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Oak Glen content to take this week off

BLOCKING — Oak Glen’s Kyler O’Connor, left, and Matthew Mallick block a Keyser defender to protect quarterback Nick Chaney on Sept. 11. (Photo by Joe Catullo)

NEW MANCHESTER — It was at halftime during Friday night’s contest against John Marshall that Oak Glen made a final decision regarding this week.

It was not an easy one to make, but it was for the better.

The Golden Bears had an open date for Week 4 of West Virginia football. They searched for an opponent throughout the offseason and even after the season began. However, with six key injuries on their roster, they decided to stay open and use this week as a bye.

“Originally, we had the idea to go out and find somebody. But, with that many starters coming out, the coaching staff agreed that it would be better to take the week off instead of playing anybody,” head coach Ted Arneault said. “It’s always different if you had somebody scheduled because then you have to play them. Because we didn’t have anybody, we just decided to take the week off.

“Toward the beginning of the season, we were still hoping East Liverpool would want to play us. We kind of floated our options around to see if anybody was open for Sept. 25. Then, right around Week 1, we pretty much said let’s just wait to see what happens that week.”

Big Red could have been a potential matchup but, again, the Golden Bears decided to just take the week off.

Out of Oak Glen’s numerous injuries, the biggest is Hunter Patterson. The team’s Mr. Everything on offense and a defensive back, as well, hurt his ankle against John Marshall, the same one he aggravated a year ago.

“Hunter is day-to-day, but it can be a nagging problem if we don’t take care of it,” Arneault said.

Patterson already has rushed for 363 yards on 24 carries and six touchdowns, while hauling in 17 catches for 360 yards and two more scores.

The other guys are defensive tackle Josh Blake, wide receiver/free safety Evan Geise, linebacker/guard Danny Bealles, backup halfback Matt Greenlief and defensive lineman/guard Kyler O’Connor.

Most of the list is day-to-day. The one to keep an eye on is Connor, who may need surgery on an injured finger. If that is required, he could miss at least a few weeks.

“We’re going to have to get our young guys to step up in key situations to play solid defense for us. We have to let them be who they are,” Arneault said.

The defensive side of the ball is an emphasis for the 3-0 Golden Bears, as they have allowed an average of 254.67 yards and 23.67 points per contest. Most of those came during the 55-46 victory over the Monarchs where the two squads combined for more than 1,000 yards.

One consistent defender for Oak Glen has been Brayden Mineard. He intercepted two passes in each of the preview two games, one year after tallying nine.

“Brayden’s playing some of the best football he’s ever played,” Arneault said. “He looks great on both sides of the ball. He’s a captain for us on both sides. He’s someone we look to lead our passing defense into what possibly could be a new configuration in the next few weeks. He’s the type of kid we can rely on to do that.”

Another aspect of the game Arneault wants to see improve is special teams.

“Special teams wise, I think we’re still on par from where we were last year,” he said. “I would still like to see us make more explosive plays, especially on our returns.”

As for the offense, so far so good. The Golden Bears are averaging 454.33 yards and 42 points per contest.

“It’s a different team with different challenges. It’s pretty different from the 2019 team,” Arneault said. “There are a lot of things that we’re doing better. I’ve been very, very happy with our offensive performance this year. I think we’ve done a pretty good job distributing the ball to many different players. The offensive line is playing better than they ever have. They’ve really gelled together and have been playing as a unit.

“I think Nick (Chaney) is doing a very good job being efficient with the ball. We’re not throwing it as much when he was a sophomore, but we’re throwing it more off of our run game, which has made our pass game more effective and efficient.”

Chaney has completed 32 passes on 43 attempts (a 74.42 percentage completion) for 560 yards, four touchdowns and one interception.

Patterson leads the team in rushing, but Paxton Shuman is not far behind with 53 carries for 290 yards and six touchdowns. Gage Patterson has 133 rushing yards, 124 receiving and two total touchdowns (one rushing, one receiving). Mineard has four receptions for 50 yards, and Kholton Goodlin’s lone catch is a 21-yard TD.

“We’re expecting to achieve at the highest level,” Arneault said. “To be able to get off to the start we’re at against three solid programs in Point Pleasant, Keyser and John Marshall, obviously we are very happy with our team’s performance. But, we have to continue to strive to improve in a very competitive Class AA. Whatever it takes to get there, we have to be open to those options. We can work on some things this week to help us get to that next level.”

Not playing this week most likely will not affect Oak Glen’s playoff seeding, as West Virginia’s system is based on how many games are played. Arneault said he heard a rumor that may change.

One thing the Golden Bears hope will stay the same is their scheduled contest on Oct. 2 at Wheeling Park. The Patriots had to cancel their game with Big Red this Friday because Ohio County went gold on the COVID-19 map. They now will play Linsly on Friday.

Overall, Arneault had mixed emotions regarding the coronavirus pandemic and how it has been handled in West Virginia.

“I really, really feel for my other coaching friends around the state that are not able to play and the kids who put in countless hours have not been able to play, especially Monongalia County,” he said. “They practiced so hard in June, July and August and then can’t play on game night. I’m not a fan of that approach to the system, especially when you have college teams in the county, as well, playing and other types of sports going on. I just feel like it’s discriminatory towards the schools that actually have protocols and procedures to keep the kids as safe as possible. We’re the ones getting punished for it.

“For us in Hancock County, we’ve been very fortunate not to have any games called off, at least yet. I really feel for my friends around the state, and the seniors. I always feel for the seniors who won’t get those games back. The clock keeps ticking with not a lot of hope. It doesn’t take many positive cases in a day for everything to be ruined.”

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