TENNERTON – For the first time in nine years, there will be a new face leading the Buckhannon-Upshur football program this summer.
With the announcement of the retirement of Duane Stoeckle after an eight-year run as mentor of the Bucs in March, the Upshur County Board of Education brought in Zach Davis to take over the reigns of the Buccaneer football program in mid-May.
Davis will inherit a program that has just two wins over the last two seasons, but he is no stranger to taking over programs and rebuilding them as they look for a return to prominence.
Davis spent the last three seasons with the Nitro Wildcats, and he spent three seasons prior to that at Riverside.
“I guess it’s my M.O. (modus operandi) as a head coach in West Virginia to take over programs that have struggled for one reason or another,” stated Davis. “When attempting to turn a program around, you start with the basics. The blocking, the tackling, and things like that. One of my big things early will be getting to know the players. I have a list of 60 kids and I want to know what makes them tick, what do they like and what are their strengths and weaknesses. After that it’s putting in a lot of hard work from everybody involved.”
Davis said it was a friendship with former Buckhannon-Upshur head coach and athletic director Eddie Vincent that led him to having an interest in the job when it became open.
“Eddie gave me a heads up that the job was coming open,” said Davis. “So, I applied, and they hired me. I am thrilled to be here. I think Buckhannon is the best city in West Virginia. I accepted the job without my wife even coming up here. She joked that I must know that she will really love the town. I told her, “I know you will.” We simply love the town and the people here. It is a great place to raise a family and that is what we are looking for. It is a great community.”
Now a part of the Buckhannon-Upshur community, Davis wants that community to embrace the Buccaneer football program.
“The easiest way to do that is win,” said Davis. “I understand that. We know we must play a brand of football that is competitive. We expect to be in every game. We will compete to the end. But more than that, I have to go out and build relationships in the community and help them understand that I, and we, are here to help. We want these young men and women to be the best people they can be. With the community showing up to our games, that is helping them with that and supporting them.”
Davis understands there won’t be instant turnaround of the program, but says it’s something that will happen over time.
“It’s about being competitive first,” noted Davis. “We are going to play the best players that can help us win. We don’t care what grade they are in or what their last name is. I’m not saying that was happening here, but we simply want to play competitive football and the wins and losses will take care of themselves. We have to win each snap first, try to win the play, then go on and win the next play.”
Davis said the first step becoming competitive again begins with working with the younger players and molding them.
“We want to have great off-season attendance,” remarked Davis. “And how do you do that? You try to make it a fun environment. Football isn’t easy. Football is moving from one uncomfortable position to the next and you are telling players to run through people which isn’t a natural thing to do. Football is a developmental game. Football is something you can get a lot better at, especially in high school. That is what we want to do. We want to take them as freshmen as an average player and make them a great player by the time they finish.”
Davis began his first on-field duties as head coach this week starting the Bucs on their summer conditioning.
“They are running, lifting and doing some fun competitions,” said Davis. “I was so excited to finally be working with them I was up at 5:45 a.m. on Monday. I was ready to go. The kids have worked very hard in this first week and the turnout has been very good.”
Davis remarked that he will make four promises to his players.
“We will always love them, we will never lie to them, we will stick with them through life, and we will have boundaries that you won’t cross,” stated Davis. “At the core of why I got into coaching was to help young people. The wins are great, but you are trying to help them become better people and football is a tool for that.”
Davis said he wants to honor Buckhannon-Upshur’s traditions of the past while making new ones of his own.
“This program was built on the backs of those players that came before us,” remarked Davis. “I think you have to talk about that tradition to the current players. I have to learn it first, but I want to talk about it with our players.”
One of things that Davis said he would like to bring back is maybe a sprinkle of red in the uniforms.
“You will see us in blue and white, no more black,” stated Davis. “You might see some red as a nod to the past and the traditions that were here.”
With the success of teams in Class AAA seemingly moving to schools with larger surroundings such as Morgantown, Huntington, Martinsburg and Wheeling Park, Davis says you can’t try to go toe-to-toe with the larger schools in the class.
“Don’t try to do it like them,” commented Davis “Do something a little different than what they do. Find your own niche. Don’t try to beat them at their own game. We aren’t going to outspread a Martinsburg team. We can’t play that game. We are trying to build our own brand and do it how we do it.”
Davis said he feels very blessed to be the head coach of the Buccaneers.
“We haven’t played a game yet, so everyone loves me right now,” joked Davis. “I am very blessed to be here. I am a man of faith and I see the Lord’s handwriting in this with me being here. I am very humbled and honored to be here. I would like to end my coaching career here. That is truly how I feel. I don’t want to go anywhere else.”