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Changes coming for Wood County Christian athletics

Photo by Joe Albright Ed Davis looks on during a high school girls basketball game between Parkersburg South and Parkersburg in 2018. Davis, South’s former head coach, recently was named the head girls basketball coach at Wood County Christian.

WILLIAMSTOWN, W.Va. — Change is happening within Wood County Christian athletics.

Along with joining the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission next season, the Wildcats also will have some new coaches at the helm.

In basketball, the boys and girls teams both will have new coaches as Rod Lanham replaces Dan Morris as the boys coach while Ed Davis takes over for A.G. Harris on the girls side.

Wood County Christian’s tennis team also will have a new leader in Justin Layfield.

Like schools all around the country, Wood County Christian had its spring sports season upended by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, once the sports world is back to normal, athletic director Sara Dunn is optimistic about the state of Wood County Christian athletics.

“I’m excited for our athletes to have the possibility of competing at a higher level,” Dunn said, referring to the school joining the WVSSAC. “We have individuals who will have a chance to compete at the state level.”

Wood County Christian still will compete in the West Virginia Christian Athletic Tournament, along with being eligible for the SSAC’s postseason tournaments.

Wood County Christian’s effort to join the SSAC started when parents of some of the school’s athletes sought a higher level of competition for their kids.

“We’ve had for several years some parents that were pushing for it because they knew their kids could excel,” Dunn explained. “We’ve had some very competitive teams in the past, and it’s something that’s gotten kicked around by our board for several years. Last year the board made the decision we were going to go ahead with it. We went through the application process, and the rest is history.”

Despite the transition, Dunn pointed out that the Wildcats will continue to play some familiar opponents.

“We’re still going to have Christian schools on the schedule,” she said.

Dunn believes the move to the SSAC emphasizes the school’s desire to be respected athletically.

“We’re excited to join the WVSSAC,” she said. “I hope it shows people that we’re serious about being a good athletic program.”

Dunn is especially buoyant about the direction of the basketball teams at Wood County Christian.

“I’m really excited about the basketball programs,” she said. “We’ve got two coaches who are on fire to get started and build programs. Ed has already had clinics for preschool to seventh grade. He’s excited.”

Davis previously was the head girls basketball coach at Parkersburg South before stepping down following the 2018-19 season.

Last year, he joined the Wood County Christian girls staff as Harris’s assistant.

“I’m thrilled with the opportunity,” said Davis, who coached many years at the youth and middle school levels prior to South. “To get a chance to be a head coach again, I’m very thankful for the school and administration to give me the opportunity. I’m looking forward to getting started. I’ve been real impressed with the school. I’ve come from a couple schools (South and Williamstown) that had solid traditions, and this is no different. It’s kind of a new chapter for the school as a whole, and I feel blessed they’re allowing me to be a part of it.”

Davis envisions big things ahead for a Wood County Christian team that returns four starters and some key players off the bench.

“We need to give A.G. a lot of credit,” Davis said of Harris, who retired following that 2019-20 season. “We had an eight-win improvement from the prior year to this past season. We went from five to 13 wins, and I think he gave us a great springboard and he deserves all the credit in the world for that.

“We had three seniors and they contributed a lot for us in that turnaround. We also have underclassmen who played a lot of minutes. We played three freshmen a lot of times. We have a lot of game experience coming back, so that should help ease the transition.”

Davis said his players are very motivated and want to continue improving next seasons.

“I asked the kids about their individual and team goals, and there’s a common theme,” Davis said. “They want to win basketball games. They got a taste of it last year and they want more.”

On the boys side, Dunn said “Rod was meeting with the boys during baseball practice just to get to know them.”

Unfortunately, the Wildcats didn’t get to have a baseball season due to the pandemic. Track and tennis also were cut short, and Dunn expressed sympathy for those athletes.

“Obviously it leaves a lot of them hanging in the wind,” Dunn said. “I feel especially bad for the seniors. We had a big group of seniors who were excited to play baseball and run track, and it got pulled out from under them. I feel really bad for them.”

It’s unknown if fall sports will start on time in 2020, but whenever sports do resume, the Wood County Christian Wildcats will be competing as members of the WVSSAC, and will have a handful of new faces guiding their programs.

“We’re starting fresh,” Dunn said.

Jordan Holland can be reached at jholland@mariettatimes.com.

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