PIKEVILLE, Ky. – The 2015 University of Pikeville football team is going to be bigger, faster, and stronger. The Pikeville Bears and Head Coach Allan Holland, Jr., held a press conference Tuesday to let Bears fans know how he is feeling about the upcoming season.
He also let the press know what his squad has been up to during the off-season in order to prepare for another year of football.
Last season the Bears finished third in the MSC East Division with a record of 4-2 and an over-all season record of 5-6. They had some extremely close games against opponents like Morehead State University, Cumberland University (Tennessee), and Georgetown University that could have easily went in the Bears favor. The UPike Bears faced a lot of obstacles last season with injuries and having to rely on a true freshman quarterback.
Holland starts his second season as the head coach of the Pikeville Bears. This will actually be Holland’s first year as a true head coach of the Bears. Holland took over the team last season on an interim basis before having the interim label removed from his name on October 1st. Regardless of the changes that Holland faced, he still led the Bears to an impressive showing in the MSC.
Holland said, “We have a lot of expectations about this year, we have a lot of experience coming back, and everyone is really coming together as a team and program this year. We had some setbacks early in the season last year but the guys learned a lot from it and we pulled off third place in the conference and in a league that is hard to play in.”
Holland reminds his team daily that now that they are getting more recognition it places a target on their back, coming into the season pre-picked to finish second makes other teams take notice and game will be different this year. “We have to be our ‘A’ game very week, teams will be expecting us to show up and play and we have to strive to do something that this program has never been able to do, and that is win the first conference championship,” said Holland.
The quarterback situation turned out to be a blessing in disguise as freshman Sani Warren stepped up and produced greatly for the bears over the course of the season. Warren was a former Belfry Pirate standout that helped lead the Pirates to a Class 3A state championship.
“As we start right now, Sani is our quarterback, we opened up all the positions to promote competition so these guys can get better, but he had a great start last season. He tore his meniscus early in the year and missed five games but he came back and finished strong and was a big reason why we did so well last year,” said Holland Jr. “Sani has also had a great spring, he has continued to get better and we have really worked on his down the field passing game, he has really picked up the offense well and wants to learn everything he can about it and that is a really great thing for us not just as individuals but as a team,” added Holland.
“Last year was a great experience; it was a great thing for me as a freshman. This year we want to progress and take things further than we did last year, I am really excited about this season, so is the team, everyone is really looking forward to seeing how well we can do and how much better we have gotten from last year,” said Warren.
The true freshman threw for over 1,400 yards last season and compiled 12 passing touchdowns over the course of seven games. “I can really thank the Belfry High School Football program for helping me get here, playing under Coach Haywood is great, he is a legend,” Warren said. “That program is just full of class and it not only teaches you how to play football at a higher level but it teaches you so much about life and how to handle things, I think that is why the transition worked so well for me last year.”
The Bears have a few preseason obstacles to overcome before the season begins. They are working to fill the void left by the graduation of their all-time leader in carries, and second best performer in yardage and touchdowns, Seth Millar. On the defensive side of the ball they lost linebacker John-Dudley Hilton, who was the team’s leading tackler.
“One of our weaknesses that we are focusing on this year is our secondary, we had some guys redshirting and we have some guys coming back from injuries. We are pretty confident that this year will be different there, I think it will be one of our strengths in the up-coming season,” said Holland. “John-Dudley left some big shoes to fill and we lost five guys at linebacker to graduation but we have a lot of guys ready to step up to the challenge. I think we are going to be alright there.”
“On the offensive side of the ball we will not be as big as we were last year, at receiver, but we will have plenty of speed. We will be a lot faster on the perimeter. We are returning offensive lineman Brandon Ball, who was a preseason All-American; he is really an anchor for us up front,” said Holland.
The Pikeville Bears begin their regular season against the Bluefield Rams on August 27 at Hambley Athletic Complex at 7:00 p.m. The Bears face a lot of the old rivals from the past this year but have added some new teams to the schedule. The Bears are expecting big things out of this season.
(William Plaster is the sports reporter for the Williamson Daily News, he can be reached at 304-235-4242 ext 2274 or at [email protected] or on twitter @sidplaster)