The Times West Virginian

Sports

June 26, 2014

Harold poised to lead brand new O-Line for FSHS

FAIRMONT — Pocket protectors aren’t only vital to keeping your pressed shirts from getting gunk on them. They’re also the most important aspect that an offensive line can offer to its quarterback.  

And senior lineman Joe Harold hopes to provide that for the Polar Bears this fall.

For a Fairmont Senior team that lost all five of its starting offensive linemen to graduation, piecing together a new offensive front five is no easy task.

In that, the key piece to most offensive lines is a big, mean left tackle.

As an offensive lineman, your hard work can sometimes go unnoticed, but any time the quarterback completes a pass or a running back gains positive yards, the offensive line is likely to thank.

Fairmont Senior coach J.L. Abbott knows this fact to be true.

“Our offensive line will take us as far as we’re going to go,” the coach said.

While replacing last season’s dominant O-line presents a daunting task, the current members of the team believe they’ll be up to the challenge.

Harold himself, who was listed as a 6-foot-2, 220-pound tight end last season, believes that last year’s crop of hogs have better prepared this year’s group for the upcoming season.

“They just gave us the mentality to work hard and give 100 percent every play,” Harold said.

Other players on the offensive line took notice of last season, too. Even those who weren’t on the team.

“No one can replace those five; they were great,” offensive lineman Izaiha John, who hasn’t played organized football since eighth grade, said. “But we have to have guys step up and be ready to play.”

This year’s tandem is expected to be much different than last year’s in terms of not only age but size, Abbott said, noting that last year’s line was the biggest he’s seen since 2005. With that, though, comes a change in the offensive style just a bit.

“That’s why we run the spread. Last year we were big up front. Now we’re back to the reason why we’re back to the spread like we were in ‘05. We weren’t very big up front,” Abbott said. “We’ve got to get them out of the box. We’ve got to throw the ball good enough to get that number six, number seven out of the box to be able to run the ball.”

Abbott believes that Harold has the potential to anchor a youthful line from the left tackle position.

If you’re anywhere near a Polar Bear practice, you’ll hear Harold’s deep voice boom across the field. And if you inch in closer to the action, you’ll see a thick frame on the left side of the offensive line, chopping his feet, hitting a sled or teaching blocking techniques, helping out newcomers like John.

“If he sees someone struggling, he’s the first to correct a mistake,” John noted. “So far he’s helped me learn the blocking steps and all that.

“I’ve never played the line before so watching him do it, he’s just showing me the ropes. He’s a great athlete and leader.”

John and Harold work together in practice, pushing each other to be the best that each of them can be. For John, who hopes to see playing time elsewhere on the offensive line, doing his part to make sure Harold is ready come August is an important role.

“I just try to give him game-type scenarios,” John said, “like lining up in different ways, rushing from different angles and things like that.”

There’s not much that Abbott can nail down now that the first week and a half of the three-week live period is in the books.

With a young team, there are many unknowns. But, going by the eye test, there are a few players he plans to see stand out this season.

And Harold is one of them.

“It’s tough. Someone asked me today, how do the linemen look? Well, they all look good. But we won’t be able to know until we’ve got pads on,” Abbott said following a practice earlier in the week. “The guys we’re expecting to step up are guys like Joe Harold.”

What Harold possesses is the natural ability to lead and an attitude that says, “I’ve been here before.”

A part of a Polar Bear team that has found success over the past few seasons as well as the Fairmont Senior basketball team that made it to the state tournament, Harold knows how to win and knows the values that were passed down from players like Andrew Summers and Vincent Delligatti, two All-State athletes.

What’s more, he provides a strong body to protect rising junior quarterback, Dom Smith, something the senior lineman feels very comfortable about.

“We can give (Dom and the running backs) 100 percent confidence back there,” Harold said with a smile after finishing up a practice session. “We have to trust in them and they have to trust in us.”

As for if Harold and the offensive line will live up to expectations, Abbott said, “That book is still unwritten.”

Email Matt Welch at mwelch@timeswv.com or follow on Twitter @MattWelch_TWV.

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