By DAVE MORRISON
CHARMCO – You can almost imagine Greenbrier West’s Cole McClung tying up his shoe to attempt a kick.
If you understand that reference you have some knowledge of old school football.
Everything about the no nonsense McClung screams old school.
For starters he wears the No. 60, yet he is just as likely to line up in the backfield as he is to line up at guard, where he was an all-state player last fall.
Of course it’s not the rarest of moves to put a big guy – McClung is 5-foot-9, 245 pounds – in the backfield in the so-called Jumbo package as a blocking back. Sometimes they even get a carry or two.
This is not McClung.
He is not in the backfield as a gimmick.
Take last week against Madonna in the first round of the Class A playoffs, when McClung logged 12 carries for 134 yards and a touchdown.
On the season McClung has 42 carries for 425 yards and nine touchdowns. He has three career 100-yard games, and as Greenbrier West’s twitter account pointed out, two have come in playoff games.
“I do what I have to do,” McClung said. “If they put me on the line I’ll block and if they put me in the backfield I’ll run the ball. Whatever we need to do to win the game.”
Teammate Levi Weikle, himself every bit the utility man as a receiver/running back, put it this way: “Cole is the man. Whether he is on the line or in the backfield, on Saturday you’re going to see him do something big.”
Turns out all this dual positioning is going to come in handy.
When the 9-0 Cavaliers face Ritchie County Saturday (4 p.m.) in the Class A playoffs, it likely will do so without leading rusher Noah Brown (960 yards, 17 touchdowns), who suffered a sprained ankle against Madonna.
While he began extensive rehabbing Sunday morning, he is not expected to play.
“Right now, no I don’t think he will play,” Greenbrier West coach Toby Harris said. “He was at practice (Thursday) but he still isn’t running.”
He will dress, Harris said.
Harris said in the preseason he thought the team was a little deeper than last fall, when he took the job late and Brown was a one-man wrecking crew with over 2,000 yards on the ground. Turns out Harris – the first football coach at West going back to 1968 – was correct about that depth.
Weikle has rushed for 460 yards and four TD, quarterback Kaiden Pack, a utility man in his own right who dabbles in the kicking game with 32 PATs as well as being the team’s best defensive back – has 383 yards and six scores and McClung has those 425 yards and nine scores.
Brown easily led the team in carries with 125 but Weikle and Pack each had 68 and McClung.
“These kids have been pretty versatile,” Harris said. “We can put Levi Weikle at fullback but if Noah isn’t in there we can move him to halfback and put Cole in there at fullback. And Kaiden Pack can also run the ball.”
Weikle, known for his clean shoes prior to games, said the balanced offensive output isn’t a surprise.
“We’ve got basically the same team as last year (when the team went 10-2 and lost to Williamstown in the quarterfinal round) but we have had an extra year with our new coaches and in the playbook.”
Another thing that is different is the Cavaliers ability to pass. Pack was the QB last fall but his numbers did not approach what he has done this fall.
The senior gunslinger has thrown for 1,036 yards and 13 touchdowns, and Lawson Vaughan, who didn’t play football until last fall, has emerged as a receiver. Pack had a career-best three touchdown passes in the Cavaliers 58-0 victory against Madonna. It stands to mention also that was West’s first game since Oct. 23 due to COVID-19.
“Greenbrier West has never been known as a passing team, but we have three or four guys – (Kyle) Holliday, (Kadin) Parker, Vaughan and Weikle, who can catch the ball.
“I give coach (Isac) Osborne a lot of credit for our passing game. I like to run the football. I think our offense is a consolidation of our two offense, coach Osborne’s passing attack and my running attack.”
Indeed, Harris is old school in his want to run the football, which is a credit to he and the staff for adapting to personnel.
Which brings us back to McClung, who, by the way, now has 962 career yards and 18 touchdowns.
How on earth did a No. 60 get in the backfield in this day and age of the air raid offenses?
“He ran the ball for us last year (96-537-9) but he was also an all-state guard,” Harris said. “We started the year thinking that we could bring a player along and move Cole to the backfield full time but it didn’t work out that way.In high school football you have to have five players (numbers) 50-79 on the offensive line. So he is No. 60 and we can use him where we need him.”
With Brown expected out, you can expect to see more of McClung in the run game.
“I think we can carry the load,” McClung said. “I think we can step up and run hard and get the job done.”
It’s worth noting that Greenbrier West’s defense has been stout all season, giving up 685 yards passing and 648 yards rushing and just 11 touchdowns. The Cavaliers also have 21 turnovers (14 fumble recoveries and seven interceptions).
That will come in handy against Ritchie, which features Gus Morrison in the backfield. He led the state in scoring in the regular season (164 points) and has rushed for 1,015 yards and 14 touchdown and he has 16 receptions, 10 for touchdowns. Quarterback Ethan Haught has thrown for 1,352 yards.
The Rebels are 9-2 on the season.