As dilemmas go, it’s a pretty welcome one for Martinsburg’s Dave Walker and his coaching staff.
How do you develop your offense when you have two receivers holding first-team All-State credentials? That’s where the Bulldogs find themselves as they open preseason practice on Monday.
Not only does three-time defending Class AAA champion Martinsburg sport a returning standout wideout in Jarod Bowie, but the Bulldogs also welcomed in a transfer of great renown when Malakai Brown came over from nearby Hedgesville. Both are seniors.
Brown won the Randy Moss Award as the top receiver in West Virginia in 2017 and is a two-time first-team All-State selection. Bowie (rhymes with Louie) was selected as a first-team offensive utility player last year and was a second-team All-State receiver as a sophomore.
Needless to say, both players ooze talent. So how do Walker and his coaches go about keeping them both happy as the Bulldogs embark on what they hope is another championship run?
“You’ve only got one football,’’ Walker said. “If you’re a great player, you’re going to get your opportunities. I don’t think it’s an issue with those guys getting the ball and getting opportunities. It’s a matter of us having success as a team. When you have success as a team, individuals will get opportunities as the season goes along.’’
Both Bowie and Brown are used to having the ball in their hands, albeit on different teams.
Bowie caught 47 passes last season for 809 yards and 13 touchdowns, averaging a healthy 17.2 yards per reception. He also returned a total of 18 punts and kickoffs for 496 yards, nearly 28 yards a runback, pushing his all-purpose yardage total to 1,377.
Last year at Hedgesville, Brown grabbed 57 passes for 1,176 yards (20.6 yards per catch) with 10 TDs. He also developed into a solid runner, carrying 83 times for 601 yards and seven scores, giving him 1,811 all-purpose yards. As a sophomore, when he won the Moss Award, Brown had 81 receptions for 1,393 yards and 12 TDs. The Eagles made the AAA playoffs each season, beating Parkersburg South in the first round last year.
Walker said there are slight differences in the receivers that could enhance their value to the team. Bowie is listed at 5-foot-10 and 180 pounds and Brown at 5-10 and 187.
“Both of them have great ball skills,’’ Walker said. “They go get the ball and run after the catch. Bowie is a little more explosive, he’s quicker and faster. But Malakai is a bigger kid; he’s stronger.
“They both complement each other well. We’re looking forward to what they can do. And we’ve got some other kids who don’t get as much attention as them, so we feel like we’ve got a good corps of receivers.’’
Of course, those receivers only get the chance to shine if their quarterback is having a good season, too. Martinsburg lost Grant Harman, its starting quarterback last year, but returns another QB with a lot of experience in senior Elijah Banks.
Banks (6-3, 205) is more of a pocket passer than Harman, who had terrific scrambling ability. Last year, Banks completed 71 of 124 passes for 1,236 yards and 15 TDs against just two interceptions. He hit on 57 percent of his attempts and also ran for four scores.
Walker thinks Banks is capable of running the Bulldogs’ offense the way the coaching staff wants.
“I think he is,’’ Walker said. “He’s been in the program, he’s played a lot and he started a few games last year. He took half the reps in games. I think he’s more than ready to step up. He doesn’t have the same skill set as Grant as far as running, but he’s got a strong arm and people to get the ball to. We have some good running backs as well. I think he’s in a situation to do some good things for us.’’