Golden Bears put trust in the line
NEW MANCHESTER, W.Va. — Oak Glen has so many weapons on offense that it can be hard to keep up with their statistics.
Hunter Patterson is one of the best players in West Virginia. Nick Chaney is the right man for the right job at quarterback. Paxton Shuman bulldozes over wimpy tacklers each and every week. Gage Patterson is a sleeper at wide receiver.
For as great as these players and others are, however, the strength of the Golden Bears starts on the offensive line. It is true for most, if not all, winning programs, but it is especially accurate when talking about Oak Glen.
“Our offensive line is outstanding, and that’s a credit to coach Pat Chaney. They are a unit that works together and have been together for a few years now,” head coach Ted Arneault said. “They’ve gelled and are one of the most athletic linemen in the state. We can get out into space, we can run, we can pass protect. It’s a very versatile and very smart group of kids. They really are the strength of our team.”
What helps make that line so sound is the offensive formation and that is the Wing T. Oak Glen has a strong and quick side, as opposed to left and right. For example, if a formation is called on the strong side, those linemen go to the right, while the quicker ones go to the left.
“I think we’ve been saying this ever since last year that we’re one of the best offensive lines in the state,” senior lineman Jeremy Taylor said. “We make the big plays for our quarterback and running backs. We help keep our quarterback in the pocket so he can make the big plays. I really think the line is a big foundation of our offense because we make the plays.
“(Nick Chaney) trusts us 100 percent. Every time before game day, he always says we’re the best line in the state and that he’s going to stay clean and not have one inch of dirt on him.”
Taylor is one piece to a line that helps the offense produce an average of 463.25 yards and 43.75 points per game.
“Our offensive line has pretty much been together their whole life,” Gage Patterson said. “It all starts with (Matthew) Malick, who is a big aspect to the line. Then you have Kyler O’Connor and Danny (Bealles), who are really good pull-in guards. Jeremy is one of our better lineman. Kholton (Goodlin) on the Y is a really good blocker. (Ethan) Hooker was a little soft at the beginning, but he’s really good now. I’m glad he is where he is.”
Arneault agreed that the line starts with Malick, who has stepped up in key situations.
“Matthew Malick is one of our biggest vocal leaders on the line,” Taylor said. “He’s very underrated, and I think people need to see him more as one of the best lineman in the state.”
The next test for the line and the fifth-seeded Golden Bears is a 4 p.m. Saturday home contest against No. 13 seed Herbert Hoover. The Huskies are coming off a 34-33 upset over fourth-seeded Liberty (Raleigh) on Friday despite six turnovers. Liberty, at one point, led 27-10.
“You have to look at Devin Hatfield. He impresses me a lot, and I think he’s their playmaker they try to get into space,” Arneault said. “They also have some large offensive and defensive linemen that will really make it difficult to be active in the box.”
Hatfield hauled in seven passes for 135 yards and two touchdowns against Liberty, including a game-winning 10-yard reception with 2:01 remaining. For the season, he has 31 catches for 477 yards and six scores.
Hoover’s rushing game is led by Hunter Bartley, who has 110 carries for 759 yards and nine TDs. Behind him is quarterback Nick Grayam with 106 rushes for 454 yards and nine scores. Through the air, he is 81 of 126 for 1,147 yards, 10 touchdowns and five picks (including three in the first half Friday).
“We’re feeling pretty good,” Gage Patterson said. “We’re just looking to get better each practice and know everything. It all starts with line, then with our skill. We know we can get the job done.”
When he said looking to get better, Gage Patterson also was talking about himself. His No. 1 focus now is blocking and making sure that his cousin, Shuman and others can succeed.
“Gage is still learning football-type IQ things, making sure he finished his blocks, knowing how to get to green grass when the opportunity arises, knowing how to replace a hot blitzer,” Arneault said. “I think those are things he’s still working on. He’s still working to get better. He’s always been a great athlete.”
Gage Patterson has 30 receptions for 384 yards and four scores this season.
Oak Glen is coming off a promising 42-0 victory over Point Pleasant Saturday, marking the first shutout of the season. After combining those stats with the regular season totals, the Golden Bears are allowing an average of 229.5 yards and 17.6 points per contest.
“I knew we had it in us because we have a great offense and defense, and coach (Chris) Hill has put together this great formation and game plan to where we execute perfectly,” Taylor said. “We do all of the small things right that help lead to the big things.”
Hancock County was deemed gold on Saturday’s COVID map, as well as Herbert Hoover’s area. However, as of Tuesday evening, both counties switched to orange, although numbers between what dictates gold to orange are very close.
“We’re hoping the high level of testing will bring us down again,” Arneault said.
Whoever wins this Saturday, if its county is orange or red by the time the updated map is released during the game, it may have to wait until the following Saturday to go down to at least gold in order to play. Because of the wait, it would then play on Sunday.
As of now, the Class AA contest between the Golden Bears and Huskies is still on for Saturday. Oak Glen High School switched to remote learning only Tuesday.