TENNERTON – The Buckhannon-Upshur Buccaneers are going to be tested right out of the gate tonight when they open their 2019 football campaign against the defending Class AA state champion Fairmont Senior Polar Bears.
And for Buckhannon-Upshur head coach Duane Stoeckle and his Buccaneers, they are looking forward to the challenge the Polar Bears will present.
“We are going to see just how good we are right off the bat,” remarked Stoeckle. “The team is understanding the challenge in front of us. They also understand the opportunity in front of us. We had a team meeting on Monday about what are keys to the game are and they bought into what we want to do. I think our mindset is good heading into this game.”
Stoeckle understands that very few people throughout the state are giving his Bucs much of a chance against the talented Polar Bears tonight.
“One of our mottos has always been ‘Believe You Can Succeed,’” stated Stoeckle. “You have to believe and have no fear and I don’t think we have any fear. They believe we can get the job done if we just take care of the process and handle it one play at a time. They are looking forward to the game. All the pressure is on Fairmont Senior. Nobody in this whole state is going to expect us to win this game except for the players in our locker room.”
Fairmont Senior is led by WVU recruit Zach Frazier from his offensive line position.
The 6-3, 285-pound senior three-star recruit anchors a large and beefy offensive line for the Polar Bears.
“They are legit up front on both the offensive and defensive side,” stated Stoeckle. “Every knows about Frazier but they have a couple of other behemoths that are 320 and 295 pounds. That is going to be our biggest challenge because we aren’t that big. Our biggest concern are the pushes they are going to get against us on the line.”
Fairmont Senior will have to replace Kennedy Award winner Connor Neal at quarterback, but they have the athletic junior Gage Michael to take over the signal-calling duties.
“We saw him at the grid-o-rama a few weeks ago,” said Stoeckle. “He is an excellent athlete. He can run the ball and throw the ball a little. He can hurt you a lot of different ways.”
The Bucs will counter with senior quarterback Ryan Strader, who was a Special Honorable Mention All-Stater last season.
Senior Trenton Westfall is expected to lead the B-U backfield while senior Ryan Smith, a Honorable Mention All-Stater last season, will anchor the line.
Stoeckle said his Bucs are ready for the game but are going to have to bring a mental and physical toughness to the contest tonight.
“If we get knocked down on a play, we have to get back up and get ready for the next play,” he explained. “We also have to be able to tackle them in one-on-one situations. If we do our job and trust the process we should be okay.”
The contest will be the season opener for both games and will kick-off at 7 p.m. at Freal “Red” Crites Memorial Stadium.
Stoeckle is hoping for a packed house for the opener with the state champions in town.
“I hope our fans can be our 12th man from the stands,” remarked Stoeckle. “People that show up for this game are going to see a quality football game. I think they are going to be pleased with what they see from us. We have had guys that have really worked hard this year. I have been very pleased with our work ethic thus far.”