By Matt Welch
Times West Virginian
High school football isn’t the NFL.
Coaches don’t get the luxury of having guys for 10 or 15 seasons. At best, they’ll have a great player for four years.
Replacing key seniors is always a difficult task, but Marion County teams may have an easier go at it next season after each had an underclassman step up during the 2013 season.
When the season started for East Fairmont, a new quarterback took hold of the reins.
Jake Delaney, a junior, stepped in for injured Ronnie Mills, who moved to receiver. Delaney admitted that his arm wasn’t very strong to start the season, but he and his coach Bill Haddox agreed that he’s improved greatly.
“He got better as the season progressed,” Haddox said of his quarterback.
That statement couldn’t be any more true.
Delaney started the season with an 8-for-14 203-yard performance to lead the Bees over Liberty in overtime. Delaney threw two touchdowns in the game, the game-tying and game-winning scores. Forty-eight of those yards came from those two touchdown throws.
The 6-foot, 165-pound signal caller would go on to close out the season completing 131-of-224 passes, throwing for 1,890 yards and 19 touchdowns.
At the beginning of the year, the Bees struggled to get points on the board, especially after losing key players to injuries and other things.
“He played young at times,” Haddox said. “He did some good, then some bad, then some good again.”
But Delaney provided some momentum about midway through the season, throwing for five touchdowns on two occasions, one in a loss to Preston and one in a victory over, at the time, No. 14 Philip Barbour.
“When Jake is on, we can put points on the board,” said Haddox.
The Bees proved that by scoring more than 20 points in all but four games this season.
Fairmont Senior’s offense looked like it was going to take a mighty blow when senior running back Noah Harmon went down with a knee injury with three weeks to go in the season. But the Polar Bears knew they had other guys to fill the void.
One of those players was sophomore Malik Boddy.
Boddy, who also plays corner back on defense and fields returns for Fairmont Senior, stepped in to play running back when Harmon was sidelined.
“He’s a great kid,” said coach J.L. Abbott. “He’s a real focused individual. He practices hard, and that carries over to Friday nights.”
The 5-foot-7, 155-pound sophomore came in and closed out the Buckhannon-Upshur game, in which Harmon was hurt, with 54 yards on just eight carries.
Since, Boddy has racked up 187 yards and scored three touchdowns in 2 1/2 games to close out the season, including a nine-carry, 81-yard, two-score performance to take down Lincoln. During that span he’s averaged 7.8 yards per carry.
“That’s all natural, all him,” Abbott said of Boddy’s running abilities. “He’s taken some pops and we were like, oh boy, but he popped right back up. He’s durable and we love coaching him. He’s seeing the field a lot more. We teach them to bounce it, bang or bend it. He’s starting to learn the banging and bending now.”
Boddy has 52 carries for 310 yards on the season heading into the playoffs, but he’s been a threat everywhere else on the field as well.
“He was content on just running the ball and returning,” Abbott said of his young stud. “We stuck him out at corner and he turned out to be pretty solid.”
Solid may be an understatement. Boddy led the team in interceptions, too.
North Marion head coach Daran Hays wanted his team to establish a successful run game all season. Generally to do that, you need to have more than one back shoulder the load.
Insert junior running back Austin Stanley.
North Marion’s leading rusher, Ryan Elliott, carried the weight for most of the season, but Stanley stepped up at opportune times for the Huskies.
“He was the back this year that I thought he could have been last year,” Hays said. “He saw where Ryan was in terms of success and saw his power, so he started to learn to lower his shoulder and get what you can get.”
Stanley had a few standout performances of the season, including a 12-carry, 193-yard performance in which he scored two touchdowns to overcome East Fairmont about midway through the season.
“On paper, people don’t see what all he overcame that game,” said Hays. “He was hurt in the locker room and sick and doctors said he shouldn’t go back out. But he did. So he put up those numbers in about 2 1/2, three quarters.”
Stanley also had an outstanding game to close out the season, previewing possibly what North Marion could expect from him next season. The 5-foot-5, 151-pound junior back ran for 109 yards and three scores against Grafton to finish the year.
“I think now that he has the power element he can be great,” Hays said. “He has good vision and breakaway speed, not exceptionally great speed, but he can turn a 20-yard play into a 40- or 50-yard play now.”
Both East and North’s seasons are over while Fairmont Senior heads into the playoffs, but each team has a little something to look forward to next year after this season.
Email Matt Welch at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @MattWelch_TWV.