Wahama, located about 14 miles upriver from Point Pleasant, had its own surprise awaiting at midseason when 19th-year coach Ed Cromley abruptly resigned after six games. Cromley cited stress from the combination of his teaching and coaching duties, and was replaced by longtime defensive assistant Dave Barr.
Barr, who turns 48 in a few weeks, has been a head coach previously at Roane County and Hannan in West Virginia and Racine Southern and Reedsville Eastern in Ohio.
"So it's not like I haven't been in this position before,'' Barr said. "I was kind of hoping I might be in this position at Wahama some day, once [Cromley] decided he was done. But that day's come a little sooner than I expected. In the back of my mind I was thinking about how I would do things. I feel like I've prepared myself for it, and I'm really excited about the opportunity.''
Barr said he was "as surprised as everybody else was'' when Cromley made his decision to step down last week, and the White Falcons' new coach has discussed the situation with his players.
"We talked about how we weren't going to allow anything to be a distraction for us this season,'' Barr said. "What we need to be focused on is what we had control over and that was playing Federal Hocking [last week], and we had a very good week of practice.''
When a program reaches the pinnacle after years of trying, as the White Falcons did last fall in becoming just the second public school team in nine seasons to capture a Class A title, sometimes there's a natural letdown. But Barr doesn't see that in his squad.
"[The hunger] is there,'' Barr said. "I think these guys expected to be good, but I don't think they're overconfident. They know it's going to be tough to repeat, but hopefully they're up for the challenge.''
Most of the headlines have gone to senior running backs Kane Roush (5-10, 170) and Colton Neal (6-0, 190), each of whom is on pace to crack 1,000 yards rushing.
The speedy Roush has run for 872 yards and 13 TDs and caught 10 passes for an additional 257 yards and four scores. The bullish Neal has gained 611 yards on the ground with 11 TDs and grabbed four passes for 107 yards and two scores.
Barr said, however, that the team's offensive line deserves just as much credit for those solid numbers by the running backs.
The starters, who often flip-flop along the line, are all seniors - tackles Lane Sparks (6-0, 240) and Tyler Nutter (6-0, 250), guards Josh Haddox (5-8, 185) and Wesley Harrison (5-10, 180) and center Zack Killingsworth (5-8, 230).
Keys subs on the O-line who all play regularly are junior guard Brent Larck (5-10, 190) and sophomore tackles Jesse Hesson (5-11, 220) and Clayton Sines (6-0, 310).
Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or rickr...@wvgazette.com.