Greenbrier West’s Noah Brown (21) and his fellow seniors are back and looking forward to a big season. Brown rushed for over 2,100 yards and 28 touchdowns last fall as the Cavaliers went 10-2 and advanced to the Class A quarterfinals.

By Dave Morrison

CHARMCO – Greenbrier West offensive lineman Hunter Starkey remembers when he first recalled the reaction.

“In our first game he hit one of the linebackers and they quit hitting him,” Starkey said. “And then against a couple teams, the safety would just start backing up, they didn’t want to hit him.”

“He” was running back Noah Brown.

And the junior did pack a punch. After a first-team all-state season, Brown rising senior is back and primed for an even bigger encore.

“I’m expecting to come out and do a little bit better,” Brown said. “I did good last year and I want to do better this year. I put in a whole lot more hard work, more than I did last year. I don’t deserve it but I worked hard enough. I’m going to get’er and go.”

Brown had a stellar junior campaign, rushing for an area-best 2,154 yards and 28 touchdowns. 

Brown averaged 179.5 yards per game rushing and 208 yards total offense per game for the Cavaliers, who ended the season with a 10-2 record and fell to Williamstown 34-22 in the Class A quarterfinals.

It’s those numbers by Brown, and the other members of the backfield, which averaged 317 yards per game rushing, that quarterback Kaiden Pack said make his job easy.

“When you’ve got a running back and a fullback like I do, and a line like I do, you just turn around and hand the ball off,” Pack said. I don’t feel like anybody is going to get in their way and if you do you are going to take punishment. Our backfield is bigger than most backfields. Some teams have speed, but we’ll just hit you. We’ll get right down to it until the fourth quarter.”

Pack did complete 49 of 92 passes for 564 yards and six touchdowns. Brown was the team’s leading receiver with 19 catches for 312 yards and three touchdowns.

Brown played last year at 6-2, 220 pounds and in February won the state wrestling championship at 220 (finishing 42-1). He got up to 250 pounds during the pandemic quarantine later in the spring but has settled into a more suitable playing weight.

Bad news for opponents, he has added over 10 pounds of muscle and is now at a solid 232.

“I’ve been working out and eating protein, that’s about it,” Brown said. “I got down to 232. I cut most of the fat I could cut. It’s about getting fat down and building back up the muscle. I’m still in the process of it. I’m not going to be completely done until about the middle of the season.”

West’s turnaround last season was stuff of legends, the team going from 2-8 in 2018 to 10-2 with Toby Harris, who started the program at West in 1968, making a triumphant return to the Cavaliers sideline.

“Hard work,” Brown said of the secret formula that fueled the turnaround. “Off season, from sophomore to junior season, all the juniors got in the gym. We told ourselves we weren’t going to lose next year. (The new) coaching staff stepped in and they did fantastic. We came out and played as a team, we worked hard, got the hours in and played a good season.”

It was Greenbrier West’s best season since going 12-2 and advancing all the way to the state championship game in Wheeling.

Wheeling Island is again the goal for the Cavaliers. The pundits and prognosticators all say so.

Brown has a different view.

“We’re not going to look at it like that,” he said of the glowing expectations. “We’re going to look it as if we are low on the totem pole. We’re going to play it like we did last year. It’s great to have people seeing is (as a top contender) but it’s really just about us playing football. Hard work never stops.”

If his season is anything like last year, Brown, who goes by the nickname of “Buddha” was rarely stopped.

He was the only area back to go over 100 yards rushing in every game, including a school-record 324 yards against Pocahontas County.  He had three other games over 200 yards and had a six-touchdown game against Summers County. He even had a couple games when he had over 70 yards receiving.

During the postseason, in a 52-13 first-round victory over Tygarts Valley, Brown had 143 yards and two touchdowns. In the loss to Williamstown he had 192 yards and three touchdowns.

As a sophomore in 2018 Brown rushed for 908 yards.

As for the moniker Buddha?

“It came from my family when I was young,” Brown said. “I was sitting beside a Buddha doll and that’s how it started.”

Brown and the Cavaliers open the season Sept. 4 against Summers County in what could be a season-defining game right off the bat.