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Red Riders using bye week to get healthy

HONORING — Weir High’s six seniors walked off the field together late in the third quarter Friday against Oak Glen. They are, from left, Gage Reitter, Kasper Moreria, Anthony DiMatteis, Levi Hostuttler, Ethan Cummins and Jordan Brueck. (Photo by Joe Catullo)

WEIRTON — Unless they are the first or last week of a high school football season, bye weeks are mostly the same — heal the injured and work on basics.

Bye weeks, which are mandatory in West Virginia’s 11-week season, give players and coaches a respite from the routine of preparing for an opponent on either Friday or Saturday each week. They are not required due to the shortened 10-game season because of the coronavirus pandemic. They are, though, as much a mental break as they are a physical break.

Weir High coach Frank Sisinni not only is wrestling with a losing season, but he also is going through this week with a heavy heart dealing with the loss of a very close, lifelong friend in Ron Ujcich, Brooke High’s long-time baseball and golf coach, who died tragically on Saturday in a ATV accident.

“We not only played ball together through school, but we also coached together for awhile at Brooke before I decided to move on to Weir High School,” Sisinni said. “We were close friends and did a lot of things together outside of our school lives.”

Sisinni’s Red Riders are licking their wounds after the last two weeks of matchups against defending Class A state champion Wheeling Central and Oak Glen, which went deep into the playoffs last year and is currently ranked third among Class AA teams in the state.

Those clashes, as well as playing games against other difficult competition for seven straight weeks, has taken it’s toll. Sisinni said he has eight or nine starters nursing injuries that perhaps would not prevent them from playing, but definitely need a week’s healing process. He said that is in addition to several that already are out for the rest of the season due to more injuries.

“We were looking at a possible game this week, but as a coaching staff, we decided it would be best if we stepped back and let the healing process work,” said Sisinni, whose club is 1-6. “We’ll meet this week, but practices will be limited. We just watched film and talked Monday. We practiced Tuesday, will be off on Wednesday because that is the universal remote learning day for all Hancock County students, and we’ll have light workouts Thursday and Friday.”

Sisinni added that the emphasis this week will be to work on the basics of blocking, tackling, timing and assignments. He said coaches will be working with the kids like they do in the preseason, trying to clean up some mistakes.

“We’ll get back together as normal next week to begin preparations to play our rival, Brooke,” he said. “We start early Sunday morning with coaches meeting to develop the game plan.”

Right now, Brooke would be the finale of an eight-game season, but there still are some discussions and negotiations going on with some other teams about playing a game in Week 11, which would be the weekend of Nov. 6 and 7, Sisinni said.

“We don’t know anything yet,” he said. “Something could develop soon.”

Meanwhile, veteran athletic trainer John Hollister is working his magic on some of the battered troops, and everyone is just laid back and relaxing.

Sisinni said he is pleased with the way his young team has made progress this season. Twenty-five members of his 35-player squad are either freshmen or sophomores, and a number of those underclassmen have broken into the starting lineup.

“We aren’t seeing that progress in the win column yet,” Sisinni said. “But, the learning curve for those younger kids isn’t nearly as steep as it was eight or nine weeks ago. We have taken great strides, and our six seniors have really helped out with the teaching and provided the leadership sort of like big brothers. It has been fulfilling for me to see those relationships grow through this season.

“It definitely has been a challenge, but we need to keep challenging ourselves in the future. We just missed the playoffs last year, but we want to get back to the level of 2013-18 where we made the playoffs each year. It was expected of us, and we want to get back to that. It is the Weir High tradition.”

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