in school history to participate in the postseason all four years of their high school careers.

“We had some adversity during the season and some kids couldn’t play because of injuries. The kids hung in there,” Filberto said. “They didn’t worry about last week; they kept their focus on what was at hand.

“You know, you find out a lot about a team when they have adversity like that. We had three losses, and one of them was by the margin of a touchdown and the other was by three points. And those were against top teams in West Virginia and Ohio.”

Filberto said the trips in the early part of the season helped with the player bonding.

“We always take charter buses on trips and get a nice meal,” he said. “I think the kids felt like they were special, and that’s what we want. We want to make our program as special as possible. We want kids to feel special.”

Filberto added that the future looks good for Weir High football.

“We have had some pretty good defenses the past few years, and we return from this year’s defense a defensive end, two tackles, an inside linebacker, a couple of defensive backs and the safety,” he said. “On the offensive side, we have eight kids that saw significant playing time return.”

“We return all but one of our skill players on offense. We will lose our two guards, the center and tight end, and our special teams have our kicker back along with a lot of young kids that did well on special teams this year. We expect good results.”

Filberto feels the Red Rider football program is on solid ground.

“Of course, you never know and some teams are better than others, but I don’t think we’ll have any of those drastic peaks and valleys,” he said. “We are trying to be consistent.”

As for the playoff picture, Filberto said there are 27 games involving West Virginia 2A teams that could impact the rankings.

“From what we can determine, we could end up as high as 12th or as low as 15th,” he said. “We just have to wait it out. There are teams in front of us that play each other, so there will be a lot of shuffling in the rankings this weekend.”

If the state regular football season were over this week, the Red Riders would make a long trip to Mingo County to play unbeaten and second-ranked Mingo Central. The Miners travel to Winfield to play the 7-2 and ninth-ranked Generals on Friday night.

Perennial power Bluefield is the top ranked team in the division and have completed their season at 10-0.

Filberto said the Red Riders should have a great week of relaxation and enjoyment.

“We will have Monday off with a reserve game at Brooke that was postponed from earlier in the year, and some of the varsity kids will go down to Brooke to support the younger ones,” he said. “Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday will be light stuff like running, weightlifting and going through plays to keep our timing.

“On Friday, we’ll have a lot of fun. There will be challenges and contests and fun things for the kids. Some of the coaches will be gone to various scouting assignments of teams that we could possibly face in the playoffs. Sunday we’ll go to Parkersburg for the playoff meeting with coaches to exchange films, and next Monday the kids will get back to work with preparations for the team that we’ll play that week.

“We’ll be the visiting team with the choice of day and time, so I can almost guarantee you that we’ll play the first playoff game on Saturday afternoon, Nov. 11.”