FAIRMONT — It took a little bit longer than expected, but the majority of the Big 10 has finally taken the field for the 2020 high school football season.
After their opening games were cancelled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, powerhouses Fairmont Senior High and Bridgeport High along with Lewis County returned to the gridiron.
That leaves the Lincoln Cougars as the only team that hasn’t begun the season due to a positive test around the program. Now the Cougars are scheduled to host Nicholas County on Friday night.
Speaking of the Polar Bears, they returned to action in a big way, thanks in large part to senior quarterback Gage Michael.
Michael put up over 200 yards in both rushing and passing while leading the Polar Bears over Marion County rival North Marion, rocketing him up the Big 10 leaderboard.
The marquee matchup this week will be Bridgeport, the 2019 Class AA state champion, visiting the Fairmont Senior Polar Bears, the 2018 Class AA state title holder.
Though Bridgeport has jumped back up to Class AAA, the two teams have been locked in a heated rivalry that has impacted both the Big 10 standings as well as state title aspirations.
Robert C. Byrd’s Jeremiah King is still the conference rushing leader and looks to be well on his way to another 2,000-plus yard season.
King now has 502 yards through two games and also a league-high seven rushing touchdowns.
Elkins’ T.J. Guire is in second with 261 yards and Michael joins the Top 5 in third with 252 yards on just 17 carries. Preston’s Jeffrey Townsend is in fourth with 209 and Liberty’s Sayveon Beafore is fifth with 209.
Michael is second behind King in rushing touchdowns with four and Elkins’ Rodney Vandevender has three.
North Marion is led by Brody Hall and Hunter Kuhn, both with 113 yards on the season. East Fairmont’s leading rusher is Will Sarsfield with 50.
The Huskies’ Hall is still the Big 10’s leading passer with 434 yards, though RCB’s Xavier Lopez and Fairmont Senior’s Michael are fast approaching.
Lopez has 314 yards and Michael is third with 229. East Fairmont’s Ian Crookshanks (175) and Clay Hershberger (118) round out the Top 5.
Hall and Lopez are tied for the conference lead in touchdown passes with four each.
On the receiving leaderboard North Marion’s Tariq Miller is pulling away with a conference-high 10 receptions. He’s doubled the output of his closest competitors — East Fairmont’s Joel Myers, Preston’s Zachary Riffle and RCB’s Nicholas Edwards, all of which are tied for second with five catches each. North’s Garrett Conaway, RCB’s Bryson Lucas, East’s Alex Culp and Preston’s Townsend are all tied for fifth with four receptions.
Miller also leads the Big 10 in receiving yards (177) and touchdown receptions (2).
East’s Myers is the only other conference receiver with over 100 yards receiving with 107.
King is still the leader in scoring with 42 points, though the Polar Bears’ Michael cut into that lead with four touchdowns last week and 24 total points.
Those two battled for the Big 10 scoring title in 2019 with King coming out on top by 12 points.
Elkins’s Vandevder is third with 18 points and Liberty’s Beafore is fourth with 14. There are eight players in a tie for fifth with 12 points each — RCB’s Cameron Clark, Fairmont Senior’s Kieshawn Cottingham, Elkins’ Guire, North Marion’s Kuhn and Miller, Bridgeport’s J.D. Love and Hayden Moore and East Fairmont’s Nick O’Dell.
Clark is the Big 10’s top kicker with 12 points , followed by Bridgeport’s Taylor Thomas with nine. North Marion’s Malachi Funkhouser, East Fairmont’s Jesse Rush and Fairmont Senior’s Nick Scott are all tied for third with three points each.