• 46°

Around, over, under and through — WL’s Brothern is offensive player of the week

Last season as a sophomore, West Lincoln running back Michael Brothern would try to run around would-be tacklers.

This season the Bear ball-carrier is trying to run through people.

Brothern did both — running around the defense and through it — against Salem in a 38-28 West Lincoln win in week two of the high school football season. He carried the ball 27 times for 268 yards and five touchdowns in the victory, and for that performance he has been named The Daily Leader Offensive Player of the Week.

Last season Brothern gained 747 yards on 100 carries and scored four touchdowns. This season through two games he’s already run for 431 yards and six scores on 45 carries.

West Lincoln coach BJ Smithhart says Brothern is an example of a guy who was ready when his opportunity came open.

“Last year we were geared to throw the ball more (nearly 1,600 yards passing on the season) and Mike got a lot of touches as a change-of-pace guy,” said Smithhart. “This season he’s put in the work, and when we needed him to step up, he’s been ready.”

Brothern said he’s close to 200 pounds after playing around 190 as a sophomore. The thing that jumps out about him as a runner is his balance. Against Salem, many of his big runs were preceded by contact at the line of scrimmage where Brothern would absorb the hit, keep his balance and bounce off the hit.

He credits offseason work for making him an improved ball carrier.

“This summer I tried to make all of our summer workouts and I want to push myself in the weight room,” said Brothern. “Coach Smithhart has also worked at improving my vision for reading where to run behind my offensive line.”

The Bear offensive line of  Grant Jackson, Caleb Weeks, Tate Smith, Dylan Dickerson and Jackson Taylor get plenty of props from their running back.

“The line has done a great job blocking for me and they want to keep improving,” said Brothern.

Brothern also plays safety on defense and will line up at quarterback in the Wildcat formation. He says lining up in the “Wild Bear” is one of the best things he gets to do, even if it’s just more of him running the ball.

“I don’t think coach is going to have me throwing the ball very much,” Brothern says with a laugh. “I do like being back there in Wildcat though because it gives us another blocker and keeps the defense off guard.”

Brothern says his uncle Stacy Fells nurtured his love for the game from an early age and put him on a travel team that made him fall in love with football. Fells was a standout running back himself at West Lincoln during his high school career.

For the Bears to continue the upward trajectory of their program, Brothern knows he and his teammates must keep working.

“We get along great as a team,” said Brothern. “We’ve just got to continue to listen to coach and keep working every week.”

Story by Cliff Furr