NEW MANCHESTER, W. Va. - As he heads into his second season as the head coach of the Oak Glen Golden Bears, Ian Whittington has a positive outlook about this year's football team. A year ago, the Golden Bears went 4-6 with a team that was led by a standout group of seniors.
"We have a slightly smaller offensive line," Whittington said. "We will probably start three seniors and one junior up front. The other offensive starting lineman will be either a junior or a sophomore."
Whittington went on to say, "Being a younger team, there is a hunger to this year's team. We have a lot of sophomores who will see an extensive amount of playing time. The good thing is they have a huge desire to win and they will get much better as the season goes on."
In addition to a large turnover in the starting lineup from 2012, there has been a turnover in the coaching staff as well. The most notable loss was former Oak Glen standout Derrick Stickles ,who left to take the reins as head coach at Edison Local.
"Derrick has been one of my best friends since were little kids. I am going to miss him," Whittington said. "It's ironic that we open against him in Week One. The kids will be pumped as they know him very well and he knows us. That should make for an interesting, pumped-up game. Once the game is over, we'll go back to being best friends."
With the loss of Stickles, who was the offensive coordinator, the Golden Bears are undergoing a change in offensive philosophy.
"With Derrick, we ran his systems as I had complete confidence in his decisions," Whittington said. "This year, we'll be running my playbook, using my schemes. Jason Kekseo is our new offensive coordinator. He'll be making the calls, but I will be more involved in the offensive game planning."
Joining Kekseo on Whittington's staff are Patrick McGillian (DL/OL), Doug Murray (OL/DL), Frank Crain (FB) and Nathan Parry (DE/TE). The lone holdover from last year's staff is Justin Lipps, who will tutor the linebackers as well as serving as the head coach of the junior varsity squad.
McGillian is the Oak Glen wrestling coach. Crain was his predecessor. Whittington also serves as an assistant wrestling coach.
"I really like having wrestlers on the football team," said Whittington with a smile. "I think their ability to maintain their balance and move their hips really helps out, especially with the linemen."
"It's a real dedicated group," said Whittington of his coaching staff. "We have spent a great deal of time making sure that we are all on the same page. What I like best about our coaches is that they truly enjoy teaching the game and are terrific role models."
Newcomers to the Golden Bears' 2013 schedule are Beaver Local and Williamstown. They replace Wellsville and Tyler Consolidated.
Williamstown is located between Marietta and Parkersburg on the West Virginia side of the Ohio River. Point Pleasant is across the river from Gallipolis, relatively close to Huntington.
"Situated where we are at the uppermost part of the West Virginia panhandle, it's tough to get West Virginia schools to agree to come up here and play," Whittington said. "It's really important that we play Beaver Local, East Liverpool, Weir and Edison. They're close and they are also natural rivals."
8-30 Edison H
9-6 Beaver Local A
9-13 Indian Creek A
9-20 John Marshall H
9-28 Steubenville Central A
10-4 Weir H
10-11 Williamstown H
10-18 East Liverpool H
11-2 Point Pleasant A
11-8 Magnolia A