In recent years, West Shamokin football was all about the streak.
The Wolves endured five years of futility, losing a WPIAL-record 46 straight games.
That streak ended last year, but West Shamokin still has a streak in mind. The Wolves want to put together a winning streak.
West Shamokin opened the season last week with a 12-7 victory at Springdale in the first game under coach Jon McCullough. The Wolves play host to Northgate on Friday in their home opener.
But just as they left that long losing streak behind last season, the Wolves hope to put last week in the past, too.
“It was a great feeling after the game,” McCullough said, “but at the same time I told them it’s a great win and they did a good job, but don’t get too high on it. In the big picture it’s just one game.
“Each week, that’s the biggest game of the season. It was nice, and we felt great afterward, but we don’t want to win just one game. We’re just trying to keep the kids focused on moving forward and worrying about the game we have this week and not looking back.”
West Shamokin took a 12-0 lead on Springdale, taking advantage of a short field set up by turnovers to score both touchdowns. The Wolves finished with only 144 total yards, all but 16 rushing. Zac Horner scored both touchdowns, on runs of 6 and 4 yards.
The defense was stout, though, allowing only 184 yards and not yielding any points. The Wolves held after turning the ball over on a fumble on the first play from scrimmage, and Springdale’s only touchdown came on a fumble recovery and 2-yard return in the fourth quarter.
Brandon Stover recorded a team-high 10 tackles, Andrew Wingard had nine, and Sam Buffone and Horner had eight each.
Horner also intercepted a pass and forced a fumble that Nick Huth recovered.
“Our kids played real hard and played with a lot of focus,” McCullough said. “Defensively it was the best game we’ve played in a long time. We tackled well, which is huge.”
West Shamokin has experienced players, even though there are only five seniors and nine juniors on a roster of 32. All but two of the players in the upper classes have at least one letter, and most have two.
“The kids are starting to come of age,” McCullough said. “A lot of the kids that are starting, the juniors and seniors, have been starting for two years now. They’re starting to know what it takes. We’ve seen it in practice, too. The practices are a lot better. There’s a lot more intensity, and it seems like they’re trying to do everything they can to be successful on Friday night.”
After a bad start with the fumble last week, the Wolves could have fallen into that here-we-go-again funk. Instead, they turned it into a positive.
“That’s one of the things I gave the kids a lot of credit for,” McCullough said, “because before when something bad like that happened they would have gotten down and lost confidence. But the kids held it together and fought back and said they were not going to lose the game and finished it.”
West Shamokin actually takes a winning streak into Friday’s game. The Wolves beat Allegheny-Clarion Valley in a non-conference game in last year’s finale. But again, that’s the past. No West Shamokin team has opened the season 2-0 since Shannock Valley and Dayton high schools merged to form the school in 2000.
Northgate, 5-4 last year, opened the season by nipping Riverview, 18-13, scoring the go-ahead points with 11 seconds to play. It was the Flames’ first game under coach Brandon LeDonne.
“We’re mature enough to know that Northgate doesn’t really care what we did last week,” McCullough said. “They couldn’t care less if we beat Springdale or the Pittsburgh Steelers. … The kids realize that, and they’re focused on doing what they need to do to perform well.”
The old adage is that teams make their most improvement from the first week to the second.
“Offensively we need to block better and execute a little better,” McCullough said. “Defensively we just need to continue our progression. Tackling has been our biggest issue, and we tackled well last week, and we’ll be tested this week because they have good athletes. Whenever you have to tackle in space, I think that’s the hardest thing to do in football, and it’s one thing we need to continue to improve on.
“We’ll see what happens this week. I’m excited, and I know the kids are excited, so hopefully we’ll go out there with the same emotion and same fire we had last week. I don’t think we’ll lack any motivation. It’s our home opener, and we want to prove we’re a good football team.”