Thank you for being one of our most loyal readers. Please consider supporting community journalism by subscribing.
The first Beddingfield High varsity football season under the direction of head coach Carl Smith yielded a credible number of precedents, including the Bruins’ first outright Wilson County Championship in a decade.
Two more, in the form of the first two players to sign with collegiate programs in the Smith era, followed Wednesday morning in the school’s media center by signing National Letters of Intent to a pair of NCAA Division II programs.
A four-year performer on the varsity level, senior running back Jalil Hutcherson was granted an opportunity to extend his playing career after signing with West Virginia State University out of the Mountain East Conference. Lineman Darryll Malachi will shift his focus to the defensive side of matters after making the pledge to attend UNC Pembroke, also of the Mountain East.
“I’m extremely proud of them,” Smith said. “I’ve been trying to polish these two diamonds all year, and a lot of it is mental. In the weight room and on the field, they put in the obvious work. But mentally, what it takes to reach a level like this, a lot of people don’t know what it takes.”
Will Malachi get to tackle Hutcherson in the fall? West Virginia State visits UNCP on Oct. 17 as the Braves embark on their first year in the league.
WARD OPENS DOOR
The union of Hutcherson and Smith seemed destined for a culture clash.
Smith’s no-nonsense, power-I approach designed upon taking the first available hole and ramming it between the tackles for consistent gains was a contrast to Hutcherson’s running style, an exciting cutback runner that could gain the edge and outrun the defense for big plays.
But each week, Hutcherson continually requested to get the ball in the hard-yardage areas.
“There was one time where we bumped heads,” Smith recalled. “Because of my coaching style, not because of his running style and my play calling style. His better plays — I asked him every week to give me three plays that they wanted to run. Two of his three plays were always inside. There’s always the inside zone, and there’s always plays where he can read and he can react and he can create. That’s what he does well.”
The opportunity to play for the Yellow Jackets materialized quickly over the course of the past week. Former Beddingfield head coach James Ward, now at Raleigh Wakefield, got in contact with West Virginia State about Hutcherson.
The two sides met and Hutcherson, who was not entertaining any other offers, took a trip to campus last weekend.
Head coach John Pennington, who also serves as the offensive coordinator for WVSU’s spread attack, came away impressed and offered a scholarship.
“They said they didn’t really know about me until Coach Ward talked about me and sent them my film,” Hutcherson said. “And they said they liked me.”
Hutcherson, battling shoulder ailments that caused him to miss time during the season, finished with 712 yards and six TDs and added five receptions for 74 yards out of the backfield — all in the regular season — in a Bruins offense that wasn’t noted for their finesse. Beddingfield went 9-4 overall and 4-1 in the 2-A Eastern Plains Conference, reaching the second round of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 2-A playoffs.
In the first round against Yanceyville Bartlett Yancey, Hutcherson wrecked the Buccaneers for 249 yards and four TDs.
“They see my role as playing running back and swinging out of the backfield,” Hutcherson said of West Virginia State.
Hutcherson, a first-team EPC all-conference selection, is currently undecided on a major.
“I’m excited,” he said. “I can’t pass up on it. I’ve got to go in — this is business.”
HE’S DARRYLL, TOO
If Division II prides itself on being the ideal blend of academics and athletics, then Malachi plans to fit in just fine with the Braves, who had been in contact since December. Malachi opted for UNCP over interest from Barton, which will play its first collegiate season in 2020.
“I chose Pembroke because of the environment they have and the coaching staff that really came and talked to me,” Malachi explained. “They really asked me about Darryll. Not about Darryll, the football player. Just me, as I am. We really bonded and connected, and I felt like this is where I wanted to be for the next four years.”
In an era of transfer portals and facilities arms races at the top level of the collegiate game, Malachi’s perspective should make the NCAA brass in Indianapolis happy.
“I’m a football player, but I’m not going to be 24/7,” he said. “I’m a student-athlete first, and then after that, it’s just little ‘ol me. You’ve got to know me off the field and on the field, too.”
Opposing backfields knew Malachi up close and personal during his senior season. Beddingfield’s new-found focus on running the ball and stopping the run allowed Malachi, on both sides of the ball, to flourish lining up to the strong side of the opponent’s formation. He was a first-team all-EPC selection along the defensive line and could be a source of frustration for offenses. In some cases, Mount Malachi, at 6-foot-1 and 260 pounds, was where game plans went to die — as was the case in a 20-0 win over Nash Central where the Bruins imposed their will on defense early and often.
“He literally destroyed the offense by himself,” Smith marveled. “These things that these individual players were able to do, it just started with their mentals. Once they believed it and they worked hard to achieve it, the sky was the limit.”
Malachi, the son of Velma Tyson and Russell Dixon of Saratoga, plans to major in business and transition his bruising style, Darryll and all, from high school to college
“It was very fun and very physical,” Malachi said of his senior season, “And that’s how I like to play football.”