Lacking depth, Poca searches for versatility
So far in two games, Poca coach Bob Lemley has learned a good deal about his team. Mostly, he wishes there was more team to go around.
The Dots find themselves stuck at 1-1 heading into Friday's key early-season meeting with Putnam County rival Buffalo (1-0). Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. at O.O. White Stadium in Poca.
If the Dots are going to make a run at a Class AA playoff berth - and they think they can - they'll have to do it leaning on the development of some versatile players.
"The thing we knew that was going to happen,'' Lemley said, "is that we're not deep. We don't have a lot of players on the team. We've got some good players, and it's a matter of getting them in shape so they can play four quarters.
"I think that hit us a little bit Friday night [in a 27-7 loss at Nicholas County]. It was tied 7-7 at halftime and the fourth quarter didn't go like we wanted it. My team is working hard and practicing hard. It's just a matter of coaching them up, and they have to learn to play two, three positions.''
One of the bright spots for the Dots has been the play of junior quarterback Jake Payne, a returning starter. Payne has accounted for nearly 600 yards of total offense through two games, carrying 34 times for 171 yards and three touchdowns and completing 28 of 51 passes for 414 yards.
"That's been a real positive,'' Lemley said. "I think we've got a backfield that's pretty much set. Jake gives us a pretty solid foundation because he was our quarterback last year. He knows what we do.
"I like the way Thomas Loudin's been running the ball, and Levi Clendenin's got a little speed. A good little athlete. Hayden Bailey can play fullback or end - a different position, kind of like a hybrid. We don't have a lot of depth there, but we've got some decent kids.''
One of the most difficult chores for Poca on Friday will be containing a Buffalo offense that put 45 points on the board in its opener against Parkersburg Catholic, a 45-0 win.
The Bison were certainly balanced, rushing for 177 yards and passing for 170 behind fourth-year starting quarterback Levi Jordan.
In his first game, Jordan hit on 8 of 9 passes for those 170 yards and completed four TD passes to three different players. He makes his 27th straight start under center Friday.
"Jordan's the one you've got to look at No. 1,'' Lemley said of defending the Bison. "He buys a lot of time at quarterback, either if he's in the shotgun or under center. When he wants to throw the ball, he's elusive, hard to get hold of.
"Their receivers run their patterns well and stay on their patterns until they get open. He's got a strong enough arm to hit them. Also, they've got this veer action or option action, and he can run the ball well. We're going to have to keep him off the field as much as possible and the control it on offense a little bit ourselves.''
Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or firstname.lastname@example.org.