CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Since his first day on the job in 2011, taking over an 0-10 team at Sissonville, coach Eddie Smolder has said his main goal is to establish a true Class AA program.
Two games into his third year with the Indians, there is mounting evidence that he is doing just that.
After a 5-5 campaign last season, Sissonville is off to its second straight 2-0 start after convincing wins over Chapmanville and Liberty Raleigh to begin the season.
In those two games, the Indians have outscored their opponents 88-22, including a 48-0 win over the Raiders last Friday night.
"It's just been a process starting three years ago when I first got the job," Smolder said. "We just set our goals and worked on our four cornerstones which are toughness, discipline, enthusiasm and hard work, and we're just trying to build our program on those four things. I think we're starting to see some dividends now."
One thing an established program is able to do is replace production and a year after losing its three leading rushers, Sissonville is showing the ability to do just that.
Gone is running back Trent Stowers (1,166 yards, 12 touchdowns), back Jarrett Mowrer (439 yards, three touchdowns), and quarterback Austin Crawford (368 yards, five touchdowns), yet the Indians offense is clicking as well as it ever has under Smolder.
"Our kids have bought in, they've worked hard all offseason in the weight room and have worked on their speed," Smolder said. "They've bought into our system offensively and defensively. When someone graduates, we hate to lose kids but we just fill somebody else in, coach them up and tell them, 'Play as hard as you can and good things are going to happen.'"
Sissonville finished 2-8 in Smolder's first year and was on the verge of a playoff berth heading into the final week of the season last year.
The Indians hosted Braxton County in the year's final game in a de facto play-in game for the postseason. The game was held at Laidley Field and could've been one of the program's brightest moments over the past handful of seasons.
Instead, it was the Eagles who celebrated after reeling off 24 unanswered points in the fourth quarter for a 37-14 win.
It was one of a few missed opportunities last season that left returning players like quarterback Nathan Miller heartbroken and more determined.