MORGANTOWN, W.Va – 2021 was certainly a season to be remembered for University High on the gridiron. The Hawks finished the campaign with an unbeaten regular season, completing the rebuilding cycle on Bakers Ridge after just a 3-7 finish in 2019.

With a playoff win and plenty of experience under the belts, head coach John Kelley’s 35th team knows it’s going to take everybody’s best shot but he believes they’ll be ready.

“Negatively, we’ve got a target on our back. Everybody wants a piece of us after last year because we had kind of a great year but I think these guys, what I’ve noticed in the three weeks and going through camp right now, they know what it takes to get there,” he said.

There will definitely be some new faces for the Hawks this year with the departures of Elijha Jackson and Sage Clawges at receiver, as well as the thunder and lightning combination of Colin McBee and Daminn Cunningham in the backfield but a battle-tested offensive line is set to bring some stability when University has the ball.

It’s been fun. We do have a big veteran group up there. Me and Gavin’s been playing since freshmen and Seth, my left guard, he’s a junior now but he’s also been playing since a freshman,” senior center Jacob Stephens said, “Same with Anthony Rivera who’s going to step in at left tackle to replace Corbin but he’s been playing since since a freshman as well so we have a bunch of experience up front.”

While veteran pass-catchers Jaeden Hammack and Noah Braham highlight the skill positions on offense, the biggest change on paper for the Hawks is the insertion of junior Luke Hudson at quarterback.

With 2021 starter Chase Edwards forced to give up football due to injuries following last year’s Mohawk Bowl, Hudson gained valuable experience and has already stepped forward as a leader in the offseason.

“Fate is odd sometimes. The injury to Chase last year, we thought was devastating but Luke went in there and didn’t miss a beat and threw for 300 yards in his first game and 200 and some in the playoff game,” Kelley said, “He understands the offense as good as Coach Snyder does. He’s a coach out on the field so he’s a done a great job for us.”

While he may be the new guy in the starting lineup, Hudson has spent plenty of days sweating it out in preparation for the Friday night lights with his teammates and that connection can only bode well for the Hawks.

“Even whenever I was younger and wasn’t starting, I was close to all those guys and it made it a lot easier but now that I guess I’m that guy for them, it’s been just a nice step in and I’ve been friends with them forever,” Hudson said.

Kelley points to a veteran front seven and skilled but potentiall thin secondary that will be relied on defensively this season and knows that even though there may be some holes to fill from last season, his players have expectations for themselves that equal what he will ask of them.

“They know its a grind and they know that we’re probably going to win some games we might not should’ve and we’re probably going to lose some games we probably shouldn’t have. That’s football but they’re not looking past anybody this year,” he said.

University opens its 2022 season on the road, facing John Marshall on August 26.