MORGANTOWN, W. Va. — If there’s one thing the Morgantown High football team loves to do, it’s forcing their opponent to stop its running game.
And it just may be junior receiver Preston Fox who is the key in making that goal a difficult one.
“He gives us the ability to stretch the field both vertically and horizontally,” Morgantown High coach Matt Lacy said. “He can run by guys in the passing the game, but he can stretch guys sideline to sideline.”
How does a receiver help the running game? The Mohigans found out first hand while Fox missed three games earlier this season with a broken collarbone.
“When he was injured, guys were stacking the box on us. They were putting eight or nine guys down there and we couldn’t block them,” Lacy said.
“It helps to keep a couple of those defenders back there. And when we send him in motion, those outside guys can’t crash in on us. They have to honor his speed. If they have seven guys in the box, we can block six and make one miss. Seven is a whole lot better than nine.”
Since Fox’s return the Mohigans are 2-0 and are averaging 353 rushing yards per game — a sharp contrast to their time spent without Fox, when they mustered just 133 yards per game on the ground and lost three straight.
“The impact is big. If I’m not out there, who do we pass it to and spread it out?” Fox said. “Running the ball doesn’t always work. Without me out there, we were having trouble passing the ball. It didn’t work out. Teams were preparing for the run and they were stopping it.”
The 14th-ranked Mohigans (5-5) will find out if third-ranked Capital (9-1) will be able to stop the run. The two schools meet at 7:30 p.m. Friday, at Charleston’s Laidley Field in the first round of the Class AAA state playoffs.
To those inside the MHS program, those three weeks without Fox made it clear how much of a determining factor he is.
“Preston is a playmaker for us,” Lacy said. “He has the ability to make people miss with his shiftiness. He has a good lateral movement, and has the ability to put his foot in the ground and move vertical quickly. He is a dynamic football player in that regard.”
Fox’s athleticism has made the difference in more than one game this season, as he has repeatedly broke loose for big, momentum-shifting plays when the ball was in his hands.
Fox said he generally approaches each opponent the same, and tries to focus on the aspects of a matchup he can control. It’s a skill he’s crafted from hours of practice on the field and studying opposing defenses.
“There’s not anything I do differently rather than play my game. I use my speed to get open and make moves, and if you get the ball in my hands I’ll make a play,” he said. “I’m very good at reading the defense and seeing what I have to go against.”