By Matt Welch
Times West Virginian
PLEASANT VALLEY —
Every team needs a leader, and oftentimes on the football field that leader is found under center.
That’s the case for this year’s East Fairmont team. Senior quarterback Jake Delaney is back this year for the Bees, a year older, a year stronger and a year more mature.
“Last year of course I was a junior, and I didn’t really know how they’d react if I was telling them what to do,” Delaney admitted. “But this year I’m a senior, and everyone listens to me.”
To be a leader and have command of those around you isn’t to say that you’re above anyone. And for Delaney, it’s all about helping the younger kids understand the game and understand what this team has set out to accomplish.
“It’s good,” Delaney said of the fact that his teammates have been very receptive to his leadership this offseason. “I hate to say it like this, but I know what I’m doing down here and all of the young kids listen to me.”
What’s more, Delaney’s teammates have noticed a change in the senior signal caller from last season to this season.
“I can tell he’s taken on more of a leadership role,” senior wide receiver Myles Johnson said of Delaney. “He’s gotten better overall.”
Coming into the 2014 season, Delaney looks to build on a stellar first season as a varsity QB in which he threw for 1,890 yards on 131-of-224 passing, including 19 touchdowns to 11 interceptions.
When the season began last year, Delaney led East to a Week One overtime victory over Liberty (Harrison) by throwing a touchdown to tie the game and then throwing the game-winning ball in overtime. Unfortunately for Delaney, the player that caught those passes is gone this year.
This year, Delaney will have to replace his favorite target, running back Scotty Shroyer, who caught a Big 10-leading 61 passes, accounting for 823 yards — nearly half of Delaney’s total.
The 6-foot-1 QB started last season with little rhythm, admitting he wasn’t quite sure what he was capable of when the season started. During the first half of the season, Delaney completed just 60 passes for 772 yards and five touchdowns. But in the second half, he completed 71 passes for 1,118 yards and 14 touchdowns, including a 456-yard, four-score performance against Preston and a 258-yard, five-touchdown night against Philip Barbour, an upset win for the Bees.
The biggest aspect that helped Delaney was the arrival of a longtime teammate in Johnson, who caught 17 passes for 473 yards and seven touchdowns.
As Delaney’s numbers picked up, so, too, did Johnson’s, the 6-foot-6 pass-catcher hauling in 14 passes for 370 yards while scoring six times in the team’s final five games.
“We’ve always been together. He’s been my QB for over seven years through FOP and other places,” Johnson said. “We just have good chemistry.”
Now with Johnson back, and the addition of Barron Ford on the opposite side, Delaney is pretty confident in the players around him.
“We have a lot of depth, especially at the receiver position,” Delaney noted. “We’ll probably go five-wide, and then sometimes we’ll run a two-back set.”
Minus the two seniors on the outside and Delaney at the reins, most of the Bees’ talent will come from underclassmen, including a slew of incoming freshmen who could see some time this season. But for Delaney, it doesn’t matter who’s out there lined up at receiver, as long as they can catch the passes he’s slinging out there.
“Last year we didn’t know what we could do at the beginning of the year. And then we started passing the ball. Now I know what I can do. I can pass well, and we’ve got tons of receivers,” Delaney said. “I’m ready.”
Email Matt Welch at email@example.com or follow on Twitter @MattWelch_TWV.