By DAVE MORRISON
NEW RICHMOND – For his entire football career, at least the high school portion, Wyoming East’s Josh Reilley had never played a position other than center.
That changed last week when the senior switched to guard against Nicholas County. The shakeup was aimed at giving the Warriors a little more flexibility and speed on the line. Guard Matt Allen moved to center.
The move came after a somewhat surprising season-opening 28-0 loss at Pendleton County. The Warriors were shut out for the first time since a season-ending 32-0 loss to Liberty in 2018.
“Last week our line didn’t do very good so we decided to change it up,” Reilley said.
“The thing about Josh is he’s played center his whole life,” coach Jimmy Adkins said. “When me and the seniors met up Monday it was one of those things, ‘Coach, I want to do whatever will make us better.’”
Reilley’s experience and athleticism will give the Warriors a similar scenario to what the team had last year.
“(Coach) wanted to put me at guard to pull for Caleb,” Reilley said. “We lost Tanner Jenkins from last year and I’m stepping in his place. He pulled really good last year.”
Indeed Jenkins did, earning first-team all-state honors and after helping Bower rush for 2,134 yards last season.
In the opener at Pendleton, like Wyoming East a playoff team last fall, Bower had just 37 yards rushing.
So there was Reilley, newly-minted at the guard position after over 30 games at center, lining up at guard for Wyoming East on their first play against Nicholas County.
You could say the move worked. And then some.
He came to the line, between Allen, manning his old spot at center, and big Charlie Stewart, a sophomore with vast potential, to his right.
He gave Stewart a hand signal as he was in his stance and then, at the snap, looked like he was going to help Stewart with lineman Noah Hawkins. He then quickly turned left and drove linebackerJeff Girod back toward the center of the field, opening a hole for Bower, who, after breaking an arm tackle at the line of scrimmage, raced untouched to the end zone. His first carry accounted for more yards than Bower had the previous week.
“Me and Stewart got up there to the line and we called our blocks out,” Reilley said. “We were letting them know exactly where we were going too, and they just couldn’t stop it.”
Wyoming East lost the battle with Nicholas, also a playoff team in 2019, 16-14, when a safety midway through the fourth quarter, proved to be the difference.
The snap was a bit high, glancing off freshman quarterback Jackson Danielson’s hands toward the back of the end zone where he was knocked out for the two-point play for the Grizzlies.
Reilley used that as a teaching moment for his new center, because he has been there before.
“I told (Allen) don’t worry about it,” said Reilley. “If you remember in that game against Westside (in 2017) when we had that game winning touchdown, i was the one that had the bad snap that ended up being a fumble (prior to the Warriors getting the ball back for the winning score). There were a bunch of mistakes (Friday night) and his wasn’t the only one. There were a lot of opportunities in the game.”
Spoken like a true leader, which Reilley has become this season. He was the only real starter back on the line from last year.
He has also become a leader on defense as well.
Reilley has 23 tackles and three sacks through two games for the Warriors.
“Last year I had a foot injury,” Reilley said. “I sprained my ankle so I was saved for offense. I couldn’t really play both sides. This year I’ve set a goal to go out and ball out on defense and help my team as much as possible.”
Moving from a position where he was guaranteed to touch the ball on every play was an adjustment in more than one way. Reilley sees the positives, and the position is growing on him.
“I’ll tell you what, every time we are in the huddle we always call the play twice,” Reilley said. “The center goes (to the line after the play is called the first time) and then the quarterback tells the rest of the guys the play again. Every time you will see me running out first. That’s mostly the weird part. The center always calls huddle because everyone huddles on the center and it’s weird lining up instead of calling the huddle. But I’m liking guard because I don’t have to worry about snapping the ball and I can have more power to (push the block).”
Everyone involved came away feeling that the changes will reap rewards.
They will have to happen quickly, with Class AAA Greenbrier East up next for the Warriors in Fairlea. It will mark the third straight 2019 playoff team the Warriors will face (one in each classification).