By Shawn Stinson
Pendleton County High School football coach Zac Smith is anxious to put the final two games of the 2021 season in the rearview mirror.
Pendleton was outscored by a combined score of 79-0 in losses to East Hardy and Moorefield. The Wildcats wrapped up their season with a 2-6 mark. It was the first time since the 2017 season that Pendleton posted a losing record.
To prepare for the upcoming season, Smith led his players through two weeks of workouts earlier this month and played in a 7-on-7 tournament at Hampshire in Romney. The team recently attended a camp on the Shepherd University campus in Shepherdstown. Smith said 16 players participated in the camp.
“It was a great turnout,” Smith said. “I was thinking we would have 12 to 15, but we wound up with 16. There were a lot of (rising) sophomores and freshmen.”
One player who will be key to Pendleton’s success this season is James Vincell. The rising sophomore received the majority of snaps last season at quarterback and flashed moments of brilliance at the position. Rising junior Dillon Smith also played quarterback at various times last season.
“He’s been getting a lot of snaps this summer,” Smith said of Vincell. “The only way to get better is to practice. He’s been practicing and playing in the 7-on-7s. We are still working with him on his reads.”
Despite having a better-than-expected turnout at the camp, Smith said not all his top skill players – running backs and wide receivers – were at Shepherd University. He added the absence of missing skill players at the camp could hamper Vincell’s growth at quarterback.
“They weren’t able to work on timing at practice or in camp,” Smith said.
Pendleton will begin practice Aug. 1 to prepare for its 2022 schedule. The team is set to open the season on Sept. 2 at home against James Monroe.
Smith said during the summer workouts he noted the performance of several players that caught his eye. He mentioned returning players Bradey Bowers, Blake Harris, Justus Kuykendall, Lukas Redman and Dusty Smith as standing out during the summer. Rising freshmen Chase Owens and Kammron Redman were also mentioned as being players to watch.