FAIRMONT — A historic era of Fairmont Senior High football had already etched well-traveled paths to West Virginia University up Interstate 79 and Fairmont State University just down the road.
On Wednesday’s National Signing Day, however, the Polar Bears’ duo of Camden Longwell and Nate Kowalski blazed a new trail, this one going from the Friendly City to the Capitol City.
The pair of FSHS seniors each signed their National Letter of Intent and officially committed to continue their football careers at the University of Charleston of the Mountain East Conference.
“We’re neighbors and we’ve been friends since fourth grade, so it’ll be all right,” said Kowalski of Longwell, with the two set to room together as Golden Eagles.
“It’ll be a lot of fun living up their together,” Longwell said.
Longwell and Kowalski, who both started playing football in the eighth grade, are the latest Fairmont Senior players to continue their careers at the college level following a historic four-year run by the Polar Bears that amounted to a 48-6 overall record (.889), three Class AA state title game appearances and a Class AA state championship in 2018.
“Any time you have the consistency with not just successful seasons, but also with having student-athletes get these opportunities to play football and further their education, that always helps you to refocus year to year on what this is all about,” said Fairmont Senior coach Nick Bartic.
“I was a lot of fun, I’ll always remember it,” Longwell said of his time with the Polar Bears. “I’ve grown a lot, and I hope everything that Coach (Mark) Sampson, Coach Bartic and all of my coaches have taught me I can take to Charleston and then learn even more.”
Longwell will join Charleston head coach Pat Kirkland’s Golden Eagles as a slot receiver, a position he played frequently while at Fairmont Senior.
Kowalski, meanwhile, has been pegged for a new position by Kirkland and his staff as a tight end after playing middle linebacker, offensive left tackle and H-back for the bulk of his Fairmont Senior career.
“I’m pretty good at blocking, I’m pretty strong, I’m pretty quick for my size and I have decent hands,” Kowalski said of his acumen for the new tight end spot.
Kowalski and Longwell were both two-way pillars for the 2019 Polar Bears, who went undefeated in the regular season for a second straight year and ran their win streak to 26 games before falling to Bluefield in the Class AA state semifinals.
Kowalski, who toggled between playing tackle on the offensive line and H-back, finished the season with eight total touches for 114 yards and a touchdown, while paving the way as a blocker from both positions for a Polar Bears offense that rolled up a whopping 445.5 yards and 46.2 points a game.
On defense, as one of the spearheads of a unit that allowed just 171.9 yards and 10.5 points a game, Kowalski piled up a team-best 83 total tackles, including five tackles for loss.
Longwell, meanwhile, was the go-to receiver for quarterback Gage Michael in the team’s historic offense. He snagged a team-high 44 catches for 783 yards with 14 touchdowns, while also rushing for 76 yards and another touchdown. Longwell was also a dynamite return man for the Polar Bears, averaging 12.9 yards per punt return with three total return touchdowns, and he started at cornerback where he had 18.5 total tackles, three pass break ups and an interception.
“Both of those guys are gym-rat-type guys,” Bartic said. “They work very hard and they enjoy the grind. They’re also the type of guys who enjoy the camaraderie with their teammates.
“They’re just the kind of guys you like having in your program. You know they’re going to give you their best effort and they’re always going to be on top of doing what needs to be done.”
Both Longwell and Kowalski received all-state recognition for their accomplishments with the Polar Bears as seniors. Longwell, who had a number of touchdowns and big plays called back via penalty in what was sort of a running joke throughout the season, still earned a spot on the Class AA all-state second team as a utility player. Kowalski, meanwhile, was named all-state special honorable mention for his two-way play.
For their respective careers, Longwell made all-state second team in 2019 and was named all-state honorable mention in 2018, while Kowalski earned all-state honorable mention in 2017 before receiving all-state special honorable mention recognition in 2018 and 2019.
Email Bradley Heltzel at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @bradheltzTWV.