FAIRMONT, W.Va – East Fairmont came just one win away from reaching the playoffs for the first time since 2007 last year and while the Bees may have fell short of their goal, it brought energy to a program that has seen some hard times in recent years.

Now, head coach Shane Eakle begins his fourth season in charge and that increased excitment has carried through the offseason, resulting in a much larger roster going into the fall

“We have a few more bodies out. We have 53 kids so that’s part of it. We have some extra guys and we had several guys in the offseason, 40 to 45, that were working out religiously in the weight room so we’re hoping that translates for us as the season goes out,” he said.

As the first class to play under Eakle for all four years of their high school careers, East Fairmont’s seniors are hoping to leave a legacy for how the program improved over their time.

“Last year, we were really close to making it to the playoffs. We were just one game away so this year we definitely want to try and make it there. We’re really excited to send her off with a good year,” senior Vaughn Frederick said.

That senior class, a long with a few key underclassmen, will be relied on by the Bees to help turn the corner and get that 11th game this season. With a solid number of starters back who got a taste of success last year, there are encouraging steps being taken.

“We have several guys that either rotated in play or were in starting roles. We have about half of our starting 22 back so that’s a good solid foundation to build around so hopefully that’ll help us when we get into crunch situations,” Eakle said.

On the field, the Bees return their primary vocal leaders on both sides of the ball, something the head coach underscores as crucial toward their success im the upcoming season.

“We’ve got a senior in the secondary, Alex Culp. He’s been with us for a while now. He’s kind of a field general in the secondary so hopefully he can make some noise and then obviously, Ian’s back at the quarterback position as a junior so his ability to get the ball out for us is going to be key,” Eakle said.

Ian, in this case, is Ian Crookshanks who took over under center for East Fairmont midway through his freshman season and flourished into the unquestioned starter as a sophomore.

With a year and a half as the signal caller for the Bees, he’s ready to produce an even better junior season, thanks to that previous experience.

“I’m definitely glad to have it under my belt than to not have it under my belt, just to see things so I can already have an advantage this year” he said.

When it comes down to it, the goal for East Fairmont is one thing: the fourth playoff appearance in school history. For Eakle, there’s one key aspect of their performance that has to fall in place on and off the field for that to happen.

“Effort determines success so you’ve got to give some effort and that’s a big thing for us, everything we do. Whether it was the beautification around the school, whether its going to help your grandmother mow their grass, whether its X’s and O’s here on the football field, we want to give effort and then that translates into speaking with our actions. If our guys show up and you tell me you’re going to come do something, go do it,” he said.

East Fairmont kicks off the 2022 football season tomorrow night against North Marion at East-West Stadium.