The Times West Virginian

Opinion

September 5, 2013

FSU seeks strong first impression as new era in football opens this evening

Fairmont State University is entering a new era in collegiate football.

The Falcons hope to get back to relevance under first-year head coach Jason Woodman.

Other coaches besides Woodman had hopes of turning the Fairmont State program around, but it hasn’t happened in a long time. The last time the Falcons finished as high as second in their conference was in 2001, and they haven’t finished as high as fifth since 2006. There have been only two winning seasons in the past 11 years. And it has been 46 years — that’s correct, 46 — since coach Deacon Duvall guided his Fighting Falcon team to a national title.

Woodman knows turning the program around won’t be easy. He knows it all too well.

“As a team and as a program, we’ve got a ways to go,” he said in a recent interview. “We have to get better, but we also know and understand that’s something that’s not going to happen overnight.”

Woodman says he is seeking players with good attitudes and good character.

“They’re doing the right things, and right now that’s all we can ask for. From what I’m seeing, we’ve got a bunch of guys who care about getting better as football players.”

There aren’t many familiar names on the Fairmont State football team, but there are a few.

Junior running back Daniel Monroe is closing in on 2,000 ground yards and ranks in the top 10 at FSU for career rushing touchdowns. Senior wide receiver Chris St. Hilaire ranks in FSU’s career Top 10 in pass receptions and receiving yards. Senior linebacker Garrett Davis led the Falcons last year in total tackles (80) and solo tackles (60). And offensive tackle Chris Barfield is considered to be one of the country’s best at his position.

The Falcons, while beginning their new era, also are in a new conference, although seven of their opponents in the new league are quite familiar.

Eight of the former West Virginia Conference schools are bunched along with Urbana, Notre Dame College and University of Virginia-Wise to form the Mountain East Conference. Fairmont native Reid Amos, for a long while the radio “voice” of the Fighting Falcons, is the new commissioner of the conference, while Adam Zundell, also from Fairmont, is an associate commissioner.

Fairmont State also has a new athletic director who is extremely excited about the 2013 football season that opens tonight with the Falcons facing Seton Hill. Tim McNeely has been here since April and he will finally be able to see one of his school’s premier squads in action. McNeely has been most encouraged about the attitude of the community toward Fairmont State.

Fairmont State’s new head coach is no stranger to Marion County. Woodman is a graduate of North Marion High School and also Fairmont State. And working his way up the coaching ladder, he’s had the opportunity to work with both Nick Saban and Bobby Bowden — two very familiar names to the athletic scenes of Marion County as well as West Virginia. He has paid his dues well in earning his first collegiate head coaching job.

Woodman has been waiting for weeks for tonight’s season opener, and like the old saying goes, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”

Woodman wants his Falcons to make the most of that opportunity when they open the season tonight against Seton Hill University at Duvall-Rosier Field.

The Times West Virginian wishes the Fighting Falcons the best of luck in their new era of collegiate football.

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