By DAVE MORRISON
ESPN Radio 102.3 The Ticket
GLEN DANIEL – Few people had a better last Friday that Liberty’s Jacob Bailey.
The stats alone are intriguing enough. Try 234 yards rushing and three touchdowns, 77 yards passing and two touchdowns, a kickoff return for a touchdown.
There’s more. Defensively, Bailey also had an interception, had another overturned by penalty (likely the lone downer on an otherwise pleasant Friday night) and he had five tackles.
But there is more. He also was the escort of the homecoming queen at Liberty.
Yep, pretty good night for Jacob Bailey.
“All true,” Bailey said. “It was pretty much a night to remember.”
The voters in the King Coal Chevrolet Performer of the Week agreed. He edged Greenbrier West’s Hunter Bevins for the award, getting 52 percent of the 361 votes cast.
A lot of things are going right for Bailey, a former all-state receiver who was, in fact, the leading returning statistical receiver in the state with over 1,100 yards and 17 touchdowns. He has been getting interest from all the state D2 schools and a few Ivy League schools have contacted because Bailey is a plus 4.0 GPA student.
These days, Bailey is hanging out behind center, quarterbacking the Raiders to a 3-1 record and back into the top 16 in Class AA.
It may not be the aerial show that the Raiders had last year, yet the numbers are sensational. He has rushed for 656 yards since the move to quarterback after a season-opening 44-0 loss to Westside. That’s 218.6 per game. He also has all six of his rushing touchdowns since the move. He is also 7 of 18 threw the air for 143 yards with five touchdowns. Yes, five of his seven completions have gone for scores.
“It’s taken time, just getting a lot of reps in practice and getting more comfortable with my receivers,” Bailey said. “I think it’s still in the process and I think it will come soon.”
So it’s still a work in process? If it ever comes together, that could be bad news for opponents trying to slow this new-look offense.
Interesting, this former 1,000-yard receiver and a first-team all-state receiver is on pace for well over 1,000 yards rushing.
With apologies to the homecoming queen, the Friday highlight for Bailey was the kickoff return.
“I’d say the return because I hadn’t had one of those before,” Bailey said.
Here’s an interesting dichotomy developing for the Raiders.
Bailey has been getting advice on playing the position from Hunter Wright, the former Liberty quarterback, the guy who threw all those passes to Bailey. In turn, Bailey is offering advice to the receivers who are catching his passes – Johnny Drafton, Zach Williams, Cruize Carrico.
“I’ve been texting Hunter and every now and then and we’ll talk about the position,” Bailey said. “He just tells me to stay confident back there, be a leader and do what the coaches are telling me to do.”
The receiver position, Bailey knows all about that.
“We’re getting some good chemistry,” Bailey said. “We’ll talk during and after practice about what they are doing and anything I can do to make them better.”
It’s his running that has opened up the pass, Bailey said, and likely will moving forward.
“With the running backs and me being able to run so effectively, I think it helps our passing game,” Bailey said. “(Opponents) are going to stop the run and we’re going to be able to pass more.”
Interestingly enough, after a year of catching everything that was thrown his way, Bailey has yet to catch a pass.
Keep in mind, there are six games left.
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Greenbrier West’s Hunter Bevins never even attempted a field goal, much less made one. That was then, this is now. Not only has made one, he made a game-winner, from 22 yards, to beat Summers County 30-27 Friday.
“Honestly, we never practiced a field goal once, we only worked on PATs,” Bevin said. “I had only worked on straight down the middle kick from extra point distance. It was never shorter, never longer and never from the hash marks.”
This one was from the right hash mark.
Not bad for a guy who wasn’t even the starting kicker when the season started.
“Our kicker was sick one week, and they needed somebody to do it and I volunteered, just giving it a shot in the dark to see if I could do it,” Bevins said. “Ever since then, I’ve been kicking.”
“We felt pretty good about it,” Greenbrier West coach Lewis McClung said. “I was a little nervous because we kicked it from the right hash and we hadn’t worked on that. But we knew, even if it wasn’t good, we’d be playing overtime. But Hunter stepped up and got the job done. It was perfect.”
All in a night’s work, for Bevins, and it was a night’s work. He is also the teams quarterback. He finished the night 11 for 20 passing for 232 yards and three touchdowns to his top target from a year ago, Adam Johnson. The duo had struggled out of the gate, mostly due to teams doubling up or rolling coverage to compensate for the 6-foot-5 Johnson.
Johnson had a breakout game with six catches for 170 yards, more than doubling his yardage entering the game. Bevins nearly doubled his passing yardage and Colton Kessler had 32 carries for 103 yards rushing, after entering the game with 16 carries for 37 yards.
Yet with all that done, it came down to a kick. It was a first attempt and a lasting memory.
“I wasn’t as nervous as you might think I would be,” Bevins said. “Actually, I like the pressure being on me. I knew the team was counting on me and I had to step up and I had to make it.”
Bevins did, and with it Greenbrier West gained a huge when over No. 2 Summers County.
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Some interesting tidbits from around the area:
- Good news for Wyoming East. After breaking his arm and sitting out the next four games, Warriors’ QB Hunter Hall has been cleared to play and will return against River View Friday. Hall had been 5 for 5 passing for 74 yards and scored two rushing TD when he was injured against Mingo Central.
- Oak Hill’s Ryan Muse has all 10 of the Red Devils receptions, which have gone for 65 yards.
- Fayetteville’s staunch defense has given up 14 points but the Pirates’ defense has also scored 14 points with two touchdowns and a safety.
- Summers County’s Tucker Lilly is the only area player to rush for over 100 yards, pass for over 100 and catch passes for over 100 yards this season. All that in just four games. He filled in at quarterback for injured starter Nate Grimmett, who did come in and complete a touchdown pass for the Bobcats in their loss to Greenbrier West.
- PikeView nearly doubled its point total with 29 points in Saturday’s 32-29 loss to Shady Spring. The Panthers entered having scored just 18 points.
- Jon Sawyers entered the PikeView game with 8 receptions for 91 yards and zero touchdowns. He had six receptions for 90 yards and a touchdown Saturday.