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Mote: St. Marys football needs to work to get better in the off-season after losses

Photo by Joe Albright St. Marys’ Cyle West tries to break a Wirt County Kolton Parsons’ tackle during a regular-season game. West is one of 13 seniors that the Blue Devils need to replace this offseason.

ST. MARYS — The 2020 football season is over, and St. Marys stands alone at the top of Class A. Regardless of how many playoff games were played, the 12-1 Blue Devils prepared for any and all challengers. The mantra of keeping your head down and focusing was what gave head coach Jodi Mote’s team the strength to power past Pendleton County in the de facto state championship game. When asked if he knew this game would serve as the championship game, Mote was more focused on controlling what his team could control.

“You just knew with the map that that could possibly be it,” he said. “We didn’t know with the way the map was, but it definitely was something you thought about. You didn’t dwell on it, but the guys knew they were either playing for an opportunity to be in the championship game or that this was going to be the championship game. They knew what was at stake.”

The round didn’t matter to the Blue Devils, as 13 seniors went out in style on Saturday from Bill Hanlin Stadium. The 21-7 win saw key contributions from seniors, as this game was a stark shift from last week’s shootout against Midland Trail. It was Darrien Bortey’s school record 99-yard touchdown run that put SMHS up by that final score. Brennan Boron connected with Logan Rice for a passing touchdown, and he also pick-sixed an Isaiah Gardiner pass to contribute St. Marys’ other points scored on the day. Another defensive gem came from another senior, Ben Long. His interception with four minutes to play put the game on ice, as there was no shortage of big plays for Mote’s senior class.

He spoke of those players and the impact they leave on the program.

“It’ll be a new season, and the guys who are left are going to have to need to work to get better. You go through unbelievable talent, like this past year with those 13 seniors,” he said. “That’s an amazing blessing, and to have the opportunity to win the state championship, there are many football coaches out there who don’t even have the opportunity to play for a state championship, let alone win a state championship. We’re definitely blessed to be able to do what we’ve done. We’ll go back to work, and that’s all you go do as far as prepping for the next season.”

Two fourth down goal line stands shut down Wildcat scoring threats, as the attention to detail on the defensive side of the ball paid dividends. On the entire year, it was a story of both the offensive and defensive lines improving as the season progressed. Skill players like Boron, Long, Cyle West, Tre Moss (who led the team in rushing yards to end the regular season with 1,047) and Jason Clayton benefited heavily from improved o-line play, while defenders like Bortey, Riley Boley, Wyatt Norman and Brayden Wilson, Peyton Girard and Cody Houser all racked up tackles on the other side of the ball. The balance between all phases of the game is what Mote says made this team so prepared for anything, as the now two-time state champion coach reflected on the team as a cohesive unit.

“It was just an all-around great three phases of football team,” he said. “As the season went, thankfully we stayed healthy. Jason (Clayton) was out probably for two games this year rehabbing an injury, but as far as your varsity players who play on Friday nights go, we really only had one young man out. Logan Rice was also out for a week, and outside of that, we stayed healthy. They just kept working, and I feel like this team-oriented group didn’t focus on one particular kid or one particular stat. They never asked why they weren’t getting this or that on offense. I feel like they came together, and that was critical. Playing through some adversity, they were able to keep doing that.”

Contact Josh Hughes at jhughes@newsandsentinel.com

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