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by Greg Talkington
(September 1) Most high school football coaches have to scramble to find five good offensive linemen.
At South Harrison, the coaching staff makes it a point to develop seven-to-10 of them to fuel their smash-mouth style running game.
Their efforts have paid off in the past and from the looks of things during the Hawks' 23-14 victory over Grafton last Friday, it should pay off again this season.
South Harrison rolled up 269 yards rushing and 335 yards total offense against the usually stingy Bearcats.
"We've always tried to develop two lines," said SH line coach Mike Barnette. "If you have that many linemen that can play, why not let them?"
The Hawks also develop some versatility by teaching every lineman at least two positions.
"That way," Barnette says, "we can keep injuries from being a problem, plus, knowing what the guy beside of you is going to do gives you confidence in what you're going to do."
Against Grafton, Barnette started T.J. Watson and Joey Post at the tackles, Jason Byrd and Mike Donellan at the guards and Scott Hickman at center.
Watson also saw time at center.
Billy Miller and Darrell James saw extensive action during the game while Jason Smith, Jeremy Dobbins and Brad Heffinger were used in spot roles.
"Early in the season, we'll play our more experienced linemen more," Barnette said. "But we'll take our less experienced ones and let them in a couple of times while the game is still on the line.
"Eventually, they'll rotate in more as the season progresses."
The rotation of these players also serves two more purposes. Since most see some playing time on defense, it gives them a chance to rest. Plus, the Hawks' linemen are not big by high school standards.
Post, at 5-foot-10, 235 pounds, and Watson, at 6-0, 231 pounds, are the biggest of the group. Donnellan is barely 200 pounds while Hickman tips the scales at 198 pounds. Byrd seems out-of-place at 5-7, 145.
Yet this group had no problem blowing open gaping holes in the Grafton line.
Barnette believes pride is a major component of their success.
"When I was a lineman here, (current Bridgeport head coach) Bruce Carey was the line coach and he really made it a point to develop pride in the offensive line," Barnette said. "He really made it a point to show the whole team how important the offensive line was."
TOP HOG: Since the only time most linemen get noticed is when they are called for penalties, The Prep Beat will try (with the help of coaches) to recognize one or more outstanding linemen each week.
This week's "grunt" honoree is South Harrison's T.J. Watson.
The big senior anchored the Hawks' offensive front which dominated the line of scrimmage in their victory over Grafton.
He was also a stalwart on defense, showing surprising quickness and agility in making several tackles from his inside linebacker post.
"I think T.J. set the tone out there," said Barnette. "He was outstanding on both sides of the ball."
TOP GUNS: Each week top performances from around the area will be honored. This past Friday, there were plenty of stars:
·Nathan Fields, Elkins. This senior quarterback passed for 94 yards, rushed for 50 yards and a touchdown, returned a kickoff 86 yards for a TD and returned an interception 56 yards for a score in the Tigers' 43-28 win over East Fairmont.
·Cody Phillips, University. Phillips completed 13 of 16 passes for 179 yards and a touchdown in the Hawks' defeat of defending state Class AAA champ North Marion.
·Dave Patterson, Liberty. The junior signal caller threw for 157 yards and two touchdowns in Liberty's 21-14 victory over Philip Barbour.
·Jeff Lambert, Grafton. Lambert's passing was the lone bright spot in the Bearcats' loss to South Harrison. In his first varsity start, he hit on 7 of 12 attempts for 143 yards and two scores, but was intercepted twice.
·Josh Ingold, Valley Wetzel. Ingold completed three of four passes for 59 yards, kicked four PATs, intercepted a pass and punted four times for an eye-popping 50.3 average in Valley's 34-7 victory over Wirt County.
·Ben Hall, South Harrison. The junior tailback rushed for 174 yards on 27 carries and two touchdowns while intercepting two passes from his outside linebacker spot, returning one 37 yards for a touchdown.
·Chad Northcroft, Tyler Consolidated. Northcroft piled up 138 yards and two touchdowns on the ground in leading his team to a 35-0 victory over Lincoln.
·Chris Yura, Morgantown. The 1997 Kennedy Award winner showed no signs of slowing down. He rushed for 117 yards and five TDs in a little over two quarters during the Mohigans' 41-0 pasting of Buckhannon-Upshur.
·Chad and Gerard Merchant, Fairmont Senior. The Merchant brothers spearheaded the Polar Bears' 31-21 win over Lewis County. Chad rushed 18 times for 136 yards and two TDs, while Gerard added 105 yards on 12 carries and added an 80-yard scoring reception.
·Jeff Satterfield, Elkins. Satterfield rolled up 148 yards rushing on just 11 carries to complement Fields. He also scored twice, including one that covered 81 yards.
·John See, Liberty. See caught four Patterson passes for 115 yards and two scores, one that covered 63 yards.