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Prep football: Smolder, Sissonville look to continue progress

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - When Eddie Smolder accepted the head coaching position of the Sissonville football program in 2011, he took over a winless team in need of direction.

They took a step in 2011 with two victories before Smolder guided the Indians to a respectable 5-5 record last year that saw Sissonville lose its regular season finale to Braxton County with a playoff berth on the line.

Smolder hopes to continue to build on the team's turnaround, and is working hard during the ongoing three-week out-of-season coaching period to do just that.

"We have made progress the last two years," Smolder said. "When I took over an 0-10 team, we won two games the first year, and five the past year. Our goal is to keep getting better.

"Things are going great right now. We have 47 kids out. We are working hard, trying to get better every day, and that's our main goal. We want to be the best we can be on August 31 for our first game."

Sissonville has participated in one 7-on-7 scrimmage, and has another scrimmage scheduled this week, but Smolder has put a major emphasis on using the three weeks on the practice field against each other, putting his offensive and defensive schemes together.

"We went to a 7-on-7 in Chapmanville, and Hoover is coming here, which is fine. It is what it is," Smolder said. "It's good to compete, but we compete between ourselves every day. We have our whole offense and defense put in. We are just utilizing the time we have."

If Sissonville is going to continue the build, the Indians must do so without a pair of standouts lost to graduation in running back Trent Stowers and quarterback Austin Crawford, who will play at Glenville State in the fall.

Stowers had a big season in 2012, scoring 18 touchdowns, rushing for 1166 yards and 12 touchdowns, while also piling up 421 receiving yards and six more scores. Crawford threw for 1,023 yards and threw 12 touchdowns and just six interceptions.

"I coached those guys for four years," Smolder said. "I miss them and I appreciate the work they put in. They have helped bring this program to be competitive again. Our goal is to take it to the next step."

Rising senior Nathan Miller replaces Crawford, and will be Sissonville's quarterback this season. Last year, Miller played wide receiver and had 481 yards receiving and eight scores.

However, Miller played the position a lot his sophomore year, making the transition an easy one, according to Smolder.

"Nathan Miller has stepped in at quarterback and is doing a great job," Smolder said. "He has played the position in the past. He is looking really good. He has improved physically and mentally this off-season. We are looking for him to do big things.

"I see him having a big year. He is a leader as well. He just needs to continue to work on getting better every day. He is athletic, works hard, and is developing into a leader. He's a senior and wants it. The kids are following him right now. He has a bright future."

In trying to replace Stowers, rising sophomore Jared Wilkinson will get most of the opportunities. Wilkinson started at the wing back position last season.

"Jared is going to be a good player," Smolder said. "I look for him to step up. He and Austin Burford will be in the backfield, along with Dominic Walker and Tyler Shaffer. They have played a lot and now is the time for them to be leaders and take control. I'm excited about their progress."

Contact sportswriter Christopher Wade at chris.wade@dailymail.com or 304-348-1735.


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