West Shamokin football team strives for bigger, better things
After a season of firsts at West Shamokin, the next question is: What comes next?
It's been a little more than a week since the Wolves' season ended with a 37-14 loss to Monessen in the first round of the WPIAL playoffs but already there is reason to wonder what the next year will hold after the school's first winning season and playoff berth in its 14-year history.
The Wolves have been trending upward for a couple of years. Of the program's 22 total wins, nine of them — 41 percent — have come in the last two seasons. And with only five seniors on this year's team, the immediate future looks bright.
“Obviously, we had a pretty good season and made a lot of strides this year,” Wolves coach Jon McCullough said. “It was nice to get the experience of learning what it takes to get there, but now we see that we have to work that much harder to get past the first round.”
The hope for the Wolves program is that success will extend beyond just this group of players. Though the varsity squad has a large and talented junior class that will return next season, it's the freshmen and junior high players that will be charged with making West Shamokin playoff games a regular occurrence.
“I'm hoping with the success that we had this year, it will get more kids that have been on the fence about playing to come out,” McCullough said. “With the kids that are still below high school, the success that they see us having will hopefully increase the overall interest. It would be nice if we could get 40 or 45 kids out each year.”
Building the program's participation is one of the most important things to ensuring lasting success. West Shamokin's enrollment placed it in Class A by just 17 boys in the realignment after 2011, which gives it an edge in that aspect of the numbers game if it remains in Class A for the next two seasons.
But as a small school, many of the team's athletes are involved in multiple sports and other extracurriculars, something that McCullough embraces.
“At a small school, all the teams cycle through the same kids, and I would never want to discourage a kid from playing a sport. The more sports you play, the more well-rounded an athlete you become,” McCullough said.
“This past offseason, we had terrific attendance in the weight room. I think our kids know it's not going to help them on Friday nights if the kid lining up across from them has been in the weight room all summer. Whether it's with another sport or with us, I just want our kids to stay active.”
Perhaps the biggest change for West Shamokin football next year will be the raised level of expectations. The Wolves' success might have caught many off guard this season, but next year, opponents will be prepared for a much-improved unit.
“Success isn't a given,” McCullough said. “We realize how hard it was to get there, and every year, we're going to have to work that much harder to keep that place.”