POINT PLEASANT, W.Va. - A program is built from the ground up in New Manchester.
The Oak Glen football team entered uncharted territory Saturday against Point Pleasant in the second round of the West Virginia Class AA football playoffs.
The team had not achieved this level of playoff success since it advanced to the same round in 1993.
SIX — Jeff Hissam regturns to the bench after scoring his second touchdown of the day. The Big Blacks ended Oak Glen’s season with a 66-40 victory.
-- Brent Sobleski
Despite the eventual 66-40 loss to the top-ranked Point Pleasant Big Blacks, the Golden Bears set a school record finishing with a 10-2 record.
The season finale doesn't reflect the depth the Golden Bears' program has improved in the four years since Tony Filberto took the helm as the team's head coach.
"We made history," Fiberto stated. "I tell the kids to be proud of the journey. You never know what the destination is. Winning football hasn't always been a tradition at Oak Glen.
"We came in here as a staff four years ago with these kids. We changed the mindset. That's very important to win football games. As a result, we've won 27 football games over the same time. That's pretty good for our six seniors.
"We have a lot of kids coming back. So we have a future here at this program."
Oak Glen athletic director Phil Rujak echoed the statements of his head football coach.
"You hate to lose, but we came here today and we showed a lot of guts," he said. "These kids never quit. They got down and could have quit, and I think that speaks well of our entire sports program.
"We think we're on an upswing currently. This is a great send off with a 10-2 record going into our new stadium. I think this so exciting for everybody. Of course we're disappointed after this game, but we'll reflect back on this and realize just how exciting and how much fun this run was."
Make no mistake. This wasn't a moral victory for Oak Glen.
The score was knotted multiple times throughout the first half. Oak Glen finished by scoring more points on Point Pleasant than any previous team the Big Blacks entertained. But, Filberto and his squad expected to win.
"We came here to win," the coach reiterated. "We didn't come here to make an appearance. We wanted to win a state championship. Our staff has a lot of playoff experience. We told our kids that we came here to win a playoff game. Our kids believed in what we said, and we stood toe-to-toe. That (Point Pleasant) is a good football team."
Rujak complimented the effort and accomplishments of Filberto.
"Tony is a veteran coach, he started. "He understands the game of football. He understands winning. He's been successful wherever he has been. He's taken our program to this level.
"When you work hard and get kids to believe which he has done, and we want that to continue. We want the team to believe in themselves and realize they are a success. We are not a one-year wonder. We're building for the future. We're starting a tradition at Oak Glen."
The finale also doesn't reflect the potential the Oak Glen football team, and the school's sports programs in general, represent as they move into the future. One of the major aspects of this growth is the building of a brand new on-campus football stadium next season.
"I think we have some great kids coming up through the ranks," Rujak said. "We'll have a complex that will rival anyone in the state. We're very proud of that.
"We opened up our baseball and softball fields last year. We're finishing those off. Our baseball team had a great year last season. They went to the regional. Our football team just finished a great year. Our volleyball team just finished strong. Our track program had a good year. We look forward to our basketball and wrestling teams this season. And we look for big things from our spring teams this year again.
"We want our kids to believe in themselves. We want them to work hard. We want them to enjoy success and set high goals for themselves. Whether you reach those goals is irrelevant. But if you don't set them and don't believe in them, you are never going to get there.
"We are the Golden Bear nation. Our crowd today (at Point Pleasant) and the group that follows our sports is simply fantastic."