The 3 talking points: West Marion Trojans

By JOSHUA CAMPBELL,

1. What they can hang their hat on:

Starting quarterback Jeremiah Holmes will never be the reason the Trojans lose a game. Head coach Brad Duncan’s first exposure to Holmes was when Holmes was an eighth grader, and he walked right up to Duncan and told him he had never lost a game as a starting quarterback in his life. Fast forward to Holmes’ senior year now with him entering his third full season as the starter and he is the model of consistency at the quarterback position.

Yes, he’s now lost games as the starter, but there isn’t one game you can point to the last two seasons and say it was his fault. Holmes was special in 2018 with 21 passing touchdowns to just five interceptions, especially considering West Marion couldn’t run the ball and averaged a dismal 3.5 yards per carry — Columbia averaged 7.9 for comparison — meaning  every defense West Marion faced was gearing up to stop Holmes from beating it through the air.

Holmes is one of the best leaders you will find in high school football. He’s grounded, intelligent and charismatic, and the Trojans have no qualms with following him into battle. Look for No. 2 to remain the overwhelming constant for West Marion.

2. Where they can improve:

It has to be the running game. The aforementioned 3.5 yards per carry is as bad as it can get. The lanes to run through weren’t there, and the Trojans lacked a true lead back to carry the load.

While they still don’t have that one guy they can count on down after down, there is reason for optimism. In the spring Duncan said the offense was going to rededicate itself to running the ball between the tackles, and the Trojans didn’t disappoint against North Forrest. They ran for 233 yards and three touchdowns on 18 carries (12.9 yards per carry), and Octavious Harvey and Jartavious Martin had huge holes to run through.

While that kind of production shouldn’t be expected in the fall, the Trojans offensive line should give West Marion a substantial bump in the running game. Harvey and Martin may be on the small side, but they both play bigger than they are and have the speed to take it the distance. Not to mention that Qavonte Swanigan is returning from a knee injury, and Duncan has said he will likely use him as a Wildcat quarterback at times.

3. The X-factor:

How they manage their lack of depth. West Marion’s roster is one of the smallest in all of Class 3A, and they are also among the smallest size-wise every year. The Trojans can’t rotate in 300 pounders in at will like Columbia can. In fact they only have three players over 250 pounds on the entire roster.

West Marion’s coaching staff will have to be creative when it comes to who they sub in, when they sub in and where they sub in. The Trojans will need guys like Blake Lowery to play both on the defensive line and at linebacker and Martin to play both running back and receiver. They will need to mix and match every drive of the game to keep their guys fresh in Region 8-3A competition. It’s something the coaching staff is well aware of and has a plan for. The questions are how well it works and how healthy can they remain throughout the season.