MARTINSBURG - The Central High School football team is a perfect 6-0, its best start in more than a decade, and there's no one more happy or more proud than Shane Metzler.
"It's the greatest thing in the world," Metzler said. "It's been a long time."
The Scarlet Dragons' 34-year-old manager is a graduate of the high school's special education program, and he's been prowling Central's sidelines for nearly 20 years.
"As happy as I am for our kids and the season they're having, I'm even more happy for Shane," coach A.J. Hoenstine said. "He's the most well-known person in our community; I tell him he could run for mayor."
If Metzler did go on the campaign trail, his platform would be positive. In addition to rarely missing a football practice, Metzler also volunteers with the local fire department,washing the trucks and cleaning the hall. He competes in Special Olympics bowling and golf, helping his Blair County golf team to a silver medal at the State Games this past spring.
In addition, he works as a bagger at the Riverside grocery store in Martinsburg, proudly recounting the Scarlet Dragons' victories to customers on Monday mornings.
"Shane is just so positive all the time, no matter what," Hoenstine said.
And that attitude is contagious. Whether he's running onto the field to collect a tee, filling water bottles or gathering footballs, it's hard to outhustle Metzler. He goes through two sets of clothes on game days, his first outfit sweat-soaked with excitement by kickoff. He shouts his voice hoarse, always words of encouragement, and puts miles on his sneakers pacing the sidelines on Friday nights.
"I keep them in the game, and thinking about the things they have to do, Metzler, who has been known to address the entire team on special occasions like senior night, said. "I just hope they do the best that they can do.
Right now, every moment is special, as the Dragons enjoy a fairytale campaign, and Metzler, who got involved in the program many years ago under Jack Krider, is right where he wants to be - part of the team.
"I love to do it," he said. "That's why I still do it after all these years. It makes me feel really good and really wanted."
He may not score touchdowns or make tackles for the Dragons, but Metzler couldn't mean more to the program.
"I look at him as a really good friend," Hoenstine, a former Dragon quarterback, said. "He's really devoted to our team. He'll do anything for anyone, and that's why he has so much respect in our community. He's the biggest fan we have; he means so much to us, to our team and to our town.
Shane looks on the bright side even on the darkest days, but his perpetual smile grows even wider with Central's success.
"I hope we can win a few more games at least, or maybe all of them, he said. "But it's been a great season already."
Kellie Goodman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her column appears on Tuesdays.