Consistency, limiting mistakes are keys in Polar Bears’ quest for another state title


FAIRMONT, W.Va. – Fairmont Senior heads back to Wheeling Island Stadium in its quest for another Class Double-A state title. But the Polar Bears didn’t take a usual route to success this season.

Fairmont Senior enters the state championship game as a 16 seed.

This has never been the case for the Polar Bears’ crew who has won two state titles in the past three seasons and is making its fifth state championship appearance in the past six years.

FSHS just inched into the playoffs with a 5-4 regular season record and has beaten three teams ranked higher to make it to the island.

Consistency and limiting mistakes throughout the sesaon has been key for the Bears.

“The offense, they’ve continued to be more consistent and that’s what we’ve strived for.  The limit of penalties and turnovers. We still had one but we were able to rebound from that. We limited penalties and just more consistent play at the line, at the skill positions, on the edge, picking up blocks and knowing our assignments,” Nick Bartic, Polar Bears head coach said.

Fairmont Senior sees a somewhat familiar opponent in the title game, Independence.

The two met last season in the playoffs where Fairmont Senior came away with the 43-15 win in the quarterfinal.

Independence is not so well versed in the Wheeling Island trips. This is the first-ever state championship appearance in school history for the Patriots.

While they haven’t been in this position before, they certainly know what it takes to there after an undefeated season thus far.

“They’ve got a lot of similarities from last season to this season. Coach Lilly is a guy that has been around for a long time. He’s picked up a little bit of this, a little bit of that from a lot of different levels of football, a lot of different places. He’s going to have a team that comes in and what they build their program on is physicality and fundamentals,” Bartic said. “So we’ve seen that on film from last year to this year. We expect another physical game. They’re going to be a team that’s continued to improve over the years and now they have found themselves in this position with a really great team.”

Bartic described Indy as big and physical and the standout weapon is senior running back Atticus Goodson.

“He’s a bowl in a China shop type of running back so you’re going to have to be physical, tackle low,  and it’s going to take gang tackling. One guy typically doesn’t bring somebody like him down so our guys have to be focused on being fundamental and playing their game. But at the same time, they do a lot of things to use him to decoy and try to make you forget about your rules and we’re going to have to stay disciplined even when he doesn’t have the ball,” Bartic said.

Fairmont Senior has been constantly working and improving in the mistakes department.

Bartic said a big reason why his team has become so successful is limiting mistakes and that includes turnovers and penalties.

“The more experience that we’ve gained, the better and more consistent we’ve played and improved in the facets of the game. Like turnovers, like penalties, and that leads to more consistent play. It’s just something we’ve focused on and I think as our guys have gained experience and confidence, one thing has followed the other,” Bartic said.

Senior lineman Kalaeloa Kaukini touched on working through mistakes at practices and noticing that it can cost his team the game.

“Every time we do it in practice, if we jump we just learn from it.  We hype each other up, we don’t doubt each other. We just let each other know that  if we jump, it can ruin the game. If we don’t jump, we can win the game,” Kaukini said.

The Polar Bears and Patriots face off for the second time ever on Friday night- this time for a state title at Wheeling Island Stadium.

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