FAIRMONT, W.Va – It’s not very often that a team can win back to back state championships and go into the next season feeling like it still has something to prove, but for Fairmont senior, that’s exactly what the mentality is going into the 2022 campaign.
Head coach Nick Bartic made a spectacular run to the Super Six as a 16 seed last year and the Polar Bears are approaching the upcoming season with quite the chip on their shoulder.
“You feel like they have something to prove even though they come off winning a state championship, having a lot of success but they do still feel that they still have more to prove,” he said.
As soon as you get a chance to talk to the players themselves, that feeling rings true with the mindset that there is still more to prove for the Polar Bears right at the forefront.
“We all know we got a target on our back. We’re probably one of the most winning teams in the state, coming all the way from a 16 seed to winning a state championship,” senior Dylan Ours said, “People don’t like that. We know this year we’re going to have to step it up.”
And while another program may feel the heat or crumble under the pressure of knowing that everyone is gunning for them, its what fuels the fire for Fairmont Senior.
“That’s something we feed off of. We feed off people’s negative energy. Whenever we’re getting that negative energy, that just makes us want to go do it more and we just go do it,” senior Germaine Lewis said.
Certainly a silver lining of the ups and downs the Polar Bears faced last season is the experience that plenty of young players got and they responded when put into big spots, something Bartic is hoping carries on into 2022.
“Well, you hope that guys gain that experience, especially from last season and the older guys, but also the younger guys that gained a lot of experience last year, you hope that bleeds over into the next season,” he said.
Football fans around the state already know about the backfield combination of all-staters Germaine Lewis and Dylan Ours but the key to the offense this season may just be sophomore quarterback Brody Whitehair who returns after seizing the starting job midseason last year before an injury ended his freshman campaign.
“He gained a lot of different experiences last season. He was able to gain that game experience and also that experience of having to watch, when you’re sidelined by injury can really drive people,” Bartic said.
While it may seem like a lot to put on the shoulders of a young signal-caller, Whitehair isn’t sweating the transition.
“I definitely don’t feel like I have any nerves being held to that spot because I’ve kind of been held to it. I’ve been held to it before I even came here,” he said.
With three of the last four Class AA titles belonging to the Polar Bears, they know they’re going to take everyone’s best shot but when you know how to prepare for that, it’s just business as usual.
“You’re preparing to play your best game every game and the offseason and the weight room and conditioning, that’s where all that starts,” Bartic said.
Fairmont Senior opens its three-peat campaign at home on August 26, hosting Lewis County.