Braeden Mason is PHS’ Darren Sproles

Slot receiver does a little of everything for the Big Reds

Parkersburg’s Braeden Mason has been a key part in the Big Reds’ offense this season. The 5-foot-7 junior can run, pass, catch for a multi-threat player. Photo by Duane West

PARKERSBURG — Mention NFL running back Darren Sproles to Parkersburg High slot receiver Braeden Mason and his face lights up in a big grin.

“He is one of my favorite players,” said the Big Red.

Spend time comparing each player’s tapes side by side to understand the reason why. Each stands below 6-feet tall with Mason at 5-foot-7 and Sproles at 5-foot-6. Each carry themselves larger than they are though they are often the shortest players on the field. Both possess the drive to do whatever they can to help their teams win.

A comparison which brings another smile to his face.

“That is crazy but cool,” said Mason when asked about being called the Big Reds version of Sproles. “I’ve heard it my whole life that I am too small to play. I just work hard and stay aggressive. I don’t get down on myself.”

Down certainly not being the direction best describing Mason’s importance to PHS.

One season after showing flashes in small spurts as Seth Dailey excelled in the slot, Mason has been unleashed on the Mountain State Athletic Conference and other opponents in 2018. He has scored a touchdown in all but two of the Big Reds first seven games. He is second on the team in receiving yardage with a touchdown pass to his name as well.

Tough feats to pull off on an offense filled to the brim with weapons in 1,000-yard rusher Tyler Moler, wide receivers Dylan Shaver and Penn State commit Brenton Strange, and the accurate arm and dangerous legs of Jake Johnson.

Opponents also have had to deal with plenty of end-arounds and trick plays with him. He picked up a crucial first down against Wheeling Park on a 17-yard reverse where he fooled the entire Patriots’ defensive line. A play not even his biggest contribution to the Big Reds upset over previously undefeated Park. Mason was on the tossing end of a hook-and-ladder play where Shaver scored the game-winning touchdown with seven seconds remaining in the contest. If his pitch went awry Shaver wasn’t going to score as a sea of Park jersey’s surrounded the two Big Reds.

Trust going both ways as Mason could have received the pitch as well.

“He was almost on the other end of it,” said Byus, whose team ran the same play two plays earlier with Mason as the pitch receiver, the play more open then the second time. “In Braeden we trust. He finds a way to get open and has sure hands.”

“Make the catch first don’t do anything stupid,” said Mason when asked about his thought on the successful play.

A thought among the reasons he was the obvious choice to assume Dailey’s responsibilities following his graduation. “After watching him practice you see how shifty he is and how quickly he can change directions,” said Byus. “I had him in physical education class as well and watching him play basketball and the way he moves you could tell he had a a presence about him. He understands the game (football) very well and has all the intangibles too.

“He (Mason) just kind of fit right in to that situation. He is the perfect slot receiver. He can catch it, run it, run reverses. He is a very talented young man.”

Don’t think he is a glass statue either. Running routes across the middle of the field isn’t a problem. A rough horse collar tackle by a Cabell Midland linebacker on a crossing route barely registered in his mind.

“If I get hit hard I get right back up,” he said of the hard tackle producing a penalty for a first down.

While not a play identified on the box score, it was needed nonetheless. “Whatever I have to do I will do,” said Mason.

Speaking of his positive attitude, brief stints on the defensive side of the ball have come his way as well, though it wasn’t always a comfortable scenario. “It was all right,” he said. “Kind of weird and I prefer to play safety.”

“He is a great part of our team and helps us out a lot,” said Strange, who is close friends with Mason.

Younger players have taken notice of Mason’s willingness too. Members of the Ramblers’ football team often call him GOAT (Greatest of All Time) when they see him in public. Mason smiling as he inspires a younger generation.

Inspiration he plans to provide for another season as he takes over as a more prime target. Shaver, Moler, Strange and Johnson all graduate.

“I love it,” said Mason of the future and this season. “I couldn’t imagine it any other way.”