If you’ve followed Bridgeport High School football for the past several decades, you know the name Jed Drenning quite well. For a two-year span, the Drenning-lead Tucker County Mountain Lions met up with the Wayne Jamison-coached Bridgeport Indians in two 1980s
“It seemed to be a ready-made rivalry that was unfortunately short lived,” Drenning said.
Part of the reason rested with the state’s classification structure. Bridgeport was generally a large Class AA or a small Class AAA school and Tucker County, currently in Class A, wasn’t a frequent visitor to the middle classification.
“I think my graduating class may have the highest enrollment we ever had,” said Drenning. “A lot of things have changed in the quarter of a century that’s passed, but my memories of those games haven’t changed. Those games were blow for blow battles.”
It would be hard to argue with Drenning on his descriptions of those two games. The first outing, 1986, saw the Indians win a 10-7 game in the Class AA state championship contest where the Mountain Lions drove late to force a tie only to see Scott Lewis kick the game-winning – and title clinching field goal – at the end of the game.
“That was a heckuva battle,” Drenning said.
As it would turn out, the matchup in 1987 would also be a game for the ages. Only this time, it would be Drenning and Tucker County walking away with the win in one of the coldest playoff games in recent memory.
This time, the two teams would meet up at Buckhannon-Upshur High School in the Class AA semifinals. Tucker County, although the home team, didn’t have a field approved for postseason play and the game was played at a venue closer to that of the Indians than the
“It was just frigid … On the first play of the game we ran a quarterback sweep and I got tackled as I was going out of bounds and when I land my hand slip on the ground. A couple of plays later I noticed guys in the huddle staring at my hand,” Drenning said. “It was so cold it took a couple of play before it started bleeding. I still have that battle scar.”
Tucker County would win that game 26-20 in double overtime. Although they would come up short in the state title game, TCHS did manage to play another classic with the Indians on its way to the title round.
“That was all she wrote for that rivalry. It was a shame, because those were incredible games,” said Drenning.
While many likely remember those games, many also probably remember Drenning’s college career. He started at West Virginia University before transferring to Glenville State College and being the quarterback under Rich Rodriguez when Rodriguez’s teams set scoreboards ablaze after Drenning played a part in creating Rich Rod’s now famous spread offense.
While many thought Drenning and his high football IQ would result in a long-term coaching career, it didn’t. However, that doesn’t mean he’s still not involved in the game. Instead of coaching or playing, Drenning is often seen on the sidelines doing pre-game and post-game work for the Mountaineer Sports Network and is a regular on the Statewide Sportsline. For purposes of this blog, however, he is the owner and operator of the Web site www.thesignalcaller.com. And as part of those duties, he produces an annual West Virginia University/Big 12 Conference football preview magazine that is currently on newsstands.
For those who want an early take on the Mountaineers and the Big 12 Conference, this is worth the $5.95 cost to acquire it. Although the heavy details of what to expect from WVU and the rest of the Big 12, Drenning spoke about some of the items included in this year’s magazine with the help of several other local writers and those who follow or cover teams WVU will face in its second year of league play.
f course, for anyone that watched the Mountaineers gain record yardage last year only to be beaten in six out of 13 games primarily for giving up record yardage and points on defense, Drenning said things can only get better. And he said there’s a proven formula for that to happen.
“Defensively, it’s going to be all about forcing turnovers. That’s really no state secret. I think Mountaineer teams and their fans are going to have to get used to the fact of holding teams under 250 yards of offense is unrealistic because of the nature of the teams in the Big 12,” Drenning said. “That doesn’t mean you still can’t win, but you have to take advantage of things by producing turnovers.”
Drenning pointed to four of the last five Big 12 champions as having defense that ranked no better than 45th in the country. In 2011, Big 12 champ Oklahoma State not only was ranked 107th nationally in defense, but still managed to win the Fiesta Bowl.
How did they do that? Drenning said by forcing turnovers.
“Oklahoma State forced 44 turnovers that year. If WVU can get three turnovers a game that could change a lot of things for how this team does this year,” Drenning said.
On offense, Drenning said there is talent. He also knows that starters have to shake out, including along the line and in the position of quarterback. With the graduation of Geno Smith, the trio of Paul Millard, Ford Childress and Florida State transfer Clint Trickett will battle for the role.
The Mountaineers also lost NFL receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey so there are substantial areas to fill. But it’s here where Drenning believes looking past second-year coach Dana Holgerson would be a mistake.
“This isn’t the first time that he’s had a massive rebuilding process on offense,” said Drenning. “Each time he always seems to find a way to get it done. He will find a ways to win and move the football. At each of his stops as an assistant, he’s done exactly that.”
So where does Drenning see the Mountaineers finishing up the 2013 regular season at? He says it’s the same as last year right now.
“I think you’re in the ball park of 7-5. I know someone will say that’s the same as last year and this team has lost so much, but when you look at the Big 12 schedule you’ll see seven out of 10 teams are in the same type of rebuilding mode,” Drenning said.
Along with the regular items expected in a preseason football magazine, Drenning’s addition is drawing attention right now as an article ranks WVU’s top quarterbacks ever. The candidates include Geno Smith, Jeff Hostetler, Marc Bulger, Pat White and Major Harris. To see where they’re ranked, pick up the magazine and, if you want, go to www.thesignalcaller.com to vote on the site’s online poll.
On the site, you can order the magazine that has plenty of other unique features beyond WVU’s top quarterback ever. The magazine is also available at Go Mart, Little General, Circle K, Mountaineer Mart and at the Mountaineer World in Bridgeport. If you’re a Mountaineer fan, or if you remember Drenning from his days of football, it’s worth the money.
Editor's Note: Top photo is off Drenning's new magazine, while second photo shows Drenning, left, talking with WVU Coach Dana Holgorsen. Bottom photo shows Drenning during his GSC days with the legendary Jack Woodyard.