The Times West Virginian

Sports

July 8, 2014

O’Dell, North linemen ready to protect their team

RACHEL — West Virginia native John McKay said it best when he was the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

He told his team that games were won and lost “in the trenches.”

North Marion’s football team will take that same approach when it takes the field in August.

“It all starts in the trenches,” senior lineman Justin O’Dell said with a smile. “We feel pretty good about that.”

The Huskies bring back four starters on the offensive line, many of whom also play on the defensive line, and they understand the task at hand, O’Dell said.

“I feel pretty confident. We’re all seniors,” O’Dell noted. “We’ve been here for four years and we know what to do.”

North Marion coach Daran Hays knows his team will lean on the run game this season, as the Huskies have done in the past.

Last season, Ryan Elliott and Austin Stanley ran behind an offensive line that was led by then-senior Quint Markley, but Hays believes last year’s staple left behind enough knowledge for this year’s group to have success.

“Quint has left big shoes to fill. But we have four out of the five front line guys returning,” Hays said. “That’s what you’re going to build your team around.”

Much like Hays, O’Dell agreed that Markley’s leadership last season has prepared this year’s O-Line.

“Quint was a pretty good leader. We learned a lot from him and how he led by his actions,” O’Dell said. “He made us all better through practice.”

And this season, when the Huskies took the field in the middle of June for their live period, O’Dell could be seen with his usual smile but also with a sense of leadership.

At the end of Week One of the three-week live period, North quarterback coach Dave Eickleberry sent a tweet to O’Dell to show his pleasure at how the senior lineman was picking up where Markley left off, saying, “Good week! Leading isn’t easy. Keep it up.”

With the positive of having a veteran offensive line comes the negative that they’ll be gone come November. But O’Dell and the rest of the group have already begun preparing the next generation of North Marion linemen.

“We’ve got some kids that are pretty good in the younger ages,” he said. “They need to listen to coach. The coaches teach us and then we can guide them through the process.”

Behind O’Dell and company will be a slew of running backs and a sophomore quarterback looking for protection.

Quarterback Kyle Elliott and the group of running backs are both confident in the senior-laden group in front of them.

“It gives me a lot of confidence,” Elliott said. “They’ve got a good relationship going, so I think they’ll do pretty good and I’m confident that they’ll protect me.”

As for the running backs?

“I feel pretty confident about this year. Our line is pretty experienced,” senior wing back Tristan Riggs said. “They should be able to do their job.”

With a plethora of running backs, the Huskies can have multiple options, but Hays and the rest of the staff tend to lean on a smashmouth style of offense.

And the offensive line agrees, O’Dell saying, “Yes, sir” with a smile when asked if the linemen were OK with that style of play.

“I love it. We love it. We just want to go straight down the field,” he said. “No fancy stuff. Just smack them in the mouth.”

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

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