By Matt Welch
Times West Virginian
In battle, a field general is someone in control, a voice that when it barks an order, the cadets follow suit. Football is no different.
Oftentimes compared to hand-to-hand combat, football is a game made for warriors. And when the Huskies head into battle come August, coach Daran Hays believes he’s got a smart and highly capable field general at the helm in sophomore quarterback Kyle Elliott.
“He can manage the show; he really can,” Hays said of his second-year signal caller. “He’s going to get us into good plays and out of bad ones. He gives us that uniqueness.”
Now, Hays’ Huskies aren’t much of a passing team but that doesn’t mean that having a competent quarterback isn’t a necessity.
With a focus on the running game, you’ll get nowhere without a passing game to keep opposing defenses honest. Hays knows that.
“It’s high school football and we’re not (Class) A football. We know we’re going to have to throw it,” the coach said. “But we don’t want to get into a situation where we know we’re going to throw it and everyone else knows we’re going to throw it. If you’re in that case, I don’t care who’s back there, they’re going to struggle.”
Throughout the first two weeks of the three-week live period, Hays and the rest of the North Marion coaches stressed the importance of mixing their plays, an obvious statement if you know the game of football, Hays noted.
Last season, the Huskies found themselves in many third-and-long situations and, without a stable passing attack, the Huskies were forced to punt the ball away on several occasions.
That, Hays said, has got to change.
While the simple answer is to just say, “Pass the ball,” there’s more to it than that.
“We need to do a good job at mixing in play-action stuff and screens and draws and keeping people off balance,” Hays explained, “not getting into those third-and-eight, third-and-nine situations which have always tended to kick us in the butt offensively.”
Coming into what hopes to be the sophomore’s first full season at the reins, Elliott seems more than poised to lead a veteran Husky team.
Last season Elliott was inserted into the lineup prematurely when injuries struck just about any player who stepped under center, but that only helped him grow, he said.
“Last year got me experience which will help a lot this year,” Elliott said confidently after the team wrapped up its first week of workouts.
The quarterback comes from a pedigree of football talent: his father, Rusty, playing quarterback at Fairmont State and his brother, Ryan, being the Huskies’ feature back last season. With the lineage of football knowledge, Hays knows the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
“The good thing about Kyle is he’s a smart kid,” Hays noted. “He understands the game because he’s been around it as a kid.”
Kyle, too, knows that he can learn a lot from those who came before him, especially after watching his brother Ryan last season.
“He was a good leader,” the sophomore said. “I can take after him and try to do the same.”
Being a quarterback, though, you have to make sure that the relationships between the players are coming along smoothly and perfect your own bond with each person individually. Hays and the rest of the team can see those relationships blossoming more and more each practice.
“The line gives him a level of comfort,” Hays said. “I think he got that toward the end of last year.”
And the same goes with the group of running backs and receivers, a new class of talent that’s expected to step up when August rolls around.
“You’ve just got to get to know Kyle and how he throws the ball and how he hands it off,” senior running back/receiver Tristan Riggs said. “You’ve got to learn it day by day. He should come along good, though.”
As the summer progresses, so, too, does Elliott’s ability to throw the ball, build relationships and take over the show for the Huskies.
Come August, Hays is confident that Elliott will be the leader he’s expected to be on and off the field.
“He’s had a nice offseason,” Hays said. “And he’s grown. In more ways than one.”
Email Matt Welch at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow on Twitter @MattWelch_TWV.